After a period of studying neon at art school in New York under the tutoring of Fred Tschida, Richard William Wheater returned to the UK to find there was nowhere to continue this interest in a creative environment. He then undertook a traineeship in a commercial neon company before leaving to teach. Neon is seen as a dying industry and over recent years many neon companies have closed down including the one Wheater trained at.
In 2008 Wheater setup Neon Workshops in Wakefield (UK) with a particular agenda; to create a place in Europe dedicated to learning ‘hands-on’ the creative possibilities of this energy efficient, 100% recyclable light. Over the three year period, an idea has become an arts organisation; purchasing and building neon equipment, successfully hosting a number of neon sculpture courses for participants throughout Europe. Further afield, Neon Workshops design, manufacture and install neon work for artists and the creative sector. Wheater occasionally invites neon makers/ artists to teach at their new purpose built workshop, such as this years Neon Universe. Matt Dilling (New York) and Shawna Peterson (Los Angeles) will be flying into the UK to teach on this ambitious four day course. Most neon workshops are taught by Wheater himself and master neon maker – Julia Bickerstaff. Julia has had over twenty years experience working in the commercial neon industry and is a qualified engineer. Neon is often refereed to as a marriage between science and art, and participants experience just this from the experiences of Wheater and Julia.
In 2011 Neon Workshops introduced HIRE; where neon facilities can be hired by the hour for ex workshop participants. Mobile Neon Workshops was also launched, a neon facility that can be driven to a venue and set up to offer neon workshops. Since October the mobile facility has already travelled to Norway, Manchester, Denmark and plans to run neon sculpture courses next month in Berlin. All profits are put back into the company.
A gallery space and annual neon exhibition programme is currently under construction at Neon Workshops. This programme aims to challenge common expectations of the material, inspire and educate those interested in neon and light art.
2011 marks Wheater’s busiest year to date, building momentum for 2012; the 100th year anniversary of neon. Neon Workshops continues to help revive neon both inside and outside of the gallery environment; considering it a relevant material to illuminate the 21st century.
****** There are only 3 places left for the Mobile Neon Workshop in Berlin, 2nd – 4th August 2011. If you are interested, please contact Richard William Wheater here. ******
Posted By: Flynn – NIS Berlin
Above Image: 12 MONTHS OF NEON LOVE: Victoria Lucas and Richard William Wheater (A very cool series of neon works which we will feature in an upcoming post).
Below: Wheater and Bickerstaff in the workshop.