Hello there Awesome Foundation!
My name is Danielle James, but everyone just calls me DJ. I am 32, I live in North Carolina and I am a full-time neon glass bender. Many people pause after I tell them I bend molten glass into words for money every day, but that is in fact what I do.
Every single real glass neon sign you see out in the world was made be with human hands. I love that my craft is over 100 years old but they still have not figured out a way for robots to replace the neon bender.
That does not mean neon benders are living the high life. Actually, the situation is very much the opposite. Neon bending has recently been put on the endangered crafts life in the UK and most neon benders are above the age of 55. As someone who came in through arts education first. I am painfully aware of how important education is to the survival of my field. Because of that, I offer many types of classes to share the history of putting lightning in a tube.
Currently, LED "neon" signs are being mass-marketed as better, greener, and longer-lasting than real glass neon tubes. This information is overwhelmingly false and the few hundred of us left in the USA do not have the money to fight the flood of inaccurate information. Neon is still considered the greenest form of light and does not contain any plastics or heavy metals that cannot be recycled like LEDs.
To continue my quest to educate everyone possible about the scientific and artistic marvel that is neon sign making and I want to offer an actual 2-year long apprenticeship to someone younger than myself.
I thank you for your time in reading my submission. I hope that I will have two sets of fires by this time next year and will be able to offer more in-depth training in the art of the illuminated glass tube.
Funded by Awesome Without Borders (August 2021)