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.  

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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.  

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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