During the past two years, however, Scotts Valley resident Jay Topping has made metal signs to bring the county’s early-20th-century history back into the broader awareness in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Topping, who has 35 years’ experience in custom paint and graphics design, scans images of old advertisements, photographs and memorabilia from the area’s past to create metal signs, designed to resemble tourism advertisements.
“It all started with a love of history,” Topping said.
Among other local landmarks of the past, his signs hearken back to bygone attractions, such as The Plunge at the Boardwalk, Santa’s Village, The Lost World and the Tree Circus in Scotts Valley.
When he finds an image he likes, Topping sizes it on his computer and prints the image in vinyl onto rounds of sheet metal cut to size in a friend’s metal shop. Then he uses secret techniques to “age” the appearance of the sign before applying a clear-coat sealant on the sign to allow for outdoor display.
“It’s a passion for me,” Topping said.
When Topping began working as an artist, he focused on painting and sculpture, displaying his works at art exhibitions and festivals.
It was at the 2009 Scotts Valley Art and Wine Festival that Topping noticed he had some extra space on the wall in his booth and decided to whip up five signs on pieces of wood and metal he found lying around to cover the empty space.
All five quickly sold.
Since then, he’s gotten his routine down to a science and says he can create several signs in an hour.
His first design used an image from a patch that adorned a 1920s-era rental bathing suit from Capitola Beach.
His most recent creation is a sign for an early bus ferrying tourists from San Francisco along the rugged roads of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the beach. The image, Topping said, was extracted from an original black-and-white photograph given to him by the descendant of the man who’d originally snapped the photo in 1923.
After a little research, Topping discovered that the bus matched a type that was built in Oakland in the 1920s.
“When I find photos like this, I love to do detective work and find out the history behind it,” he said.
Another was originally a sticker with a graphic depicting a car driving on a winding, forested road, created by the San Lorenzo Valley Chamber of Commerce in the 1950s.
The sticker was one of just five surviving stickers and was sold to Topping by the daughter of the chamber’s president.
“I am always on the lookout for local images,” he said. “These images need to get out of dusty old books and boxes and out for people to enjoy.”
In addition to displays at the Bonny Doon Art and Wine Festival in June and the upcoming Scotts Valley Art and Wine Festival later this month, Topping’s signs are on display and for sale at Mint on Scotts Valley Drive and at Nut Kreations in Santa Cruz.
For more information:
**Jay Topping, www.jaytoppingart.com
**Scotts Valley Art and Wine Festival, www.scottsvalleychamber.com
Volunteers needed for SV Art and Wine
Volunteers are needed for the 12th annual Scotts Valley Art and Wine Festival, which is set for Aug. 13 and 14 at Skypark.
The Scotts Valley Chamber of Commerce estimates the event will need more than 250 volunteers to be successful. High school students in need of community service hours are encouraged to sign up.
To volunteer, call the Scotts Valley Chamber of Commerce, 438-1010, or visit the Scotts Valley Art and Wine Festival page on the chamber’s Web site, www.scottsvalleychamber.com, to download a volunteer form.