Amigo Arts crafts winning designs

  • By M.L. Dehm For HBJ
  • Friday, May 2, 2014 4:33pm

MONROE — Amigo Arts, a small family-owned and operated sign, sculpture and branding firm, has won a top award, plus Best in Show, in an industry-wide international sign competition.

The awards came as a shock to designer, fabricator and owner, Pablo Guerrero.

“We were just looking for an honorable mention. We had no idea,” Guerrero said.

Instead of an honorable mention, his 3-year-old company received first place in the Sign System Category as well as Best in Show. Other winners in that category included Sawatzky’s Imagination Corp. of Chilliwack, B.C. and Tube Art Group of Bellevue and Yakima creating a Pacific Northwest sweep for the category.

According to the “Sign of the Times” industry journal, sponsor of the competition through its online “SignWeb,” this year’s contest was extremely competitive with more than 300 entries. Guerrero, with his wife and business partner Melina, submitted the winning entry for the signs they had completed for Cal’s Classic American Kitchen in Kent.

“They gave us a call and we started talking,” Guerrero said. “When you have a passion for doing things and you get hooked up with people who share that creativity, that’s a great marriage.”

Judges particularly praised the experimental elements of the Cal’s project. Some of the elements created by Amigo Arts included brown paper menus, a recycled car door transformed into a neon service sign and a beer tap tower made from a classic car header. A mix of neon and incandescent bulbs, aged wood, steel and found objects, both post modern and retro, managed to capture the ambiance that the client was looking for. Still, Guerrero doesn’t like to take full credit for the design.

“There were plenty of text messages and emails going back and forth. As an artist and a creator I don’t like to say that it is all my idea because I really don’t think that it is. I feed off of other people,” Guerrero said. “Sometimes it’s just one word that someone says that sets it off so I can’t take all of the credit for it.”

He also feels it was fortunate that Amigo Arts was able to get in on the project at an early stage of development when the concept for the restaurant was still being discussed. This allowed the Guerreros to better understand the client’s vision and the time to make the most of it.This isn’t the first award that Guerrero has won in the course of his career. But it is his first win with his own company in his own name. Guerrero has worked as a designer and fabricator for other firms both as an employee and as what he terms “a hired gun.” Past projects he has worked on with other design and fabrication firms include work for Disney and the Seahawks. It was his word-of-mouth for these past efforts that helped him when he decided to branch out on his own.

“I started in my garage, building things, and here we are today,” Guerrero said.

His wife is also a designer for Amigo Arts. Many of the graphics come from her and Guerrero admits it can be challenging when they both have different visions as they are both passionate about their work.

One thing that is not a challenge for the couple is working from their home in Monroe. They have a young daughter and are expecting a boy in the near future. Working from home allows them to stay close as a family. “Sometimes it’s just nice to be in the studio working and my 2-year-old comes in and wants to sit on my lap and watch what I’m doing or just pulls me away from the computer for a few minutes,” Guerrero said. “It’s a nice break.”

Guerrero hopes that this win will help to solidify the company’s reputation in the industry.

While he is confident his work is on par, if not higher, than other firms who have 20 or 30 years experience in the industry, the award should help make up for the fact that his business is young and small.

He also hopes that the range of signage and branding for the Cal’s project will demonstrate to potential clients that Amigo Arts handles projects of all sizes — from the 40-foot-long rooftop sign of Seattle’s Mojo Systems to graphics and paper menus for restaurants. And he knows how to stick to a budget.

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