Dolby circuit board

Shawna Peterson

Some kids spend their time riding bicycles or watching cartoons. Shawna Peterson spent hers taking apart busted cameras and trying to put them back together so they would work again. Today, she's still fascinated by how things work — she's just replaced cameras with neon tubing. "Neon really is definitely a trade where you are building things from start to finish, and then lighting it up. And you look at it, and you get that 'Aha!' moment where it's working," she explains.

Medium: Neon
Location: San Francisco
Date: 2015

So when Peterson decided to create a neon version of the Video NR Module, a video noise-reduction circuit board from the first-ever professional video product from Dolby®, she took the same start-to-finish approach. The structure was made in three sections due to its size and scope, and the neon criss-crossed the panels, with power supplies hidden on the back. "It was following a map the whole way through," Peterson says. "I think I spent nearly as much time laying it out mentally and spending time with the full-size pattern on my wall and doing map-work for how I was going build it as I did actually bending it." Then, just as an engineer builds a circuit board, soldering wires over and over so they connect in a certain way, she got to work using cross-fire torches and hand tools to shape the glass tubing that would be filled with neon and connected in a certain way.

Shawna Peterson


And whether she's bending neon tubes commercially to produce signs for companies like Levi's and The North Face, or designing her own neon artwork, it's all about creating an experience that you wouldn't necessarily get without the technology. "Neon is definitely a highly technical and science-based trade that presents an experience to people that they wouldn't normally see when you look at a circuit board," Peterson says. "So it's quite exciting to be able to see people's reactions to that!"