Joby Carter grew up on Carters Steam Fair, the world's largest vintage travelling funfair, which operates in the south and west of England. As a child he was fascinated by the paintwork on the rides, and so he pestered signpainter Stan Wilkinson to teach him how to paint. Stan was from the proper tradition of signwriting, having been taught as a boy by a master signwriter, who in turn learnt the same way, going back to the 19th century. For Joby, learning from this conduit directly to the master painters of the Victorian age was an opportunity not to be missed. Joby is proud to have learnt the traditional way in an age when it is unusual to learn a skill through hard work and a long apprenticeship. There are few people these days who can match this flamboyant talent with true skill, and Joby is one of them.
Joby and his family still operate and travel with the Fair today. Every spring the Fair pulls out for the season and Joby's time is spent travelling and running his rides. In the winter the real work begins: restoring and maintaining the vintage equipment. Joby's paintwork can be seen on the majority of the fair's attractions, and he has become arguably one of the best - if not the best - decorative signwriters and fairground artists working today. In addition to his own rides, Joby and his team (including Joby's mother, Anna Carter, who is an excellent scenic painter) frequently take on restoration and paintwork commissions.
During the winter months Joby runs intensive signwriting and fairground art courses to pass on the knowledge to more people passionate, as he is, about keeping these old skills alive. His courses are very popular and book up quickly, and he has had people travelling from all over Europe and further afield specially to take part. Aaron Stephens, who works closely with Joby, came to one of the first signwriting courses and showed a natural aptitude for the craft - a seven-year apprenticeship later and he is now working as part of the team. To find out more about the courses and to book, click here.
As well as running his busy paintshop, Joby is also an artist in his own right, and his sign pieces have become sought-after by collectors. He was involved as a guest curator for Peter Blake's Museum of Everything and has given talks on signwriting and its place in folk art at universities and art schools, in addition to signwriting commissions for the Brit Awards and the English National Opera amongst others.
Check out Joby's Instagram for regular updates