Taming Lightning is a reserach project following my Journey as an Emerging Artist, to learn and share knowledge about the phenomenon of ionized Gases in Plasma and Neon Light through interviews and discussions with Artists, Makers, and Researchers.
Updates will also include documentation on in progress works and idea, Sharing of Classes I find taught by Artists and Makers, as well as future plasma classes at Pittsburgh Glass Center where I'm researching and developing opportunities.
My Neon Experience:
Student work from Interactive Light, Pilchuck Glass School 2014
My history in Neon and Plasma began when I took a class at Pilchuck Glass School in 2014, called Interactive Light with Patrick Collentine. In this workshop we explored creating air tight vessels using Furnace glassblowing and Torch work using borosilicate. The course was a laboratry for creating shapes and surfaces to explore in plasma neon.
From that course I was striken by the plasma bug, and searched for a way continued to work in it for my BFA exhibtion at Illinios State Universty. I ended up working with a local Neon and Sign making studio Super Signs in Bloomington, IL, where we investigated plasma. Unfortunatey neither of us had any experience to make any dazzaling light work, but we did produce some interesting glowing pieces. Eventually our schedules no long lined up as their Neon Technician had various installations and repairs to fulfill.
Flash forward to 2016, I had applied to Pittsburgh Glass Center Studio Technician Apprentiscehsip Program. Within the first two months of my apprenticeship, we received at 2 seperate donations from retired neon sign workers. This include a working vacuum pump, manifold (plumbing for filling tubes and vessels), diffusion pump, hand torches, bombardier (trad neon) and more. Which I later discovered that behind the scenes a big hand in receiving the donation was Brian Engel, Studio Coordinator, and Chris Clarke, Operations Manager. Both were interested in having a neon and plasma sometime in the future.
It's an art and knowledge that isn't widely known, but I felt that I could definetly get things running with a little guidance. My first steps were to take pictures of all the equipment, and send them to my mentor Pat Collentine. Sorting through the equipment, and talking with Operations Manager, I was given permission to build a mobile Plasma Lab, a cart for vacuuming and filling vessels for plasma. I say plasma, due the dangers of using a bombardier in traditional neon, which is used to send high voltage through the tube for processing.
Now while I'm waiting for our gas order to come in, I'll be recording interivews and discussions in with Artists, Makers, and Research, and writing posts about the process, and some techniques and tricks I've learned so far.
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Image: Return to Hieroglyphs by James Akers
Taming Lightning is an educational blog and podcast about the art, Science, and History of Plasma and Neon Light through interviews, discussions, and collaborations with Artists, Makers, and Researchers.