Last week I got to the chance to sit down with one biggest legend’s in the sign writing business, Tj Guzzardi. Tj was born and raised in Tullamarine, Melbourne and was exposed to the trade at a young age, pin striping on old hot rod panels from his father’s work shop. Tj is a true artist and finds quality in things that grow better with age.
How did you get into the sign writing business?
My Dad built hot rods for a living and I’d go into the shop as a kid and get my hands dirty building hot rods together. He is currently building my kids their first hot rod but I started painting when Dad gave me an old rusted hot rod boot to practice doing lines on. He gave me a job to do one of his mate’s hot rods and from there I moved into doing shop signage but, it took me five years to get my first big sign job, which was a mate’s tattoo parlor in the city. I left a big stack of business cards and then the phone calls came rolling in. On the back of that I quit my day job and started doing what I loved.
I see you’re a denim man through and through. When did you get into denim?
As a youngster my folks wore denim, dad wore 501’s, a white tee and cowboy boots, always Levi’s. Dad bought me my first pair of Levi’s when I was around seven and a $100 pair of cowboy boots. I remember going to school in my 501’s with my jeans rolled up, doing a James Dean, Marlon Brando kind of thing. People would look at me and think, “Oh Elvis is here”. I stood out from everyone else, but my Dad used to say, “You gotta be unique, don’t be a sheep”. I never followed a crowd. I did my own thing.
What do you look for in Denim?
I look for quality, something that’s crafted right and something that I can work in. I work in denim just like my Dad did when he was building hot rods. Denim was created as work wear apparel because it’s tough and it gets better with age. You want something that’s going to look awesome in fifty years’ time. My painted signs are the same; a hand painted sign is going to look fucking awesome in fifty years’ time. To me quality is something that ages gracefully. My last pair of Levi’s I wore to death for about four years and I’ve only just broken them in.
What jeans are you wearing at the moment?
Levi’s 522. I’m right into high wasted jeans, with a big fat cuff, works well with my Levi’s trucker jacket and boots – really happy with these guys. I like a baggy boot cut jean also, they work well with cowboy boots and are great to work in. And of course you can’t forget the 501’s, they are just a classic.
How’s the sign writing business going?
Really good man, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really cool brands. I’m currently working on painting old antique tools, I’ve done tattoo parlors, barber shops, hot rods, motor bikes, restaurants, bars, I’ve done heaps of fun stuff. I was lucky enough to do some work for Levi’s painting an embroidery machine for the tailor shop. It was cool because the brief let me do my thing, it came up looking wicked.
How did you get involved with Levi’s?
I was asked to paint the tailor shop menu sign in Melbourne Central. When I got the call up from Levi’s I was so happy to work with a brand that I wear every day, I fitted in well. When I met with you guys I felt funny wearing all Levi’s but that’s my normal clothes I would have worn it to any other meeting. It was a perfect match I felt like I could relate to the brand, I guess I do wear it every day.
To see Tj’s amazing work visit his blog