Signs of the Times - June 2016 - (Page 76)

The Light of Our Lives A showcase of neon's staying power By Steve Aust T o appropriate a Mark Twain quote (couldn't every article begin with a quote of his?), rumors of neon's death have been greatly exaggerated. Granted, it's unrealistic to expect its widespread return to illuminating enclosed channel letters or to brightening cabinet signs when LEDs or fluorescent tubing do so far more economically. However, neon will maintain a prominent place in sign illumination for the foreseeable future. For exposed channel letters, logos and sculptural elements, no alternative matches neon's luminance. And, neon possesses an intangible, yet undeniable, appeal - its legacy as the luminescent catalyst of vibrant urban areas worldwide resonates today. Over the late 20 th and early 21st centuries, complex economic forces have undone many cities' vitality. Of course, a withering business climate also translates into a desolate signage landscape. Now, leaders in many US metropolitan areas look toward their urban cores for entrepreneurial rejuvenation. Often, these business owners are interested in celebrating local culture with their signage. Enter neon. Whether the customer's goal is to be historically reverent, funky or simply bright, neon brilliantly fulfills branding needs. Read on to see how three shops (two of which are in or near Austin, where "Keep it Weird" dovetails with an affinity for the historical or whimsical - again, neon's a perfect fit) keep neon front and center in the public eye, and a gallery from an architectural-neon relighting along Route 66. Neon was omnipresent 76 SIGNS OF THE TIMES June 2016 ION ART In 1986, founders Greg and Sharon Keshishian synergized their glassblowing and metalworking talents and founded Austin, TX-based Ion Art, a multi-faceted company that builds signage, sculptures and illuminated architectural graphics. Contrary to some shops' tendencies to narrow production capacity and outsource complex work, the shop eagerly embraces challenges and builds all elements inhouse. Mark Westphal, Ion Art's lead fabricator, said, "Austin is more inclined to embrace newer styles of neon as a modern-retro aesthetic than actual preservation of old elements." This customer, an Austin-based deli that emphasizes locally sourced ingredients, operates by the credo, "Quality is king," which this sign affirms with 129.25 linear ft. of neon. It encompasses 15mm Voltarc tubing for the decorative border, 13mm for the letters and 10mm for the animal figures. during the Mother Road's heyday, so they two share an intertwined, iconic history. Neon-sign fabricators face challenges - Marcus Thielen addressed the difficulties they encounter when locating supplies (see ST, December 2014, page 32), and lighting tradeshows underscore that only the wares of new-generation manufacturers are being touted (see ST, May 2016, page 28). Still, demand for neon remains strong in the marketplace, and shops who ply their trade with it have remained resourceful. And, as this gallery attests, they provide abundant local color.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Signs of the Times - June 2016

Signs of the Times - June 2016
Columns & Departments
ST Update
Technology Update
Tips for Effectively Marketing Your Signs to Millenials
Vinyl Apps
Strictly Electric
LED Update
Software Update
Technology Review - The Summa F Series F2630 Flatbed Cutter/Router
Technology Review - The Durst Rhotex 180 TR
Shop Opps
Sign Museum News
New Products
Second Generation
Undertaking Monumental Tasks
The Light of Our Lives
Cool Digital Printers
Enter ST’s Vehicle Graphics Contest
Advertising Index
Editorially Speaking

Signs of the Times - June 2016