Sunday, April 10, 2016

Electric Votary

I was super inspired by @scanlime's recent video about making art from neon bulbs. Some years ago I went through a phase of fascination with neon bulbs. There is something amazing about being able to excite plasma with fairly straightforward electronics. Some older indicators used neon bulbs and I amassed a small collection from surplus vendors and elsewhere, but back then even the now-elusive J5A/NE30 bulb you could get from Mouser!

if you've ever visited my house you may have seen the cigar box sitting on my kitchen counter. If you open the lid, you can see this inside:

Electric Votary is a piece I made in the late '90s using small neon NE-2 bulbs in a grid. A particularly cool effect comes from lighting the electrodes individually using DC rather than the customary AC. To do this I modified an inexpensive holiday light controller to drive the neon electrodes bidirectionally. (I'm in the process of documenting the circuitry, so that will have to wait until next week, sorry!)

Because it has exposed high voltages, I don't think I ever showed it publicly. I did a few other pieces using this technique. One, since sold, used a J5A bulb which has neat concentric helical electrodes. I may need to recreate this piece because I never got good video of the J5A electrodes as they light sequentially :( I have several more works in this mode, hopefully I will get around to documenting them over the coming weeks.



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