Cris Bates Neon Lip

Chris Bracey Neon Lip


How wonderful when the days get longer and the sun spends much more of its times shining down on us emerging humans. It makes such a difference to wake up in the morning with the sun peeping through the curtains. I know that, very soon, the garden swing seat will be getting a dust down and the ice compartment will be readied for its much welcomed return.

I do love light and I wanted to mention a wonderful artist who sadly passed away in 2014. Chris Bracey had been making neon signs and art pieces for more than 37 years. He created works for shops and theatres, artists and collectors, fashion designers and photographers and for films as varied as ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, ‘Tomb Raider’, four Batman films, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.

God’s Own Junkyard

God’s Own Junkyard

Neon for me conjures up an atmosphere of violence, crime and roughneck romance. The lighting reminds me of hard-boiled detective films and the covers of tough paperback thrillers. It’s an enduring symbol of city night life, seedy clubs and garishly eye-catching advertising for hotels, bars and restaurants. The image of a lone detective stalking the night while gaudy neon signs light up the wet pavement is a tough one to resist.

And the best examples fill me with wonder at the originality, craftsmanship and artistry of this uniquely handmade process. They may mostly be ads but they can inspire the imagination and catch-the-eye. In my limited travels I’ve seen neon lobsters (Edinburgh), cowboys and Indians (Arizona & Nevada), lithe bodies (London), Jesus (also London), elephants (Los Angeles) and bright red windmills (Paris). And of course, they only come out at night.

God’s Own Junkyard

God’s Own Junkyard

And then there’s Chris Bracey and his formidable studio ‘God’s Own Junkyard’.

I was amazed and delighted to come across this wonderful warehouse in Walthamstow, North East London. The glory days of neon and the modern world it promised may be long over but in this one-of-a-kind workshop you can see experience the incredibly colourful and vibrant world Chris lived in.

The glowing light actually made me feel warm and I realised that I had a smile on my face as I wandered amongst the neon art, discarded shop signs, religious statues, toys, reclaimed materials and other unusual bric-a-brac.

His work has certainly inspired my thinking. I wouldn’t be surprised if his super-vibrant influence colours some of my future work and greeting card designs. I think it’s time to dig through some of the old snaps from my US travels to see if there is anything exciting for a new neon greeting card range. Bring a bit of neon art to Yorkshire?

If visiting London I certainly recommend that you go. There’s a decent cafe in the building too called ‘Rolling Scones’. Look for the colourful cow marking the entrance.