Great Big Signs (Kyle, TX) operates a relatively spartan signshop. Inside its cavernous environs, co-owners Lynn Wilkerson and Mario Munoz ply their trade with a well-worn computer, a cutting plotter and a vast array of handheld tools. Yet, their creativity and fabrication know-how have earned the shop several awards, including three consecutive Best of Show honors for its production of 3-D vehicle graphics for Freebirds World Burritos and the Austin (TX) Ice Cream Festival. He also produces on-premise signage and graphics for Freebirds, which operates quick-service, Mexican restaurants from California to Texas.
Despite its accolades for vehicle and interior graphics, building signs remain a shop fixture. Kelly Allen, the owner of Luling, TX’s Watermelon Shop, noted the sign spectacular Wilkerson’s team had created for Kyle’s Texas Pie Co., and was referred to Great Big Signs.
She wanted an eye-popping icon for her store’s façade, which sells the “all things watermelon,” Wilkerson said, and serves as a central gathering place for Luling’s “Watermelon Thump,” which has occurred every June since 1954, It features a parade, live music and, naturally, melon-eating and seed-spitting contests.
Wilkerson began his design process with a pen-and-paper sketch before synthesizing his vision using CorelDraw 13. He said, “Watermelons have been such an important crop in that area for a long time, and I wanted to pay tribute to that history with typeface that would’ve belonged in an old-fashioned seed catalog.”
With the design in place, he fabricated the 13-ft.-tall sign using EPS foam to craft the juicy watermelon slices, and 2-in.-thick, 15-lb. HDU and MDO for the letters. The sign weighs approximately 400 lbs. Fabricator Marcario Delarosa produced the signs by hand using a welder, foam-cutter and a surform — a perforated-metal tool that resembles a cheese grater.
To fortify the EPS foam for external conditions, Great Big Signs sprayed on a polyurea hardcoat. Jay Gordon, a freelance steel fabricator, built the armature that supports the sign, as well as the winding leaves and vines that add authenticity to Wilkerson’s work, using welded, steel-square tubing.Advertisement
To decorate the signs, Wilkerson used 1Shot® lettering enamels, which he mixed with hardener to promote adhesion, and automotive-grade clearcoat to allow the watermelon to withstand torturous Texas heat.
Wilkerson recounted Allen’s rave reviews for her sign: “She said that not only had the sign helped sales for her shop, but also for shops on that end of Luling’s town square. Tour buses stop there to visit the Watermelon Thump, and the store’s sign helps draw out-of-town visitors. So, yes, they’re very pleased.”
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