"Vintage Fresh Sign Art" by Onion Grove Mercantile

“Vintage Fresh Sign Art” by Onion Grove Mercantile

Giftsoc is always on the lookout for unique gifts, especially hand crafted ones.  We were so pleased to recently discover the “vintage fresh sign art” by Onion Grove Mercantile.  All the signs are made by the very talented Jen Walters VanOort.  Jen generously agreed to do a Q&A with us so we could learn all about her hand crafted signs.









How long have you been painting and selling your signs?

I’ve been painting signs for approximately two years.  Most of my business started locally, then spread to my Etsy shop and website.  Pinterest, Facebook and blogging have completely changed the market for a small niche business owner.

How did you get started?

The very first signs I painted for anyone other than myself, were the wall art signs I offered to paint for a dear friend who was opening a quaint little cafe.  We were trying to complete her interior as inexpensively as possible, so I found several examples of advertising from turn of the century hometown newspapers and created painted wall art based on those.









Do you have an artistic background?

I do have an artistic background.  Both my parents are very creative, so my brother and I have always been “artsy.”  I have a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from Iowa State University, where I studied Interior Design and American History.  I went on to get my Master’s of Science in Architectural Studies (Architectural History) as well.  I am definitely influenced by the history of architecture and historic building signage in my design work.

You describe your signs as, “vintage fresh sign art.”  What does that mean exactly?

I like to think of my style as vintage fresh, meaning I take cues from the past, put a modern twist on them and produce pieces that are timeless.









Where do you get your vintage inspirations?

I am really inspired by everything around me!  I love to dig through old newspapers to find inspiration, old photographs of downtown districts and signage on the buildings, current design trends….really everywhere.

Where do you find your materials?

I find materials in a variety of places.  I frequent our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore often, finding lots of aged wood and painting supplies.  I prefer to recycle materials whenever possible.  I  just recently helped dismantle an old barn/garage, keeping most of the building’s lumber.  That should keep me well stocked for quite some time.




Without giving away any secrets, what are the steps you take when painting a sign? 

There are really no secrets to my process.  I like to gather as much information as possible from my client in regards to style preferences, color choices, size, etc, then let all that stew around in my brain.  When I sit down at my computer to design a sign I usually have it laid out in my brain already.  When I have a design proof that I’m happy with I will send that to the client for approval.  When the design is accepted I paint!



Do you have any favorites?

I certainly have favorites.  One of my favorite people to paint for is my dear friend Cathy Lafrenz (aka Miss Effie of Miss Effie’s Country Flowers).  I’ve painted a number of signs for her business and she always gives me creative freedom…I always feel those signs turn out the loveliest of any I’ve created.



What’s the best way for people to discuss and place a new order with you?  

I prefer to communicate via email, as then I have a record of everything the client and I have discussed regarding design details of their sign.  My email is oniongrovemercantile@gmail.com.  I ship all over the world.

Thank you so much Jen!

You are welcome!