Smashbox Collaboration #LIGHTITUP

For the last year, I've been working with Smashbox on their Holiday 2016 campaign.  For those that aren't familiar, Smashbox is a photography studio and cosmetics company.  They collaborate with artists every holiday season to produce unique packaging concepts based on the aesthetics and mediums their collaborating artists use.  This time it was all about the neon and the packaging included vibrant acryllic boxes that housed their gift sets.  The neon that I made for our slogan, Light it up, was featured on the front of all the boxes. 

Additionally, Smashbox came into my studio to produce a video teaser for the collection and to highlight my unique process of making neon. 

The collaboration process with Smashbox was one of my best client relationships I've had in my career so far.  They are a creative company that understands and respects the creative process.  They are cruelty-free too! 

I think it's important to note for artists looking to have these types of projects and relationships with brands that it is absolutely possible to get what you need out of the relationship in terms of exposure and payment!  Smashbox payed me for my work, flew me out to LA and put me in hotels for all of my visits.  My name is on the back of all of their product packages.  This is how you treat someone whose work is helping to push your product.  Don't be afraid to tell companies what you need.  There are companies out there that respect artists and realize that this is our job, just like any other.  In the case of Smashbox, I didn't have to put my foot down at all.  It was very refreshing that the company offered before I had to ask.  <3

Finding The Light

In the beginning of 2015, I finally made the plunge and started to invest in equipment and material to make my neon tubes light up. Up until then, I had bent my own glass for my artwork and had it processed, a.k.a. bombarded (which makes it light up) at various studios of mentors and colleagues. This was a great way to learn at others' shops and, at first, a way to save money on the equipment needed.  


After a while however, I was receiving more and more custom work and exhibition requests.  The time it was taking to complete projects was impeding my process and limiting the amount of projects I could take on.  It was starting to make sense, become imperative even, for me to take that plunge and officially have a neon shop.  I could take on jobs for custom works in order to make the money to create my art while being my own boss. For me, it was a way to have my skill and trade become my full time job and to employ myself.  

 "A" being processed with electricity, creating heat.

 "A" being processed with electricity, creating heat.

*A side note on what this entails: Approximately $4-5k on specialty electrical, gas/air and vacuum system equipment, the noble gas needed, guages and guages and guages.  $900 on the electrical installation involving 15,000 volts at 46 amps with a contact switch and momentary activation.  I had to hunt down a master flameworker to hand make a glass vaccum and gas delivery system called a manifold.  Confused? So was I!  I am still constantly learning about all of it!  

After all of that money and time, I can now light my own glass tubes and possibly electrocute myself to death with the equipment in my studio! I have since worked on multiple commissions for individuals and brands more fluidly, making income and a growing business for myself.

Pattern and planning

Pattern and planning

Because of the business side - creating work for brands and other people's ideas - I find myself balancing a line between artist and tradesperson. Signmaker and sculptor. It can be a confusing place and I have my struggles with it.  It can cause blocks in my creativity, altered self perceptions and insecurities.  There can be worthwhile projects that challenge and teach and also projects that drain and disappoint.

Through this confusing journey eventually has come insight and resolve. I am a maker of light and can find my way through any obscure or dimly lit terrain. I have begun illuminating lessons to be had through my experiences working with companies and brands in order to guide me in future decisions I make for myself and my career.  

Detail of a work: Helium gas illuminated in class tubing, surrounded by pyrite stones.
Detail of a work: Helium gas illuminated in class tubing, surrounded by pyrite stones.

A big takeaway for me is the need to pause, reflect, share and write.  I intend to share more here on the blog in an effort to work through ideas and share projects and experiences as a working artist. It's helpful for other artists out there and for myself.  I will be experimenting with many new things for my work throughout the rest of the year and I am excited to show my process.   

The most important thing I can do for myself is to stick to certain policies I have for my business and my artwork.  I will happily do custom work for those companies that honor the principles of creativity and collaboration and respect my time and the specialty nature of my work.  I have outlined my policies in the commissions tab of the site for brands interested in working with me.  


I look forward to sharing more of my process here.  For other ways to see into my studio and life:

Instagram: @merylpataky

Snapchat: Meryl Pataky

Neon Workshops: What you need to know

All, or most, of your questions answered.  If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me through the contact page or


Workshops will take place in San Francisco on Bryant and 13th streets.  When you book, I will give you exact address.

How much?

I will be charging a very affordable rate of $65/hour for individuals.  Companies looking for team building workshops can contact me to inquire.  It depends on the hours and what is expected of the session.  Your money goes towards the materials used (glass and gases)

How long?

You can book classes from 2 to 4 hours. A minimum of 2 hours will be needed in order to really get into a bending session.  

What will I get/learn?

Everyone who books will receive a pdf "packet" with a list of equipment and their names, an overview of the process, bending techniques and other terminology.  It's important to review this before coming in so that we don't waste any time on this overview when you come in and we can get straight to the "doing".

You will get your own blow hose (used to blow air inside tubes while bending)

You will learn basic bending techniques and have the opportunity to practice them in the fires.  You will not get a finished piece out of just a two hour session.  I cannot guarantee that everyone learns the same and picks up the skill at the same pace.  Everyone is different.  With that said, you are welcome to book more than one session and your workshop will be tailored to your objective and learning style.  

Will I get a finished piece?

As I've mentioned, everyone learns differently.  The goal with everyone is to work towards a small finished abstract piece that incorporates bends you have learned (similar to photo below).  You will not get a large text based work out of this workshop.  It has taken me 6 years to get to where I am with my bending and I am still learning and progressing.  Don't expect to be a master in 2 - 4 hours but, you will get to learn how to do a craft that very few people can do and possibly get a small work to show for it.  As with everything, you'll get out of it what you put into it.  

How do I book?

See the available dates on calendar in sidebar of this page.  Please email to request a booking.  

Mission: Share The Craft, Neon Workshops in 2016

Mission: Share The Craft, Neon Workshops in 2016

I have a trade.  I actually know many trades, but only one that has become my way of life.  It pays my bills, it is featured in most of my fine artwork, and it's something that is deeply ingrained with who I am as a human because it teaches me more about myself, my strengths and my limits, than anything in my life has ever taught me.  It is an actual relationship, my best friend and my worst enemy at times, a true love-hate relationship.  It's expensive, dangerous, tedious and honestly, kicks my ass.    My main trade is tube bending, a.k.a, "Neon".  All "neon" is made by hand.  Every single neon sign you see was made by someone skillfully by hand.  Neon cannot be machine made or 3D printed.  

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