“I'm really loving Siskiyou County and want to see it looking good,” she said. While she didn't expect to call Scott Valley home, it suits her.

When Heidi Tullmann travelled to Scott Valley in 2017 to attend the Blue Otter School of Herbal Medicine, she planned to stay for just four months. That turned into two years and counting after Tullmann found some clients for her hand-painted signs. In November 2018, she opened a storefront in Fort Jones under the business name Handsome Hand Signs. Her work can be seen at a dozen businesses in Siskiyou County, where she’s happy to now call home.

Before enjoying her rural lifestyle in Scott Valley, Tullmann spent many years living in cities. She was living in New Orleans, Louisiana before coming to Siskiyou County, and lived in Brooklyn, New York before that. Still, she said the country life “feels familiar,” as she spent her youth in Bakersfield, California which is also heavily agricultural. And, she said, “Everyone loves Dwight Yoakum here, too.”

Tullmann is coming up on 10 years of sign painting, but said she’s been doing it “seriously” for six years. She’s primarily self-taught but did take some classes from mentor Eve Rutledge of Mystic Blue Signs in New Orleans. She noted that she’s always on the lookout for a new mentor as there’s “still so much to learn.”

Tullmann’s storefront in Fort Jones is her first and she said the decision to occupy it was “a leap of faith.” She knew she needed a studio space and when she heard of the available space in The Creamery building, she decided to take the plunge. It’s a dream come true for Tullmann, who had long envisioned having her own shop.

The design process is the longest part of creating a sign for a customer, she explained. She starts by making a pattern. The drawing, she said, has to be the same size as the sign. Once the design is finished, painting a full window installation – like the one she did for 5 Marys Burger House in Fort Jones – typically takes six to eight hours. Wooden signs take more time.

Unlike a typical painting, where background details are done first, Tullmann starts with the foreground and works backward. And because signs are painted on the inside of the glass, the image is painted backward. The technique is called “reverse glass painting.”

When Tullmann meets with a client, her goal is to gain an understanding of what kind of space they’re trying to create for their customers. It helps to understand their values. “I have to kind of get in their head and figure out what they want,” she said. To do that, sometimes Tullmann will show a client books to see what fonts they’re drawn to.

Besides adding her artistic touch to numerous local businesses, Tullmann has engaged with the Siskiyou County community in other creative ways as well. She organized a group of sign painting artists to repaint several historic trains in south county.

“In the sign painter trade, it’s common to have meetups with other tradespeople in your area,” she said.

After being asked to “land sit” by her friends who own the Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture in Weed, Tullmann decided she might as well work on sprucing up one of the trains while staying on the property. She then put out a call to her sign painter contacts to see if anyone else was interested in helping with the project. Ten sign painters who live between Los Angeles, California and Seattle, Washington travelled to Weed for a weekend and worked together to paint three rail cars. They also lent their talents to mural projects, speed limit signs and entrance signs.

Tullmann said her favorite part of her line of work is seeing the community be sparked with pride when fresh new signs go up outside businesses.

“I’m really loving Siskiyou County and want to see it looking good,” she said. While she didn’t expect to call Scott Valley home, it suits her.

“I love rooting my designs in history, and this place is really proud of its history. I like bringing that back visually while moving forward culturally,” she reflected.

Tullmann is passionate about contributing to a bright future for Siskiyou County and said she’s open to stretching the scope of the projects in which she’s involved. Her work can be seen on Instagram at www.instagram.com/handsomehandsigns/ and she can be reached by email at handsomehandsigns@gmail.com.