Click to enlarge

I found Tula’s Trattoria in the dusty outbuilding of an antique store in coastal New Hampshire. I loved it the moment I saw it. The sculpture was amusing and well made even though it is constructed out of cardboard. The artist had obviously taken care to make a solid work that is sturdy and has held up to the abuses it was subjected to over its life before I found it.

The back of Tula’s opens up and inside is a simple nightlight with a 4-watt bulb. The sign on the top of the building is wired with a string of Christmas lights that were carefully installed into a very tight space. When I first found Tula’s, “Toula” had been ripped off the sign and only a bit of raw cardboard remained to show where it had once been.

I showed Toula’s to my wife and she was as taken with it as I was. After some haggling with the store owner, we reached an agreed-upon price slightly lower than what was marked due to the damage that had been done to the sculpture. Tula’s was coming home.

This is what Toula’s Trattoria looked like when I bought it

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As you can see, “Toula’s” had been torn off and the sign above the awning was missing. But all of the lights worked and there was nothing else missing or broken.

After I got the sculpture home I began to search for any information I could discover about the artist and the sculpture. I was able to find the artists website where he had a whole gallery of about twenty other sculptures similar to this one featuring cartoonish buildings with neon colors and zany lighted signs.

I was able to contact the artist and he told me a little bit about his sculptures and the period of time when he did them. I am not publishing any information about him because I don’t have his permission to do so and he is sadly no longer doing these funny, beautiful pieces of work. I do know that at one time Toula’s Trattoria was an actual restaurant in Lowell, Massachusetts named after the wife of the couple who owned it, and this work was commissioned for the restaurant.

The web photos I used for reference and to create the letter templates.

I was always disappointed that Tula’s was damaged, especially after finding a photo of it in its original condition on the artist’s website. I told my wife I intended to restore it. It took me a while before I was ready to do that. I wanted to make certain I had a plan in place and all the materials and supplies I would need. The biggest hurdle was the only reference I had for how the original looked was a fuzzy photograph from the web, but I also had the sculpture so here is how I did it.

First I measured the lettering for “Trattoria” on the sculpture. Then I used image editing software to scale up the web photo and print out the “Tula’s” until it matched the size of the letters in “Trattoria” on the sculpture, all the while recording the scale I was printing at. When I finally had it right, I printed out several copies of Tula’s to use as templates.

The templates and letters.


Using the printout, I cut the letters out of cardboard to re-create “Tula’s”. Next, I painted the letters the original colors.

The cutout letters

Painting the letters white
Painted and ready for mounting

The mounting done Tula’s restoration was complete.

The final restoration

Comparing the restored lettering to the original