About Us

I would like to briefly introduce myself. My name is Peter Poanessa and I am just a regular guy with a love of the design/build process. I am also owner and founder of Keene Signworx. I studied art for a year at the University of New Hampshire, until I got "a gut feeling" that I was only going to end up teaching, something I didn’t want, so I quit and gave in to a young mans itch to wander. During a stint as a salmon fisherman in Alaska, I watched an old sign painter write freehand along a boat’s bow. It was like watching someone play the guitar. I was mesmerized, as it didn’t look possible to train your hands to do that. That was when I got the sign-making itch.

I came into the sign trade from a background in wooden boat repair, home building, furniture, cabinet work, and welding (a real jack of all trades). After a ten year stint as a commercial fisherman I enrolled at the Butera School of Art, a commercial art school in Boston, were I studied, graphic design, and sign-related courses like lettering, layout and design. Shortly after graduating I started my own sign company. Keene Signworx has grown into one of the country’s top specialists in carved and sandblasted dimensional signs, and after more than 3 decades in the sign making business, I still love what I do.

Our  humble beginning was in a small 600 square foot shop in the woods of Walpole, NH in 1985. There I did everything by hand. Wood and paint were our materials of choice, and a chisel and brush were the tools. The design process was a drawing table, pencil and straight edge. Once our design was done and approved we would blow it up to a full size pattern with a projector. 

In 1994 after selling my house and shop to finance a brewpub venture, I moved the shop to at 690 Court Street in Keene. In 1997, I hired Mary McCord as a part time worker, and ten years later, she is a partner in Keene Signworx. She handles all of our painting and finish work and has her hands in most of what goes on here.


Peter and Mary Ponessa installing the Toadstool Bookstore's new sign

Over time we adopted new technology. It was with much hesitation at first since we had so much invested in our hand skills and process. However, by the early nineties we were so busy we knew we needed to invest in streamlining our production. First it was a computer design system, then film cutting plotters, and finally in 1997 we were one of the first carved sign shops in the country to adopt a new machine called a CNC router with 3D modeling and machining software. This was a major upgrade that opened up a world of design and fabricating possibilities. By 2002, we had taken all the space left in our building and have had to streamline our shop to make the best use of our 2400 square foot space. In 2011 we built a new, custom designed in house, 3000 square foot shop in Swanzey.

Today we use a wide variety of materials from 23K gold leaf and synthetic sign panels, to clear grain mahogany, copper and bronze to produce signs. I believe we are producing our best work yet and the computer systems are as at home in our shop as the table saw. We continue to be passionate about the trade and look forward to coming to work each morning.