Imagination Takes Flight: Our Interview With Dan Sawatzky

Dan Sawatzky is an award-winning, creative force in the sign industry, best known for his elaborate and innovative 3-D creations. Coastal Enterprises has worked closely with Dan for years and consider him to be a good friend as well as a loyal Precision Board customer. We took a moment to reflect, with Dan, on his 3-D journey.







Coastal Enteprises: How did you get into the sign industry?

Dan Sawatzky: I got into the sign industry at the young age of fourteen. I somehow figured out that people would actually pay me to do seasonal (Christmas) splashes on commercial windows. That first year, working on my own, I made $700 after school and in a couple of weekends. That was a fortune back in 1979 – more than my dad made working full time. I was hooked for life!

CEC: Where did you learn to make such awesome creations?

Dan: The year after Janis and I were married (almost 40 years ago), we visited Disneyland. I immediately knew this is what I wanted to do for a living. Of course back then I had no idea how to do it but in the next ten years I figured it out and managed to build a business doing just that. A number of years ago I was offered a job working for Disney Imagineering – the people who design and build Disney Parks. I never seriously considered the offer but took it as a vote of confidence. They are the very best in the business no doubt.

gilded guppy sign

CEC: Do you have a favorite project that you have made? If so, which one?

Dan: There have been so many cool projects through the years. Doing entire theme parks including design and construction is a real kick. While there were many highlights through the years and so many wonderful crew that helped me, I would have to say the current project is my favorite…..but then again a VERY COOL project is already designed and scheduled to begin right after the current ten-month project is done. And it is in Trinidad!

harold fine wines

CEC: What advice would you give to someone new in the sign industry?

Dan: Follow your passion. Don’t worry about the money. Build samples and they will come.

rovers return

CEC: Your Sign Magic workshops are known as great learning experiences that cover everything from textures to CNC techniques. When is the next workshop, and how can people sign up?

Dan: We offer two workshops, Sign Magic and Sculpting Magic. The Sign Magic workshop was October 11-13, 2013 and the Sculpture Magic is this week October 18-20, 2013, and we still have a couple seats left. After that we normally have one in spring, but that looks to be put off because of the big ten-month project. The fall 2014 is still up in the air but somewhat doubtful for the same reason. So it may be a while before the next ones. If someone wants to attend a workshop they better sign up FAST! 🙂

pub founder

CEC: As a well-established, award-winning 3-dimensional sign artist, what are your thoughts on where the 3-D sign industry is headed?

Dan: When I talk to people they wonder if I have enough work to keep me busy. It makes me laugh for we are currently booked solid for two and a half years. While our customers may be few and far between, there are also only a handful of people who do this kind of work. That means I can charge what I need in order to make a good living. For those with a passion, some talent, and a drive to do top notch work, there are unlimited possibilities – more work than is imaginable. 

CEC: Is there anything you would like to tell our readers?

Dan: Traditionally, a dimensional sign is a board that has a sandblasted or routed hole in it in the shape of letters. In our shop the flat and square substrate is the only way our material comes in the door. The different ways we can work it to create absolutely fabulous works of art is unlimited. A sign in our shop is anything that advertises our customer’s product, service or business. That leaves things pretty wide open.

“I don’t want to do all the signs in town – only the most creative ones.”

– Dan Sawatzky

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Head on over to Dan’s blog if you have a second and delve into some of the wonders crafted by the Imagination Corporation. When you’re finished there, be sure to request a sample of Precision Board and try your hand at something 3-dimensional!

This is one of the latest projects by Dan Sawatzky, made for fun in a contest among other well-known sign makers, out of his trademark favorite Precision Board PBLT-30:

mechanical fish finished