Neon Museum Oral Histories
Ina Macias | Neon Bender
Ina was born in Zapotiltic, a small town outside of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. She immigrated to the San Fernando Valley in California as a teenager. In her early twenties, knowing nothing about neon signs, Ina found work at the Neon Art company. Her first job was pumping gas into the glass tubes. Ina begged her boss to teach her how to bend glass. Despite his initial doubts because of Ina’s age, he agreed to let her train with a bender.
Ina learned her craft so well that the bender took her with him when he changed jobs. Later, Ina was offered an interview to work as a neon bender for the Everbrite Company.
Everbrite was located in Harborside, an hour away from where Ina lived. The trip was too far for what little gas Ina and her husband Juan could afford to put in their car. They remembered that their young son, Paul, had been given some silver dollars as a gift. Ina and Juan used the coins to buy gas to get to the interview.
Ina was the youngest bender at Everbrite and the only woman. The other benders complained to the shop supervisor that Ina did not have enough years of experience to be working there. The supervisor ordered the men to quit griping, telling them that Ina’s work spoke for itself.
In the 1980s, Ina and Juan started a sign business out of their garage. Soon after, they opened Paul’s Neon Signs, named for their son. When Paul was just twelve years old, he began riding his bike to the shop after school. Paul needed a stool to reach the bench when his mother started teaching him to bend neon.
Ina and Juan followed Paul to Las Vegas in 2007. Today, Ina continues to practice her craft for Paul’s Neon Signs, which specializes in affordable custom neon signs.
Learning to Bend
Ina Macias learned to bend neon in her early 20s. Her skill and passion for bending was evident from the very start. Despite her lack of experience her first boss took a chance on her and offered her a job. Hear more about Ina's early days of bending neon in this clip, recorded as part of The Neon Museum's Oral History Project.
One reason Ina came to Nevada in 2007 was that the demand for commercial neon signs was drying up in California. In Las Vegas, a neon bender could still make a living. Recently, the market has shifted to artistic neon, and Ina could not be happier. After a career working on commercial signs, she now creates neon that is fully appreciated as an artform.
El Futuro de Neon
Ina shares her views on the future of neon in Spanish. She hopes others can learn the art of bending glass to pass onto future engerations.
The Future of Neon
Ina has been bending glass for four decades and plans to retire soon. She hopes her son Paul will follow in her footsteps, but still worries that there will not be a new generation of neon benders. She asks, “If there aren’t more people that learn to make neon, what will happen to neon in the future?"