Eve Hoyt:
Neon Art

Yes, those are the great machines known as i mac's and whose innovative approach to colors are changing the way we live.  Have you noticed how the other PC's are now trying to steal yet another orginal Apple idea?  How about appliances now available in these "fruit" colors, if you look around it's coming from all directions.  Great job Mr. Jobs!!!  Strawberry, Lime, Tangerine, Grape and Bluebery...cool names for cool machines.  They have an iridescent glow about them, kind of like, well, NEON.  I like to call them Neon Red, Neon Green, Neon Orange, Neon Purple and Neon Blue.  Today, we are bringing into our homes Neon Art, it's been around a long time and never seems to date itself.  So there's no better time for artist Eve Hoyt to introduce us to the world of Neon.

Eve Hoyt - I don't recall exactly when I first noticed neon, but I have always been fascinated by it: the way it glows, the way the glass curves and bends, and the radiant colors. I thought it was both mysterious and exciting, and I began to wonder how it was made. I wanted to make my own colorful pictures with light. So, in 1988 I enrolled in neon school at Savage Neon, outside of Annapolis, MD, where I grew up. I spent the next 10 years working in a variety of sign shops, learning all I could about neon. Working in this environment allowed me the years of practice necessary to fully develop my glass working skills, but it provided little opportunity for creativity or experimentation. Realizing the need to have my own studio where I would be free to create my own designs, I bought a house with my husband in Glenside, PA and set up a studio.

Although I have been a neon craftsperson for many years, I have only recently begun to explore neon as an artistic medium. I would say that my art has more to do with the process of creation than the actual finished piece. Currently, I am working on a series of abstract, three-dimensional sculptures, combining color with form. When I begin I have a basic idea of what the final shape will be, but the end result is somewhat of a surprise. First, I visualize the shapes I want to incorporate in the design, and I settle into how I am feeling at the moment. Then, I begin bending the glass with a sense of awareness and an open mind. Because it is three-dimensional and I am working without a pattern, I rely on my mind's eye and let the behavior of the glass guide my direction. The finished piece is the result of both a spontaneous and meditative process. I think art is a reflection of the artists' perception and experience. What motivates my life is cultivating an awareness of every moment. I am excited about approaching neon this way.

I now have more artistic freedom, but the process of creating neon remains the same. It involves several stages and each stage requires equipment made specifically for neon work. It begins by making a pattern of the design on Transbestos, a fire resistant cloth paper. Next, the glass is bent to the shape of the pattern. This is where most of the skill in neon work lies. Long glass tubes are heated in a flame until they are soft enough to bend. As the bend is made, air is blown into the tube to keep the walls from collapsing. Careful attention and skill is required to make sure that the thickness of the glass wall and the diameter of the glass remain consistent. Otherwise, the bend will be weak and is likely to break. If one bend in a series is made incorrectly, it must be made again from a new piece of glass.

Because of its delicate nature, glass is a challenging medium with which to work. Although glass appears to be solid, it is actually a supercooled liquid, always in motion. As glass is heated, it expands and the molecules begin to move rapidly as it becomes fluid. The faster the movement of molecules, the more fluid the glass. As the glass cools and contracts, the molecules slow down. If the glass cools unevenly the molecular structure will be unstable, leaving stress in the glass. This often results in cracking or breaks.

After a series of bends have been completed to form a particular shape, electrodes are welded to each end. Electrodes are metal shells encased in glass with wires on the end. Now, the tube is ready to be filled with gas. The tube is hooked up to a vacuum pump and all the air is pulled out. At the same time, it is hooked up to a bombarding transformer and heated using electricity. As the tube gets hot, gases and impurities in the tube are released and pulled out by the vacuum pump. When the desired vacuum and temperature are achieved, the tube is filled with gas and sealed closed. The completed neon tubes are powered by connecting the electrodes to a transformer.

Learning the art of neon lead me to an interest in other aspects of glasswork. I have studied glassblowing, lampworking, and stained glass techniques, and am always looking for new opportunities to learn. I enjoy experimenting with what the glass will do and eventually I plan to incorporate some of these techniques into my art. Although I make things mostly for my own pleasure, I really enjoy making custom neon pieces for people who are as enthusiastic about neon as I am.

Eve Hoyt
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Visit Eve's Site to See More Neon

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