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Favorite Things: Caitlin Woudstra and the Mo’s Barber Shop neon sign

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My interest in neon started once I started to document them on Instagram. I was always attracted to bright colors and the aesthetics of it. I wish I could live in a more colorful ‘80s and ‘90s world and really love how the old malls really went crazy with neon to decorate.

Neon adds to the landscape of any place. I am a night owl and like to take night drives. This sign is one I actually would only catch on at certain times. I like the accidental nature of certain open signs where certain businesses may get our hopes up and give the illusion of access even in times when no one is inside.

It is a nice surprise to see something like this, which looks like a simple “open” sign at first glance. I like how they actually made a barber pole and that the open part is blue and it is lined with red in the windows. It makes the business stick out more.

Besides the aesthetic, what really intrigues me is how dangerous the art of neon sign making seems. LED signs are cool, but they are much easier to make. People don’t realize the reason it is a neon sign is that there is neon gas in it and you have to work with the glass while it’s hot.

When you see these super complicated designs, especially one with a lot of curves, I think it is fascinating how a sign maker can combine a lot of art forms and science.

With the art of sign making, one thing I explore a lot is looking at logos and signage and discovering how much they play a role in our environment without us even noticing it. When you go past a business every day, have you taken the time to look at the fonts and shapes on display? You have to look at the world around you and see how much variation in signs and logos that make up our world.

I noticed the prominence of neon signs everywhere when I visited LA, which boomed during the 1960s. Some businesses that aren’t even open at night have neon signs on, and it makes me think of a time in history when social media and digital advertising overall were less relevant in attracting customers.

I came across a museum of neon art in LA while on vacation. They had neon sign making classes people could take. It always seemed like one of those trades I never knew how to get into. The more I learn about neon signs, the more I appreciate them as art.

(This interview was edited and condensed by Dennis Burck. If you have a recommendation for “Favorite Things,” please email dennis@lansingcitypulse.com.)

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