Teresa represents the emerging category of neon artist in the "She Bends" exhibition. While we have artists in the show that are veterans, those that have been bending for a handful or more years, and those that work in shops - we also featured a couple of benders that are just getting started in their neon journey.
Teresa doesn't work at a shop, she doesn't have her own shop. She learns from some of the women, also featured in the exhibition, that teach workshops in New York. Everytime she wants to bend, she needs to spend money to get into someone else's space. For those out there wondering how to get into neon, Teresa can tell you best that it's about asserting yourself into the space and doing whatever you can to get into fires. You have to bother people and spend money, that's really what it comes down to.
Wherever you live, there won't always be a place that offers classes or workshops. Sometimes, you need to find your local bender and ask to learn. In my interview with Teresa, I specifically talk to her about how she manages to get into the fires as an emerging bender and what her challenges are. I'm hoping that for those wanting to learn, this can give some insight into the path.
Where and when was your first time in the fires?
It all started at the beginning of the Summer of 2015. I was curious about learning how to make neon lights, so I specifically googled “neon class”, “neon workshop”, “neon school”.
I thought there were no places or schools teaching something like this and that the only producers of the neon signs and neon art were just the neon companies we all know nowadays. After checking out the search results, I felt very excited when I found out that there are a few places teaching this art in New York and I chose the one that had the soonest to start date at "Brooklyn Glass". I immediately purchased my ticket. So my first time in the fires was July 2015. I´ve been going back there since then.
Do you have an arrangement with a mentor or a shop where you bend your pieces when you need?
No arrangements, I pay a rental studio fee that includes the space and the burners and also pay for the supplies I need like glass tubes, electrodes, the bombarding, etc.
About mentors... I´d like to mention David Ablon since he was the first person that taught me how to bend glass. I´ve learned most of what I know because of him. I admire his talent, the way he handles the glass in such a fast and precise way is crazy. A piece that would take me 12 hours to finish, he can have it done and pumped in 1 or 2! It's so impressive. I´m very thankful to him because he has helped me finished a bunch of my other pieces. I also took one of Kate Hush´s classes and she helped me how to handle and see the glass in a different way - also I love her work.
I´m not taking any more classes now since I´m feeling more confident in the fires by myself. I´m currently just renting studio time. I go there whenever I have free time.
Tell us about the works you are making for the show. What is the technical process of making the work and the concepts behind these works?
I´ve been working lately on female parts, sensual pieces, sentimental shapes. I'm currently making different types of boobs. I´m obsessed with them. I have boobs all over in my notepads, weird bodies and other doodles.
I want to show a variation of the boobs because that´s what we women have. There is not an identical breast. I want to represent the skin tones with the shades of neon. I want my work to give a wink to the viewers when they´re looking at it. I want them to see those parts as a beautiful thing and appreciate the uniqueness of this part of the human body.
How specifically does neon play in to the subject matter?
Neon is sexy, vibrant and it winks at you. It captures your attention. You want to stare at it, take a look closer. You don´t know what´s gonna happen if you touch it but you want to feel it. But, be careful, neon has feelings ;)
You are a bit of an up and comer in the neon world. We are excited to show emerging neon benders and veterans together. Do you have any advice for others that may be trying to get into it as a beginner?
I feel so honored to see my name next to all these incredibly talented women, everyone´s work is fantastic.
I think this new era of neon is definitely inspiring more artists to explore and to create new stuff. Is always good to incorporate new materials to your existing work to try. From an advertising [commercial] point of view, I see more and more small businesses and big companies incorporating neon into their budgets and promotional campaigns. I say, it's only going to work if the final work matches the concept enough. [Meryl is going to add her two cents here to further explain what Teresa means by this: frequently neon is used by artists and companies when it has no conceptual tie to the work. It is simply used as a trendy thing. Unfortunately, the long term popularity won't last if it's solely used as a trend without any thought behind why it's used and this translates to our industry's success or failure in the long run.]
I just wanna say to those who are starting or thinking about starting to learn - Don´t think that bending your own glass is going to be easy. It is one of the most difficult (but satisfying) things I´ve ever done. It takes time and dedication.
What have been some of the challenges for you with the medium?
The main challenge is the time you have to dedicate to it. I´m new at this art so I have to dedicate many hours to one piece since I still cannot get some bends on point aaaand that makes you spend more money.
Let me tell you about this one: The [neon] pattern, Ay Dios mío!. Getting that drawing right and that planning before you start to bend; Where are the electrodes going to be placed? How many sections [neon units] is the piece going to need? What if I do this? What if I connect this with that? That, my friends, is a challenge for me.
I´m still years away from being a real pro, I know that. A mentor, Michael Fletchner, told me recently: “Neon is a lifelong journey. She always has things to teach all of us. I´ve been at it 33 years and I'm still learning”. So, I have a long way to go.
A minor challenge is that, eventually I´m going to run out of space in my walls. I currently have about 16 pieces. You tell me, where am I going to put all my future stuff?
Other comments about my work.
I´m a “Seinfeld” fan so my first project ever was “Seinfeld” related and is one of my favorite pieces, actually. It's the “Sponge Worthy” one. I've made a t-shirt of the neon and I wear it with so much pride.
From a lettering class I took from Stephanie Lifshutz [a featured "She Bends" artist and New York bender] I made another Seinfeld reference, “Yada, Yada, Yada”. I can´t believe I made all of those letters in such a short period of time.