This week's Living National Treasure is Marcus Bracey, the man behind the neon signs that light up our cities.
‘Every time I come here, it blows my mind,’ admits Marcus Bracey as he approaches Gods Own Junkyard, his neon emporium in Walthamstow, east London.
‘You walk through an old grey industrial estate, push the blue door open and pow – the contents hit you in the face.’
Mr Bracey is a third-generation neon artist, whose grandfather, Dick, was responsible for some of Soho’s most iconic signs at nightspots that included Raymond’s Revue Bar in Brewer Street, Bar Italia and Madame Jojo’s.
‘Back in those days, Piccadilly Circus was our answer to Vegas,’ he remembers. ‘Now, it’s all pixelated screens.’
Mr Bracey’s father, Chris, joined the family business in the 1970s: ‘He did 99% of all Soho signs and was known as the “the neon man” and “the master of glow”.’
Mr Bracey began working for his father at the age of 19 and has watched the business evolve. ‘Neon started off as a light source for the seedy side of life, but, now, it’s a contemporary art medium,’ he muses, adding that some 70% of his commissions are for art pieces.
‘I’m constantly upcycling – when clubs close and the signs are taken down, they have another life hanging in someone’s home.’
Everything is made on site in Walthamstow by a staff of about 40 people. ‘There are a few different trades involved in every piece: sprayers, metal fabricators, glass shop, technicians and graphic designers,’ he explains.
‘Visitors to Gods can stay for a coffee or a drink in the beer garden. We’ve created this wonderful neo-Narnia.’
For more information, visit www.godsownjunkyard.co.uk.
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