Michelle Nguyen is a designer and sign painter—born, raised, and based in San Francisco. The youngest in her family and the first to be born in America, the pressures to be successful were very clear from her parents, who immigrated here from Vietnam with her older sisters.
Michelle grew up obsessed with drawing and knew that she had to be an artist one day. While going to SFSU for design, she had picked up chalk lettering at her job working at a grocery store, gradually doing that for businesses outside of work too. After being intimidated by paint for the longest time, she finally gave it a try through a workshop at New Bohemia Signs—and immediately fell in love. Though the sign painting life is not quite what the parents expected, they are understanding more about it as Michelle creates more.
Now, she makes signs full time at a mom & pop grocery store, as well as painting signs for storefronts, companies, cafes, and for art shows focusing on hand lettering, feminism, and diversity. She looks back to signage in Vietnam often for inspiration in their variety in energetic styles, vibrant color combinations, and nostalgia for all the long trips she has taken there.
Michelle had the honor of concepting and curating for “But Where Are You Really From?”, which would not have happened without Amanda from Mule Gallery, the support of her partner Jeffrey, and of course, all the incredible sign painters included in this show. (Portrait taken by Sarah Karlan)