Published: 2021-04-09 15:57:58 BdST
What makes that bright warm glow?
When electricity energises a tube full of the inert neon gas, the tube lights up, explains Jeff Friedman, owner of Let There Be Neon since 1990.
“Neon is red when it’s lit, the pure colour of neon. But we also use argon, which is blue, and by combining the different gases with different glass colours or phosphorus inside the tube, that’s how we get all the different colours,” said Friedman.
The 3,500-square-foot (325-square-meter) shop was founded by light artist, painter and documentary filmmaker Rudy Stern in 1972, and Friedman started working there five years later.
Glowing signs in all colours of the rainbow illuminate the store, as glass-benders hold tubes over blue-hot flames, shaping them into various letters and designs.
Over the decades, other forms of lighting - such as LEDs - became cheaper to make and neon signs fell out of favour, but not at Let There Be Neon.
The "Let There Be Neon" store is pictured amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US, April 8, 2021. REUTERS
“Pre-COVID, we were making more neon than we’ve ever made before,” he said. “When COVID hit, it was like the cigarettes were left burning in the ashtrays.”
Friedman hopes business will return as people regain confidence and says the amount of work they have received has been steadily increasing again.
“It’s nowhere near where it was pre-COVID, but the lights are on, we existed, we survived.”