Clyde Bass has been lighting up restaurants, movie sets and businesses in the Baton Rouge area for nearly a decade. As the owner of Cajun Custom Neon, he is also the sole neon bender left in the city. “When the popularity of neon took a nosedive in the late ’90s and early 2000s, accelerated by the increased adoption of LED technology, all the older neon guys didn’t really teach anyone else. Now the problem is there are not enough people to do the actual work. I’m the only one in Baton Rouge.” When Bass began to practice his craft in 2003, there were more than 30 neon craftsman in the state. Now, he knows of only four.
IN THE LIGHT
Bass began his glass blowing career in Oregon, then learned the art of neon by training under a neon bender in his hometown of Monroe, and ultimately perfected his craft at the Ed Waldrum School of Neon in Irving, Texas. Bass opened his own neon shop in 2010 shortly after he and his wife moved from Monroe. “Most of my life, I wanted to start my own business, and we thought the move to a bigger town would be a good opportunity for both of us to further our careers.” And he was right. These days, most neon signs in Baton Rouge originate in Bass’ shop.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
In light of the lack of neon sign makers, Bass’ biggest challenge is trying to meet the high demand for his work. In recent years, Bass has often had to turn down work because he can’t find the help he needs. “When someone calls wanting something new, it takes me about two months to get to it.” His favorite part of the job is taking on special projects, such as creating signage for a museum in Kansas that will fill a whole city block, or contributing to Hollywood productions including Fantastic Four and Treme. Bass wholesales his neon to 37 sign companies around the state. With business booming, he hopes to build a new shop in Gonzales in the coming year.