Stewart's Landing Artist Draws Attention With Her Signs

February 06, 1992|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff writer

It isn't tracing the letters of Apple Walnut Crunch Cake that drivesBonnie Duke crazy. It's the deli food signs that do her in.

"All that lunch-meat makes me starve," says Duke, a calligrapher who runs a sign-making business out of her Severna Park home.

Duke, whose design of sea gulls and pilings was recently chosen by the Greater Severna Park Council as its new logo, started the sign business a year ago.

She has a mail-order listing of 700 and about70 regular customers. She makes signs for Annapolis Seafood and for Cross Street Market in Baltimore, for a New York baker and a Midwestern company that sells smoked hams.

The tools of Duke's trade are upstairs in her home in Stewart's Landing, a waterfront community in Severna Park. A machine called a Phantom liner reflects lines on blankpaper, so Duke can keep her lettering straight. A laminating machinecovers signs so that they never wear out.

"Customers lose them, thank goodness!" she jokes. "Or they have new products come in."

Duke has always loved beautiful lettering, ever since she taught first grade for nine years, she says.

"I was really gung-ho on handwriting, and I'm still taking workshops to learn new letter forms, new styles," she says.

One of her signs caught attention recently as winner of the Greater Severna Park Council's logo contest. The council, an umbrella organization representing 63 community associations, plansto use the logo on its publications and materials.

Duke says she sent in several possible logos, and the council chose one featuring sea gulls over a water scene.

"I could sit up there all day," she says, gesturing to her studio, "and do poems and quotes."

Duke, whodescribes herself as "41 and holding," began working at home while employed for six years as calligrapher for Sutton Place Gourmet.

All her signs are customized to the store's needs, from removable 2-inch plastic price stickers to one large sign she made recently that measured nearly four feet tall.

She also calligraphies certificates for the Court of Appeals when attorneys pass the bar exam, occasional wedding invitations and sometimes poems.

It isn't a tidy job: Ink stains the towel beneath her work; plastic sheets protect the carpet under the desk. Duke pats her jeans. "All my cords have black on themfrom dripping ink," she says.

She doesn't mind, though. As the hand-lettered sign on the wall explains, "Dull women have immaculate homes and studios."

Duke smiles and says she doesn't have to worry.

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