Ribbon & Crossfire

– For six months, all I
did was just make glass and at the end of the day,
just throw it in the trashcan. For six months, ’cause
I couldn’t sell anything and I thought they might just
finally just give up on me. It wasn’t good enough. It was either too thick,
too thin, it wouldn’t fit the patterns, and you can’t
go back in and reheat it. You just couldn’t do it. You know, it wasn’t sellable and I knew what was sellable
and what was just throw away. And I went to my supervisor and told him, “Hey, I been here three months now”. And he goes, “Don’t worry about
it, we know it takes time. “You’re working every day, “give me eight hours of practice.” And then after about six
months, that’s when I made the first Taco Bell and I think I took about 20 pictures of
it and so proud of it. (laughing) I’ve got tubes out there over 30 years old that are still burnin, that I first made. (guitar music) You go around the country and
you go walk in a neon shop back in the 80s and they
would just stop working. They wouldn’t show you anything. They’d turn the fires off until you left and then turn the fires back on. And I think it was just
handed down, father to son, it’s such a unique art
and at the time then, there was such a high demand for people and they could name their own price and work the many hours
they wanted to work and they could get a job
anywhere in the United States that they wanted to work in. (mellow guitar music) So basically, we get
four-foot sticks and then we would just like take our
glass and we just heat it up and we just look at the pattern and then just trying to
find the best place to start and just heat the glass all
the way around to the patterns. And everything’s done in the air. Everything’s done in the air. You do it in the air,
you got a visual of what your pattern is, and then
once you left the table you can make about two
seconds of adjustments and that’s about it. And that was the hardest
thing: just knowin’ how much I gotta do here in the air and I get to the table, how
much more can I work with. But you have to have that mental picture and that was the hardest thing probably to get the idea from here to here. When I first saw the guy
do it, it looked so easy. Like, “I can do that.” All he’s doin’ is heating that glass up and bending it around this pattern. But then when I got ahold of it, oh it’s precise. You have to have the right
temperature of the flames, you have to take the glass
out at the right time. If not, it’s too hot, it’s too cold. You have to learn that exactly and it was very, very aggravating. I wanted to quit, six
months into it, I was ready to throw a piece of
glass against the wall, anything ’cause I was so mad,
’cause it was just so hard. And it looked so easy. I watched films and stuff
and I was like oh, okay. But it’s totally different when you get– It’s like having a piece
of metal and then it goes to spaghetti noodle and you
have to be able to control it until you get your pattern. (mellow guitar music) Neon in general, is a dying art. You can ask anybody in
the trade, they’ll tell ya the same thing. The youngest guy I know
in the medium right now is about 40. It’s gonna come back ’cause
there is no better light form out there than neon. LED’s have tried and at one time, for about three or four years, they thought that they were
gonna have an LED product that looked just like neon, but they’ll never be able to
make it last as long as neon, ’cause it’s just diodes versus a gas tube. (mellow music) It’s still a job to me. I’ve been doin’ it for 30 years
now, and like anything else you know it’s a job. You know, I come in and
I don’t really look at well I’m gonna be makin’
this today, that today. I come in, I just take
care of my customers. I might have a script job like this to do, I may have a border job,
which is just straight tubing, to do, or a bunch of repairs. To me, it’s just you know,
it’s my craft, it’s what I do. I enjoy havin’ my own shop, workin’. (mellow music) I love it, oh yeah, I
absolutely love it, yeah. I feel honored to come in every day and have my own business and be able to still work this craft, which I very much enjoy doin’. And my customers are
keepin’ me busy doin’ it. So I got about another 10 years to go. So, hopefully I’ll be here doing the craft and hopefully I’ll pass it on
to, if not my daughter Kara, somebody else at some time. ‘Cause I feel like I
need to pass my craft on to make my whole 30 years worthwhile. (mellow guitar music) If you find somethin’
that you wanna pursue, put the time, put the effort into it, and it’ll be rewarding. And I think that’s with anything. ‘Cause this was one of
the most aggravated arts I’ve ever tried to accomplish. The medium of bending glass
is very, very stressful. (laughing) And you can ask anybody
that’s tried to do it, and about one outta 10 stay with it. (mellow guitar music) And what I would tell people out there, if they’re tryin’ to master something’, no matter what is, just put the time, put the effort into it and
give it your best shot. And I think it’ll pay off. You have to strive for excellence and hope you fall somewhere
that’s gonna be acceptable. (mellow guitar music)

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