Lite Brite Neon Studio – Brooklyn, New York - Atlas Obscura
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Brooklyn, New York

Lite Brite Neon Studio

Neon signs that grace the windows of Bergdorf Goodman's and Tiffany & Co. come from this studio in Brooklyn. 

Among the artisans and artists that populate Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood is a neon studio that creates for some of the most prominent institutions in New York City.

Lite Brite Neon Studio was started by Matt Dilling in his dorm room in Boston, and opened at the Old American Can Factory near the Gowanus Canal in 2001. Following in the footsteps of no less a luminary than Nikola Tesla, who bent gas-filled glass tubes to spell the names of scientists at the 1893 World’s Fair, Dilling and a team of craftspeople create neon works for everyone from individual artists to large corporations.

Lite Brite Neon signs are on display at places like Bergdorf Goodman’s, Tiffany & Co., and MoMA. The studio has worked with artists like Glenn Ligon and Keith Sonnier. In addition to creating new pieces, Lite Brite helps institutions preserve and restore their own older, often historic neon signs, which last 15 years on average, but have been known to glow longer.

The craftspeople at Lite Brite carefully bend heated glass by hand into whatever shape the project requires, then fill it with various combination of gasses, depending on the desired color—neon for orange, argon and mercury for blue, etc. Sometimes the glass itself is tinted. There are 50 distinct colors officially on offer, but the possibilities of what can be created by combining different gasses with different tints are endless. The final step is affixing a transformer to the piece. When the gas is electrified, the signature glow of the neon sign is made.

More than a workspace, the studio also serves as a kind of gallery, with neon rainbows and words displayed on the walls. Passers-by on the street may notice “I Only Want You to Love Me” written in yellow neon in Lite Brite’s basement window. Dilling’s own first neon creation, a glowing squiggle he made in high school, is on display in the studio. He considers working with neon to be like writing or drawing with light.

While most of the actual neon production has moved to their new upstate facility in Kingston, NY, you can still stop by the Brooklyn showroom to see some of their classic pieces or set up a time to talk about fabricating a sign for yourself.  

Know Before You Go

This studio is not open for browsing and can only be seen via appointment only. If you'd like to drop by the Brooklyn showroom or Kingston studio, please call to set up a time.

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