Got a Boat, Business, Chrissy Will Hand Paint It

Tuesday May 07, 2024

Chrissy Lebel with her sign honoring police patrolman Henry Breckenridge

AMESBURY – It has been a tortured path for Chrissy Lebel, but in recent months she has found a home among a collection of innovative entrepreneurs at CIWorks as she creates hand-lettered signs, murals and art for businesses and boats.
Along the journey she lost a friend, Peabody Police patrolman Henry Beckenridge, whose 40 years she now honors with her talents. It was said of him: Be Like Henry.
Chrissy started out to be a hair dresser in her hometown of Peabody, but a serious car accident that broke her neck made her search for another profession. No more standing all day with clippers in her hand was possible.
She turned a childhood passion for graffiti art to sign painting. She studied at the Butera School of Art in Boston and graduated into the modern world of digital art and vinyl signs. She took her craft to several sign painting shops, where she learned the business of sign painting.
Shortly she realized that vinyl may be good for records, but as signs it was not for her.
A friend suggested she start her own firm, specializing in gold and silver leaf lettering. After leasing space for several years with other sign painting firms that proved less than desirable, she discovered CIWorks, where she joined dozens of other small firms in an well-maintained mill building.
CI Works, a multi-tenant mixed-use building, “is where small business goes to grow,” said owner Mark Friery.
For Chrissy, CIWorks is “a place she can talk with and share ideas with other creative business owners.”
One of the first collaborator was Jeff Filipov, nicknamed the “Barndoorist,” a craftsman that turns old wood into works of art for homes. Chrissy painted a barndoor Jeff made from old wood and is looking to do more.
Initially she painted signs for businesses in the Peabody area, but moving to Amesbury, she has discovered boat owners and a growing number of businesses love hand-painted names.
With introductions from Friery, Chrissy is meeting yacht club owners.
“Newburyport and Amesbury are very historic, and there is also a lot of boat yards and marinas up here. A good part of our business in the warmer weather is boat lettering and striping. There is not much competition in this area and seemed like a great fit,” she said.
Lebel Signs focuses on high-end artistic signage, using better materials that provides longevity and appeal, she said.
“A sign is a business’ first impression on a consumer or potential. It’s what they see when driving down a street or walking by. You want to have that curb appeal that’s eye catching and reflects the quality of your business,” she wrote.
She takes pride in using traditional applications such as gold leaf and brush applications for dimensional effects and shading. These are techniques that most sign companies cannot replicate with computer designed graphics, she said.
“I am proud to be at a place in my career that I am able to say no or turn away vinyl and cheap sign jobs,” she said.
Her work may be more expensive than a standard digital sign shop, but “we have built a name because people actually seek us out for that reason,” she said. These business and boat owners want something crafted by hand that has depth and originality, something that doesn’t look so boring and cookie cutter, she said.
To honor the late officer Henry Breckinridge, her friend for 28 years, Chrissy hand-painted a sign for the West Memorial Playground in Beverly.
“My family moved to his street when I was nine, and he instantly became my big brother. I was the only girl in the neighborhood. He always picked me to be his partner for everything, made sure the all the boys weren’t hassling me, or he was holding me back from hassling them. From flashlight tag to 21st birthdays, we shared many fun times, laughs, and dance moves.
“With all the good times, he was also there through some very low points in my life. Never once judgmental, firm but genuinely concerned and happy to share guidance and advice. Not sure where I’d be today if it wasn’t for those talks,” she wrote.
The Henry Breckenridge Memorial Foundation is dedicated to championing organizations and individuals who embody the qualities that defined Henry Breckenridge’s impactful life. A true hero, Henry’s legacy will be a beacon of inspiration for generations to come.
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