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.  

Photo: Stephanie Chefas

Photo: Stephanie Chefas

A trade is defined as a skilled job, one that requires manual skills and special training.  There is a word I prefer to use to describe my knowledge: Craft.  Craft's definition is, "a pastime or a profession that requires particular skills and knowledge of skilled work".  Both things can describe tube bending.  They can also describe painting, wheel throwing, car mechanics, carpentry, really any profession that performs a job manually or by hand.  The definition of words like trade and craft are important, in my opinion, because they are two words who's meanings are a bit lost on today's society.  

Craft has become a bad word in the art world and commercial world, reduced to ideas of kitschy knick-knacks and hobby projects your grandmother might make.  Art schools are dropping the word Craft in their titles, curriculum is shifting towards current industry based jobs like tech and people just don't make things anymore.  The advancement of new technology has shown people how wealthy you can be - why be a sign maker when you can have a "normal" job that pays really really well and gives benefits?  Kids are discouraged from being artists and tradespeople because blue-collar is basically dead.  

Photo: Simone Silva

Photo: Simone Silva

The majority of people I talk to about neon knew nothing about it beforehand nor had a burning desire, per say, TO know.  But they become fascinated as we talk and you can see that moment when their mind becomes blown, so to speak.  If I have the opportunity to come across that person again, they always say something to the effect of, "I look at ALL the neon now!"  There are dwindling numbers of neon makers, iron casters and blacksmiths.  Even printmakers and ceramicists.  More people should learn a craft and challenge their brains in a different way.  It has great cognitive benefits and teaches you something about yourself you probably never knew.

Because of my love for my medium, I have a strong desire to spread its crafty roots and give people the opportunity to learn about it and learn how to do it.  I will host them at my studio space in San Francisco and I will also be making small tutorials here on my blog for those interested but not local.  Mission: Share the Craft will start in February! Stay tuned for the announcement of available dates!

Photo: Brock Brake

Photo: Brock Brake