Danielle Bonnet has to be one of the most fascinating artists we’ve crossed paths with yet - melding the worlds of industrial materials and provocative artwork, she crafts neon masterpieces. Inspired by her grandparent’s original neon repair shop in Las Vegas, Dani now makes her art in Los Angeles…
1. Who are you?
Danielle Bonnet, aka Dani B. I’m 25 and in Echo Park, California.
2. Describe your medium & process for your art...
I am a neon artist! There is quite a lengthy process time wise for each sign that I make, let me share with you some detail: First I neon-ize my design in illustrator, working with set line diameters I mock up what I believe will be able to be transformed into neon. Then I print out the reversed image of this on a big sheet of paper (you reverse the image because you bend the molten neon glass directly on the pattern so you want the depth to be on the side facing away from the front - this is particularly apparent with letters). Then I take 4 feet long sticks of colored neon gas and bend them into the pattern shape, this is the most difficult and time consuming step. I then weld the pieces together and pop on electrode units to the end. I seal this within a vacuum system. I clean up the tubes of dust/dirt particulates with really high voltages and then vacuum pump out the air and put in either Neon or Argon gas. I then have to fabricate the backing the neon will be mounted on - I prefer to use Plexiglass as I believe this looks the sharpest. I map out & then drill in all the necessary holes. I then pop on the neon and then wire it up to form a complete circuit. I then plug it in & there you have it a completed neon sign!
3. How did you find your passion? Who/what influences your work?
I come from neon roots in Las Vegas Nevada, my grandparents ran a neon repair shop for any busted neon signs around Sin City, I was always trained to spot & notice neon signs for the potential for them to repair. After moving to Los Angeles neon became ever present to me, there is a bright glass tube glow all over the city. I got a curiosity itch on how neon signs were made that has spiraled to me devoting nearly all my free time to mastering the dying craft. I currently am undergoing an apprenticeship under neon master, Juan Ortega, he assists me greatly in learning the craft of neon bending. I've devoted pretty much all of this last year to bending and creating new neon art, now all I aspire to do with my time is make new neon art. My influence is actually the opposite of commercial signage. There are plenty of designs and typefaces that exist in that storefront environment, I want to do just the opposite of that. I believe neon art is a relatively new explored medium & I want to create shapes and pieces never before visualized in neon! Illustrators everywhere really influence me, I don't really love textual neon signs & focus on more symbols/shapes/images - a lot of line work in the traditional tattoo medium is what I draw from for inspiration. That precise line work is what come closest to what is possible with neon.
4. What excites you about your work? What do you struggle with?
I love getting to the next level with what I can bend and create, I've already put so many hours into bending and its such a feeling being able to finally make shapes I couldn't come close to manufacturing when I first started. There still are many shapes I cannot create, but I am devoted to one day knocking those out too & setting a new milestone for myself. The biggest struggle I currently face is space to create. My mentor lives out in Temecula so I have to commute 1.5 hours anytime I want to bend or vacuum pump units, I also have a tiny house in Echo Park so it is often a challenge when I am building a large sign (my poor roommate). But, what I have right now at least allows me to create which I am so grateful for. Hopefully one day I will have the budget to have my entire set up in LA - future goals!
5. What are your goals? Where do you see yourself going?
My goals are to be able to create anything I think up, I want to be able to create really intricate signs with ease. Also, to have more opportunity to make huge blinding neon signs! I want people to have to wear sunglasses because the space is so lit up haha. I still have a long road to get there but every sign I do complete is reassurance it is possible. I hope to be in more galleries & art shows - I always treat them as an opportunity to create more & love having that push that comes with them. Thank you reakfast for having me 😀