From the bright lights of Las Vegas to the streets of East London, neon lighting is here there and everywhere – and a trend which is brightening the home, one strip at a time.
Discovered in the late 19th Century, it wasn’t until 1910 that French engineer and inventor, Georges Claude first demonstrated neon lighting at the Paris Motor Show. It completely reinvented modern day advertising and signage, illuminating billboards and shop fronts.
Neon lights became popular with businesses who used lighting to drum up attention and create excitement. It started to represent glamour and a changing world. However, overtime neon lighting became associated with brash advertising, corruption and obscenity. It was loud and obnoxious.
During World War II, neon began to fade and it was only after the war, that City of Lights, Las Vegas, reignited neon. Many may think of ‘Vegas Vic’, a 40 foot cowboy who welcomed visitors into the city. It has since gone on to dominate areas of thrill and entertainment. Las Vegas, the West End, fun fairs and theme parks, all spark-up that excitement and thrill through colourful typography.
Contemporary creatives have been using neon to create messages for some time now. Tracey Emin has been using neon lights in art since the 90’s, and her collection ‘I Promise to Love You’ is perhaps the most commercially recognisable neon artwork today. Emin uses neon as a voice, expressing feelings through phrases such as ‘When I hold you I hold your heart’.
On the flip side, you have contemporary artists such as Martin Creed who creates pieces which say “SHIT” and “COCONUTS”. So deep… so meaningful.
Tracey Emin, You Touch My Soul, 2013 and Martin Creed, Work No. 240, Fuck Off, 1999
We’ve recently been lucky enough to see the National Theatre production of Angels in America and were completely blown away by the visual’s. Set designer, Ian MacNeil uses florescent tubes of light to create different scenes. From Central Park at night through to the chilly depths of Antarctica, it’s the simplest of ideas to transform a stage.
It works perfectly for the tone of Angels in America. There’s something slightly dark and ominous about neon lighting. Perhaps due to it’s use in some rather “seedy” places. Strip clubs that flash “LIVE SHOW” or “GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS”, convenience stores that light up the words “LIQUEUR”, neon lights are used to showcase the darker underworld of many cities across the globe.
If you want to immerse yourself in that world then head to God’s Own Junkyard in Walthamstow – a hot spot for anyone looking to illuminate their life. Launched by Chris Bracey, the warehouse showcases everything you could wish for in vintage florescent lighting and will give you a real taste of neon through the ages.
However, let’s not restrict neon lights to dingy alleys and massage parlours. If you’re looking to get your hands on your very own neon lighting then look no further. Whether it’s customisable bespoke pieces or ready-to-buy then bag&bones or Brilliant Neon have just what you’re looking for. From cactus shapes and love hearts, or funky peace signs and flamingos, these guys have just what you need for statement LED designs.
If you’re looking for something a little more affordable then look to the highstreet. Debenhams new AW17 collection includes a cactus, flamingo and heart shapes, all of which would look great propped up on a sideboard. John Lewis offer up a pineapple, Urban Outfitters a fluffy cloud, or for something more minimal, head to Amara for vertical neon strips by Seletti (as seen above).
Pineapple from John Lewis £18 and neon lamps from Debenhams £50 each (launching soon)
Neon lighting is still loud and obnoxious, but who cares, it’s amazing. Whack up a sign that shouts “coconuts”, or light-up a side table with a pink flamingo. If it’s good enough for Broadway, it’s good enough for you. We just love how it speaks a thousand words.
Well, except that one, because this is actually the end.
David & Mark x
*We’re thrilled to have been nominated for the second year in the ‘Best Design Inspiration’ category in Amara IBA ’17! If you liked this article and want to vote for us then CLICK HERE. Thanks!
2 replies on “Switch it Ne-ON”
A cactus shaped neon light? I love it! Thanks for the resources!