Anika and I represent two-thirds of the female benders in the Bay Area (the third will be introduced in a future maker crush post.) Anika used to intern for me, in fact. She is a bright and bubbling energy, a pleasure to have in the studio. Always smiling, always positive. She's since moved on to her own shop and her bending is getting better and better (I see you girl!!).
Anika is a perfect example of how to succeed in getting involved in neon. She went after it, bothered whoever she could to get involved and to get in the fires. The more of these "She Bends" ladies I talk to, the more I realize that our stories are so similar in this way.
Another similarity Anika shares with the rest of us is that neon has changed us, it teaches us things about ourselves and things we need to tailor for our practice to work. With Anika (and with me) it's patience. Neither of us are very patient people in the real world yet neon forces us to be something we are not, in a good sense. We are forced to practice patience, like a meditation, during the entirety of our practice. Every bend, every heat, mentally aware and working on ourselves.
Anika's work has a very unique character (unique to what you see these days). It's not girly pink cursive or trying to be trendy in any way. It's her own narrative - gritty and hip-hop inspired. Her frequent choice of using neon gas (the bright red one) is, in my view, an outward reflection of her own personality - bright and buzzing! Even though you say argon, girl, I think you like neon just as much! From her statement, "Neon is an active and wild source of power in which I intend to dedicate my existence to better undertanding".
MP: Who taught you how to bend? What were your initial thoughts after your first time bending?
AR: I took a class at the Crucible, with the intent on becoming a plasma sculpture artist! After learning the basics of neon, I became enthralled with the medium.
MP: What is your background (outside of neon) with art?
AR: Before neon, I was a flame worker. Borosilicate was my specialty, and bike mechanics was my profession!
MP: You basically have your own shop. Talk about your arrangement with your mentor/teacher/neon friend.
AR: Currently, I am renting out a workspace from my neon sensei, Danny. I've got keys to the property and am able to come and go politely. He's a great guy, and is always interested in my progress. We work on basic jobs together, like border tubes for local businesses (*teaching moment: border tubes are straight neon tubes done in windows or along the exterior of buildings. Many exterior border tubes are being replaced by LED's but sometimes they have their original neon.)
MP: What's the biggest challenge you have with the medium?
AR: My biggest challenge is remaining patient! I have a bad habit of not letting a heated bend cool, before going into the next bend. Transporting neon is also a challenge... glass is so fragile, and I am a messy lady.
MP: What are your favorite colors to use?
AR: My favorite color is argon, pure argon without mercury. I also like the orange color that comes from using phosphor coated green tubing filled with neon.
MP: You make these weird blown out, fat tubes. They are reminiscent of Geisler Tubes (*Test tubes made during the time of neon invention, samples of glass manipulation and gases available to consumers). Could you explain your process? How does the gas react in a larger space? What differences are there in your approach to bombarding (processing/filling with gas)? Also, what are they about, why'd you make them?
AR: Neon isn't the most natural looking force. These pieces came about after many attempts to make systems appear like water. Pushing glass together while blowing allows the glass to slump together so it isn't too thin. The way the gas travels within these systems is really interesting to watch! I bombard them as if they were 15mm tubes, and pray they won't explode :)
MP: Any tips or tricks for people trying to get into the trade?
AR: Research what its about, and call me if you ever want to see it in action! Its also good to study neon signs when you see them in public. And if you're local to the Bay Area, the Crucible teaches classes a few time per year.
MP: You've made a couple of pieces that are influenced by graffiti, correct? How does neon come into play here? Are there similarities?
AR: I fell in love with neon, because it encompassed so many of my interests. I live typography, letter structure, line weight, layout etc. And to be able to do all of this with glass... the answer to all my dreams
MP: Not My Job is a piece that we are showing at MONA. "Not My Job" is a lyric from a Mac Dre song, yes? You've also made another Mac Dre piece that I saw at Good Mother Gallery in Oakland. You really like Mac Dre huh? Tell us about this love affair and how it relates to who you are.
AR: I love Mac Dre, big time. Growing up in the bay, early 2000's, Mac Dre was king. I'm a hyphy kid for life! This piece is based on his song, Not My Job, where he raps about only his business, and having fun. He never had to act, or fill some gangster rapper facade. I try to remember this and live my life accordingly to the fullest.
MP: You certainly have a unique viewpoint. Don't take offense to this, but your work is not girly, it seems to have a masculine vibe.
AR: yeEeEe*!! *grabs her junk*
MP: What are some things you are trying to perfect in your practice now?
AR:I'm still attempting get those nice long curves you've mastered with that cursive! I'm also attempting to keep neon more sculpture-based, and less two dimensional.
See Anika's work alongside more than 20 others at The Museum of Neon Art, Los Angeles September 16th.