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Banners + Awnings

Hands On

Versatile Lauren Muney renders banners the traditional way.

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For centuries, rendering banners by hand was the only available method. Using cloth or canvas, artisans often developed their own inks from dyes and vegetable extracts to create fabric crests for armies headed to battle, liturgical art or produce early-generation, on-premise signage. Of course, the vinyl revolution of the 1980s and the digital breakthrough of the 1990s quickly shuffled hand-decorated banners to a small niche market that today borders on the esoteric.

However, some persist. Lauren Muney, a modern-day renaissance woman who’s a performance artist, print and web designer, motivational speaker, and stage and video-production manager, also fabricates banners under the umbrella of her own, multi-faceted company, www.snakeoilproductions.com (Laurel, MD).

A performer since age 14, Muney has often performed in themed festivals and other venues where the graphic design proved essential for establishing a mood. Because most performers didn’t produce their own banners, she soon found work creating banners for such environments.

“I created most of my banner work for Renaissance festivals and Wild West and Civil War reenactments,” Muney said. “These are events where the goal is to take visitors out of time to an era when everything was made by hand. I also enjoy old-style circus and magician banners, European painted-wall signage and typography design. All of these elements inspire my design.”

She begins her banner-making process by priming canvas with a sealant that enables it to withstand inclement weather, and, she sews the fabric together by hand. When they’re ready, she decorates them with acrylic paints. Instead of referring to a PMS program or swatchbook, she fills cabinets with nuanced color shades. She uses nylon brushes because of their firmness and ability to hold acrylic pigments, even when they’re thinned with water.

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However, mass production isn’t Muney’s goal – she seldom fabricates more than 10 banners per year. She said, “I’d rather be happy than have to do work I don’t prefer. I think my prices are fair, but I can’t compete with computer-printed banners. If a customer knows of another artist who can undercut my price, I recommend he take the lower price. I enjoy that people who buy my work have usually seen it or been referred. They won’t look for a digital image or cheap copy. My banners feel like a piece of history – but made to order.”

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