With just a week to go before Thanksgiving, Jamie Creath—Outreach Manager for the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County in California—had a job to do: Find someone to create a donor recognition wall for the ribbon cutting at Pismo Preserve, a beautiful 880-acre nature preserve set to open after six years of development.

The ribbon cutting was scheduled for January 18, with the official opening a week later. That meant less than two months to make the wall—a short turnaround time, especially for a project honoring over 250 donors.

“The Land Conservancy purchased the land in 2014 and got to work turning it into a space where people can hike, mountain bike, and horseback ride,” explained Jamie. “Once we were ready to open, we wanted to honor the individuals and organizations that donated their time, energy, and funds to make Pismo Preserve possible.”

That’s where Pella Engraving & Sign Company stepped in. In September 2019, PEC made plaques for the Land Conservancy’s historic Octagon Barn. “This history, plus PEC’s experience with recognition walls, made us a perfect fit for the new project,” said PEC Co-Owner Cory Vande Kieft.

The weeks that followed saw an enormous team effort spanning almost 2,000 miles. Everyone’s hard work paid off—the wall was completed in six weeks and arrived in the Golden State just in time for the ribbon cutting.

Step 1: Design

So how did Jamie and the PEC team manage it? They began with a strong design concept.

The vision for the donor wall centered around a tree—specifically, the Lone Oak, a local icon that calls Pismo Preserve home. To bring this vision to life, Jamie and Cory planned out three main wall components:

  1. A 64″ x 60″ cutout of the Lone Oak
  2. 259 leaf cutouts in three sizes (3.5″ x 2.5″, 5″ x 2.75″, and 7″ x 4″), inscribed with the names of individual donors, which would be installed to look as if they were blowing away from the tree
  3. A 23.5″ diameter sun featuring the names of project partners

PEC Typesetter Cyndi Fynaardt took the lead in designing each component. She studied photos and sketches provided by Jamie, creating three unique leaf designs in addition the tree cutout. “It was so impressive,” said Jamie. “In her designs, Cyndi really captured the unique shape and character of our tree.”

Once the designs were finalized, it was time to start production of the wall.

Cut-out stainless steel leaves being engraved by laser

259 individual leaves in 3 designs were laser cut from brushed stainless steel.

Step 2: Fabrication

Pismo Preserve overlooks Pismo Beach. The plan was to install the donor wall outside, on a retaining wall near one of the main hiking trailheads. That meant the wall pieces needed to withstand salt, changing weather, and UV rays.

Knowing these conditions, PEC chose 0.11″ brushed stainless steel for the material. The sun, tree, and 259 individual leaves were all laser cut.

Once the components were cut out, it was time to engrave. PEC team member Alaina Spaur treated the steel with CerMark™ spray before laser marking each component—a process that ensures fade- and weather-resistance.

Closeup of laser-engraved leaves with donor names

Each leaf was laser marked with a name and treated to withstand outdoor conditions.

Pismo Preserve plaque with donor names and seagulls

A close-up of the sun cutout, laser marked with the names of project partners and three seagulls in silhouette.

Step 3: Installation

When the components were complete, PEC packaged and shipped them to Pismo Preserve, along with stainless steel screws for installation. Once the pieces arrived, Jamie and the Land Conservancy team completed the installation.

“Pella Engraving was really great to work with,” said Jamie. “I’m so grateful for their expertise.”

“It’s always rewarding to work on projects like this one—to see how they take shape from a pencil sketch to the final product,” added Cory. “I’m so proud of our team. We got the right product in time to the customer, just the way they needed it.”