Western Neon School of Art is a non-profit institution based in Seattle that supports the exploration of light, space, and interactive technologies.
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Welcome to your first class at Western Neon School of Art. Everyone who comes through our doors has some sort of tie to the medium of neon, and we want to know yours. In this class, we hope to not only teach you the basics of glass bending but also encourage a deeper understanding and appreciation of light-based media. After all, neon is more than just a beer sign in a local bar. It’s the tangible form of an ethereal cosmic presence, space gas enclosed in an illuminated tube. Lust for Light, a beautifully-design book by Hannah Stouffer, approaches light-based media in this way and captures elegant examples of illumination in art. The book features many prominent and lesser known light artists, including our Executive Director Dylan Neuwirth. Take a look at the reviews and photos on Colossal and DesignCurial to get an idea of everything you can do with the medium. We have the book in our studio, so feel free to flip through it when you’re here. You can purchase it on Amazon if you’re interested in reading more.
This week, we’re focusing on how to take a neon piece from start to finish by using a well-made pattern. Our demonstration piece is All My Friends, a recently installed neon sculpture designed and installed by Dylan at the soon-to-be-opened Museum of Museums on First Hill. Take a look at some of the photos on Dylan’s Instagram, especially the digital mockup. Neon pieces don’t come from thin air; the finished product is one part of a multi-step process. Now that you’ve worked with glass firsthand, you can notice more of the details in how the glass is formed and fits in its encasement. The Stranger wrote a blog post about the piece — check it out here.
You probably know Chihuly as a glassblower, but you might be surprised to learn he’s been using neon in his artwork since the seventies. The installation pictured was shown at an exhibition at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. As we’ll be covering assembly of neon pieces today, take a look at how the work is installed. Each colored line is a separate tube. Think about how they might be joined together, what holds them up, how power is supplied… we’ll go over it all in class, but come with your ideas!
Lisa Schulte, also aptly known as the Neon Queen, is a legend in the neon industry. In addition to being a neon artist, she has owned and operated LA-based neon shop Nights of Neon for over thirty years. In her personal work, Lisa focuses on abstract, organic designs. Her series with wood is particularly beautiful and a great example of how you could incorporate your tubes in with other items. She also works a lot with color, our topic of the week. Working with colored glass is much different to the clear tubes you’ve been working with in this class, and in this demonstration we will go over the differences between the two and how to achieve certain colors. If you continue on to take our Intermediate class, you’ll have the ability to work extensively with colored glass.
As we near the end of our six weeks together, you should be thinking about your final “silhouette” project. Draw some inspiration from Keith Sonnier’s Portals exhibition as you think about how you might want to display your artworks. Sonnier embraces the hardware in this show with obvious GTO and transformers. His work is simple lines and incorporates no backings or other objects. How would you like your work to look or not look like this?