Dave Smith is a name that has become synonymous in sign-writing circles with high quality, hand crafted reverse glass signs and decorative mirrors. It is fair to say that now-a-days this is the main thrust of his work. There is, however, more to his story.

His career in sign-writing began in 1984, when he left Westlands School in Torquay, aged 16 and was apprenticed for 5 years with Gordon Farr & two associates. These gentleman were traditional sign-writers, who had come up through the ranks and Gordon, in particular had an almost uncanny ability to paint letters, accurately laid out, without even a preliminary sketch. Under their tutelage, Dave became an accomplished draftsman, accurate letter painter & talented pictorialist.

In 1992, Dave set up his own sign business in Torquay dealing every aspect of the sign trade from vehicle graphics to 3D installations but always with his own stamp of unique design and pristine execution.

In the same year, on a visit to New Zealand, he had the immense good fortune to be invited to Wilmington, California to meet Rick Glawson & his crew of the famous “Fine Gold Sign Company”. Rick, who is sadly no longer with us, was universally regarded by his peers as the godfather of gilding, with a reputation for sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of glass decoration with eager students of the craft. The two became firm friends & Dave thereafter attended the California conclave of Letterheads every year. This is a gathering of talented sign artists, carvers, muralists & gold leaf experts. They further fueled Dave’s passion for creating elaborate, ornate mirrors & reverse glass signs of distinction. At the peak of “his sign company” success, Dave sold the business, to concentrate more fully on gilding, painting & acid-etching glass, adding brilliant cutting, so that he could fully replicate the Victorian glass work he admires so much. From home in Torquay, Devon, UK, he continues his quest to uncover & share even more knowledge of the processes involved before it becomes a lost art.

Dave has never lost sight of the debt he owes to Gordon Farr, Rick Glawson & others too numerous to mention, for sharing their knowledge and passion with him. So, in return, he shares the fruits of his study with his many friends, old & new, in the sign trade, through courses, step by step instruction and one-to-one chats on the phone or internet.

He is supported, unwaveringly by his wife Mel and his daughters, Hannah, Lauren & Millie, who, tolerate his long work hours, frequent trips abroad and the steady stream of visitors through the family home, who come to marvel at the work & learn. For this, and for them, Dave is eternally grateful.

click the design to see the full size details..

53 Responses to “Biography”

  1. theo Vanderzalm says:

    Dear David,

    I hope this email reaches you, couldnt find a direct email address?

    Looking for 4 bevel glass panels 440mm height and 188mm wide with a rectangular water cut hole in the centre 285mm height and 104mm width with silver leafing on the back. Clear 6mm float with 10mm bevel on outside edges.

    Is this something you can do? If so, looking forward to your quote and lead time.

    Thank you

    07958 329 808

  2. Dave says:

    Hi Theo good to talk with you today.
    Give me a call on 01803 613753

  3. Denis says:

    Great work! All details are srong even smallest. Where are you from? I will be in GB and I want to look at your works by my eyes.
    Thank you

  4. Fred Marrinan says:

    Wow! Fantastic work. You are a wonderful artistThank You Fred

  5. David Smith says:

    Thanks Fred. Keep looking in for new posts.

  6. David Smith says:

    I’m based in the South West of England.

  7. Tim says:

    Dear David,
    i just saw the short documentary on vimeo. I must say im deeply impressed and absolutely blown away by this art in work. I’m some kind of “artist” myself, as i do graphic design for living. Your Work just gives me so much inspiration and makes me want to create something like that as well.

    I’m praising the new technology and working with it every single day, but from the bottom of my heart i wish that Work and Art like yours NEVER die out!

    Good Luck to you and best wishes!


  8. David Smith says:

    Tim. Thank you for that I appreciate it. Hopefully people will see that hand crafted work is always the best formn of artwork.

  9. Roderick says:

    I want to be you when you grow up !

  10. Dear David,

    We met many years ago at Rick Glawsons in California. What fun, HOT peppers, coffee, and
    23K XX. You have taken Rick’s quest for excellence and gone beyond the moon. I am one of
    the founders of Chicago Brushmasters[] I feel like Basil Fawlty with a brush at times. Lots of silly moments, but $ from auctions go a great charity. Thank you for showing beautiful pix. they are an inspiration for me to do better work.
    Very best regards,

  11. Keisha Guel says:

    This site has got plenty of helpful things on it! Cheers for assisting me!

  12. Just needed telling you fantastic work on your post. I will check back for additional posts.

  13. neil horne says:

    Mr Smith
    you are a !!!!££££££$$%$%$^&^&**^**???!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    luv the work.
    please feel free to remove this comment!!
    Neil fellow b**b lover

  14. David Smith says:

    Thanks Neil do I know you?

  15. Marc Hayden says:

    Looking to sell a shoe box full of gold leaf 23K, Silver Leaf from Japan early 1900s, 1899 Gold Leaf Ribbon 67 lineal feet, some packets of cooper, bronze and gold powder. Found at my parents auction by an very honest gentleman who turned them over to me before they were sold in several boxes of misc. items for $5. This gentleman will be rewarded by me for his honesty. I am not looking for a middle man but an artist that is willing to pay what the product is worth. If it is worth anything. Very neat materials, very very thin per piece, lots of silver sheets. I will supply my cell phone number if requested and am willing to travel as needed to show these materials if necessary. Thank You

  16. Gerald Pecinovsky says:

    I am in need of having a large reverse on glass painting restored. It is brewery scene.

    Do you do this type of restoration? If not, could you please refer me to someone who does this type of work.

    Thank you for your help.

  17. DANA BRUNSON says:


  18. […] Smith’s has also mastered hand crafted reverse glass signage. To view more of his work, go here. […]

  19. Shane says:

    Hi David

    Im a Dublin based Typographer and designer, I was in a music store the other day and noticed the John Mayer album which then led me to your site. I was absolutely blown away by your work! The level of detail is phenomenal and hugely inspiring. Ill be a regular to your site to keep an eye out for more of your work. Keep up the work…it’s incredible.

  20. David Smith says:

    Thats great Shane, thanks very much. I will be in Dublin for St Patricks Day. Lets meet up!

  21. Cody says:

    Hey David,

    I just wanted to reach out and let you know how deeply inspiring your main piece for JM’s album is and the Queen of California is just as brilliant. I’m a California based graphic designer and huge JM fan. When I first saw the art last year I said to myself that I hoped one day to accomplish something so elegant and remarkable. Then tonight I stumbled upon the fact that I could purchase the fonts from the album artwork and that just took my hope to a new level! You have a gift sir and I’m very thankful to have come across it. Thank you for sharing your gift with so many. It really is truly inspiring.

    Thank you so very much.

  22. Anderson says:

    Hi David, congratulations for the beautiful works.

    I have been pushing pixels around for about 20 years and am almost fed up with it. Recently I’ve been interested in calligraphy and am thinking of going back to basics and having my hands dirty again. I just hope it is not too late since I’m almost 40.

    Your website is very inspiring and in just a few hours in it I’ve learned a lot, things that I didn’t even knew existed. I have a antique lampshade (or luminaire, I don’t know the word in english) at home and I have always wondered how the cuts were made on it’s surface.

    Best regards from Brazil.

  23. […] eighteen minute documentary takes you inside the work of David A. Smith, an English artist who specializes in “high-quality ornamental hand-crafted reverse glass […]

  24. Jason says:

    I would do next to anything to become your apprentice! My grandfather was a furniture-maker and his good friend worked in stained glass. I have an overwhelming appreciation for hand-craft and hand-drawn letterforms. A shot in the dark, I know, but a shot worth taking!

  25. […] eighteen minute documentary takes you inside the work of David A. Smith, an English artist who specializes in “high-quality ornamental hand-crafted reverse glass signs […]

  26. Matthew says:

    Mr. David Smith,

    I’m a San Clemente, CA based nobody who admires good art. You sir are very gifted. Well done on the John Mayer album cover. I thankfully found the documentary on which made my weekend.

    I normally don’t do this comment thing but felt moved to send a message of appreciation to you and your art.
    Well done to Sony and John Mayer as well. I will be buying the album right quick.
    Best regards from San Clemente, CA

  27. Dawn Yilmaz says:

    A friend in my photography group sent me a link to a video of you making of John Mayer’s album cover. I am a 3D animation student and watch videos from artists around the world quite regularly, but of all I have ever seen, your process was by far the most amazing. It was a true joy to watch you just do your thing. It a rare accomplished skill set that you have and I hope I can see your work in person one day! Waving from Richmond, VA!

  28. Blake Wall says:

    Wow. Truly amazing work David! The craftsman ship in every piece is inspiring and it’s so good to see someone creating touchable tangible artwork! Keep up the great work my friend.

  29. Simon Basey says:

    A true craftsman, your outstanding work is truly mindblowing, process pics and the video are a must see, Im an engineer so I can appreciate your skills and your artistry.

  30. Mike Byanski says:


    Just viewed the short video about the album cover that you designed
    for John Mayer. Amazing! Thank you so much for sharing
    your fantastic skill.

    Mike Byanski
    Longmont Colorado

  31. Shane Patrice says:

    Dear Dave,

    I saw a film of your work and was inspired by it’s understated loveliness. I wonder if you might create Victorian type tattoo pattern that would be beautiful on a lady who stands 5’3″. Something genteel, perhaps a fern, a few flowers on a vine or something fanciful that need not be too bright but will grow more beautiful as time passes.

    You see, I was hurt in a accident which left me with a 6″ by 1″ scar running up my left leg leg from my inner ankle. The scar narrows a bit at top & the ankle is about 1/3 larger than the right one as all the bones in the leg & ankle we broken leaving me with a faltering step weeks in hospital & 3 surgeries so far.

    I live in NYC & don’t have any tattoos nor do I know any tattoo artists but after seeing your work, I feel sure you might come up with something magical. There is no rush but if you ever catch a spark of inspiration to delight the eye I would be most grateful.

    Yours from a true admirer of your work,

    Shane _/♥\_

  32. Daz says:

    Hello Sir,

    Your a wonderful artist and I am in awe of your awesome skill.

    New Zealand

  33. […] conhecer esse e outros trabalhos desse incrível designer basta visitar seu website: Particularmente recomento que vejam os projetos abaixo: L is for Lear – The Nonsence Alphabet, […]

  34. Marie says:

    Dear Sir, Your talent is truly amazing…. I’ve never seen such artistry and loved watching how you created the artwork for John Mayer’s album… Congrats and thank you for being you…

  35. craig casdia says:

    i am a sign designer who has been in the business for 26 years, and unfortunatley went from the old craft of hand lettering and gold leafing to the cold digital world as John explained in your video. Watching your video has truly inspired me to go back to some of my old creative roots and keep the old tradition alive in me and my designs… truly are talented, i thank you for letting me into your world… truly are an inspiration! Do you ever sell any of the pieces in your collection?

  36. Matt Dodge says:


    I saw the short film over the album art of John Mayer’s recent record. I was very impressed and I would love to see if I could work with you. Please email me back so we could maybe talk about it.


    CEO, Tritan Industries

  37. Dan Hills says:

    As a graphic designer born to the digital world who has just watched your John Mayer video- i feel truly humbled by your talent, passion and craftsmanship. This has to be one of the most awe-inspiring things i have seen since i was a young student looking at the graphical works of past masters and being inspired to follow their footsteps. I am glad there are people like you still showcasing true original talent and artistry.

  38. Kantha says:

    Awesome, nice post

  39. Coire Walker says:

    David, so inspiring to see not only your work but your humbleness and gratitude for those artists before you and your fans. I’ve wanted to take up something like this one day (projects of deep concentration run in the family) and it’s so very refreshing to see someone come so far with their passion. If I’m ever in your neck of the woods I’d love to drop by.


  40. Florencia says:

    I´m from Argentina. Recently I saw your video on Vimeo… It´s amazing, you are a really genius and your work inspires me a lot. I just want to congratulate you and wish you never stop to inspire.
    Thank you!

  41. Joe Dragunas says:

    hello David! Needless to say Im a huge, huge fan. You are truly a master. I was wondering if you would be able to do a custom bookplate? In pen and ink, no glass work. A small 3×5 design. I make custom bookplates myself and would absolutely love to see your level of craftsmanship on what some would say was an outdated medium.
    Thanks so much for your time!

  42. Emily Preston-Jones says:

    This is a really odd comment to submit, but I really really recognise you and I’ve no idea how! Im 17, from Gloucestershire and just saw the making of the Born and Raised Album cover and as i was watching it I was like “I swear I know him!” Maybe you’re a family friend of my parents? My dad is Jeremy and my mum is Kerry. Either way, you’re work is amazing and the cover for John’s Born and Raised was so perfect!

  43. Craig Taylor says:

    I just watched a video of your work. I’ve no idea how it would ever work, but this is what I want to do! It has stuck a chord within me that I cannot damper. I do calligraphy, dabble in drawing and love working with my hands. I’m in America. Not sure what you can suggest, but I needed to write you.

  44. Nicole White says:

    Dear David,
    Greetings from Sydney, Australia. I stumbled upon a You Tube video today of your work with John Mayer, a link I’ll share with my small group of followers this week. I’ve been a graphic designer for 20 years and your work reminds me of what has been lost in the move to “cold digital”, to use Mayer’s phrase. You deserve every success, Nicole @ NW Studio.

  45. UNDA says:

    Hello Dave.

    UNDA loved yuor work and we made a little post in our Blog about you.
    Thank you for underdtanding the importance of crafts.

    Wish you all the best,

  46. Tony Mc says:

    G’day Dave,
    Like most of the comments above, i too am a huge fan of your work and craft. I am working on starting my own little traditional signwriting business, and your work sure does inspire. One thing i am learning just by watching your videos is along with the many hours of work you put into the pieces, just how much patience is required. Gee, i got a long way too go!!! So my wife tells me! 😉
    Anytime your in Melbourne, Australia let me know and we’ll get you round for dinner and a few beers!! ;).
    Thanks Dave for sharing.

  47. David Smith says:

    Thanks Tony.

  48. David Smith says:

    Thanks very much!

  49. Henry says:

    Dear David;
    I really don’t know where to start with this message, I have just came across your videos last night and cant stop watching them, they are the most relaxing things I have ever watched weird I know, It is with a sense of guilt that makes me write, you see I have always had an interest in learning to sign write and these crafts inspire me, to keep trying. to put you in the picture my dad was in the demolition trade for forty years when it was all done by hand and as a boys my brothers and I would go with him and learn as you can imagine in the fifty’s through to the ninety’s we demolished thousands of old pubs ,hotels, shops you name it and looking at the works in your videos I cant help but think of the senseless waste of hundreds of original pieces. please keep up the amazing work also where can I find details course dates.

    Thank you
    Henry Minto

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