Melissa Patterson is ‘All About Signs’

Creativity and design are the hallmarks of this signmaker’s craft.


What’s your favorite sign on Martha’s Vineyard? I have many.

I had never needed a signmaker until this year when I connected with Melissa Patterson of About Signs. Initially we worked together online, as well as talking on the phone about an ongoing project. Not until I went to her physical studio and shop in West Tisbury did I realize the far-reaching breadth of her work across the Island. She met her husband John Patterson when they both worked for Hodgson Signs before striking out on their own. Melissa’s husband sadly passed away last year. Now she calls a neighbor, a carpenter, when she needs help while pointing to a post he had made for her the day before inside the shop building. Melissa explained her husband could make anything and often hand-welded hooks for their signs, reflecting a detail of the business. Melissa uses a panel saw, a chop saw, and a hand saw to cut her blanks and then uses a router, sanders, and grinders to finish the details of the blanks before they’re hand-painted.

When she shows me photos from an album of completed work, there’s a sweet photo of her and John with the unpainted camera sign for Mosher Photo not long after they met. We go through the album together as she recounts the joy of creating with her husband, how they complemented one another’s strengths and “just had fun.” One thing I like is that many of their signs are not the same on both sides; for example Alley Cat had the front on one side and the back on the other, or the Ag Fair sign had a pig on one side and a rooster on the other.

Melissa Patterson grew up outside Boston and attended Montserrat College of Art, majoring in illustration. She confesses, “When I was a kid I probably had a learning disability, growing up I was considered stupid. I learned from pictures but I was totally bored reading.” After art school Melissa moved to Northern California and cooked and cooked and cooked. She says, “I just figured stuff out. It was hard to get a job without experience so I always said, ‘I’ll do it’ and figured out how. That’s how I got my gumption.” From the shop we walked over to the next building and around the side Melissa showed me her paint room, not big, but big enough. I noticed a stack of blanks outside waiting their turn. Inside was C.B. Stark’s new sign getting its finishing touches. Melissa is a Renaissance woman, but her favorite aspect of her work is the design. “I come up with the best idea and it’s too far out for [the client] or they’re just not ready to go in that direction and I have to bring it back, do something a little more tame,” she explains, “When I do a logo I generally come up with eight different ideas and then we’ll start combining colors and fonts.”

At this point Melissa is up to her fourth generation of printers all networked to her computer. Although she believed she wasn’t going to need a big printer for the Vineyard, she soon upgraded to a 54-inch wide printer. As the printer whirred in the background I asked who does the van wrap and Melissa answered, “me and my helper.”

“Now I work with a flooring guy so when there are mistakes on the floor, I go in with my paints and my tools, and faux them out so you can’t see them. A way to make ends meet, shake it up a little bit and have some fun,” she says. If there’s a challenge Melissa is a “I can do it” person. In her spare time she likes “to push paint around.”

I asked Melissa what her most interesting or quirky job was. When artist/writer and psychotherapist Julia Kidd did her all-over-the-Island installations in 2012 for “I got all your messages and I loved every one,” Melissa made the signs for her and said, “We plastered a big line of copy on the side of the Shenandoah and that was really fun. I can’t remember doing anything like that.” If you missed it see

She likes to paint every day and took a Painting a Day course online during the lockdown. She’s gone on a few painting trips and plans to go with her painting group to the Amalfi Coast in the fall. She says, “It’s hard work, it’s therapy, it’s challenging, but I love when I get to a place I’m proud of.” Although Melissa doesn’t exhibit her paintings, in her home unframed paintings lean on the mantle, a table, and one from when she was 29 years old is framed and hanging on the wall. Mia, her summer intern, joins us just as I’m ready to go. Melissa has brought on a female intern annually to pass on her many skills. Mia, from New York’s Hudson Valley, is also working for Whippoorwill Farm.

Melissa is planning to retire from About Signs in another year and hopes to find someone interested in taking it over, someone she can work with in the transition to learn the business. She plans to continue her design work, painting, and looks forward to the next chapter. If you are interested in learning more About Signs, please reach out to Melissa through email at or phone 508-693-8163.



  1. Bravo Mellissa! Always a wealth of creativity and expertise. She has helped me promote my small buisness for over 20 years . A true gem.

  2. Melissa, I knew you when you were just starting out, and now you’re almost ready to retire! Where did the years go?
    Seems to me you interned with the late great Maynard Silva for a time too?
    Anyway, congratulations to you for this amazing business you created. All the best in the future.

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