Craftsmanship in Motion: Studio Glow
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Far and away, the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” It is with this sentiment that we are featuring this series of profiles in craftsmanship. Photo essays of passion, dedication, sweat, and an obsession with detail. In the same manner we approach shoemaking, these talented creators and makers are proving that design can be simultaneously timeless AND original.
Koko wears the KEEN Presidio II
You might think neon sign making is a dying art, a retro trade from a bygone era when streets bustled with mom-and-pop shops on every corner. Until, that is, you step inside Koko Jamison’s buzzing Seattle neon art studio, Studio Glow.
Surrounded by the mesmerizing glow of neon signs and long tubes of glass lying everywhere, Koko is part scientist, part mixed media artist, and part commercial craftsperson. A self-described “neontist,” she breathes life into skinny glass tubes all day, every day.
“I really like bending glass,” she says. “There’s something addicting about it.”
She’s been addicted to “bending” since opening her studio in 1994, after she watched someone bend tubes and knew it was something she wanted to do. Today, her signs are all over Seattle. And while she’s made more espresso signs than she can count, her passion for neon still glows strong—driven by the constant challenge of working with an unforgiving material and creating something completely unique every time.
It’s a huge relief when you turn it on and it lights up.
– Koko Jamison, neon artist
“Neon art is really difficult,” she says. “You can’t take a piece of glass back into the fire and rework it. You have one time. People tend to work angry, because they get frustrated. You just can’t work angry at all. You have to be kind and unwind, or it’s kind of impossible to bend glass.”
It seems a natural fit for Koko. She loves the “concentrated flow” of bending a hard, cursive word for hours, shaping the perfect curves in the letters. And, yes, it has to be perfect. No tiny holes in the glass, either, or the neon gas will escape during the bombarding process.
“It’s a huge relief when you turn it on and it lights up,” she says.
It’s a relief for the rest of us, too, knowing that Koko is keeping that urban glow alive.