The London gallery shining a light on neon art

LONDON (Reuters) - On the flick of a flurry of switches, a studio on a gray industrial estate in East London lights up to reveal hundreds of bright neon artworks.

Owned by 43-year-old artist Marcus Bracey, the gallery in Walthamstow, called 'God's Own Junkyard', houses the collection of four generations of his family who have made, bought and displayed neon works.

The pieces are accompanied by kitsch memorabilia that Bracey has collected from film sets and car boot sales across Britain, leaving just enough room for a narrow winding aisle for visitors to navigate their way through the gallery.

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God's Own Junkyard -- a wonderland of neon
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God's Own Junkyard -- a wonderland of neon
Third generation neon light artist Marcus Bracey poses for a portrait picture in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe where he exhibits and sells his work in London, Britain, May 18, 2017. Picture taken May 18, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A neon sign that reads 'Sweet Like Chocolate' is exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery, cafe and workshop in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
People pose as they take pictures of each other in front of neon lights and artworks in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, March 31, 2017. Picture taken March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
The entrance to the neon workshop for God's Own Junkyard in an industrial estate in Rainham, east London, Britain, May 17, 2017. Picture taken May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
Neon signs that read 'Off Your Skulls', 'Back Street Love', 'Soho Revue Bar', 'Beer Girls Porn' and 'Stateside' are exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, March 31, 2017. Picture taken March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A newly design neon sign artwork is tested for colour on a bench in the workshop for God's Own Junkyard in Rainham, east London, Britain, May 17, 2017. Picture taken May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A triple distilled ball of mercury is seen in a glass tube as neon tubes are made in God's Own Junkyard workshop in Rainham, east London, Britain, May 17, 2017. Picture taken May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
Neon Bender Nick Ellwood blows into glass tubes to maintain their shape as he bends them while making neon artworks in God's Own Junkyard workshop in Rainham in God's Own Junkyard in London, Britain, May 17, 2017. Picture taken May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A visitor photographs neon signs and artworks in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, March 31 , 2017. Picture taken March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
The control panel for the pump that is used for creating the vacuum and filling glass tubes with the correct gasses needed to create the different colours in neon artworks is seen in God's Own Junkyard workshop in Rainham, east London, Britain, May 17, 2017. The neon pump is over 30 years old. Picture taken May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
Neon artwork is exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, March 31, 2017. Picture taken March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A visitor photographs a neon sign that reads "Let's Play Doctors and Nurses" in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, March 31, 2017. Picture taken March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
Neon signs and artworks are exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, March 31, 2017. Picture taken March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A newly bent section of neon tube is placed against the original design drawings in God's Own Junkyard workshop in Rainham, east London, Britain, May 17, 2017. Picture taken May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A couple laugh as they cuddle on a sofa looking at the neon signs and artworks in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, March 31, 2017. Picture taken March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Visitors look at the neon signs and artworks in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, March 31, 2017. Picture taken March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A boy walks into the garden area after looking at the neon signs and artworks in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, March 31, 2017. Picture taken March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
Nick Ellwood, who describes himself as a Neon Bender walks through the workshop of God's Own Junkyard in Rainham, east London, Britain, May 17, 2017. Picture taken May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Tourists pose for pictures as they take selfies inferno of the neon signs in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
People take pictures of neon signs and artworks in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
Jon Blake, curator of Gods Own Junkyard and family friend to third generation neon light artist Marcus Bracey sits with some of the exhibits at God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
Neon signs are seen at the entrance to God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain at dusk, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A woman takes a picture of neon signs while sitting on a sofa in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
Neon Bender Nick Ellwood heats glass tubes to bend them to shape as he makes neon artworks in God's Own Junkyard workshop in Rainham, east London, Britain, May 17, 2017. Picture taken May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A neon sign that reads 'Beer, Girls, Porn' is reflected in an old Police Box in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
Third generation neon light artist Marcus Bracey poses for a portrait picture in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe where he exhibits and sells his work in London, Britain, May 18, 2017. Picture taken May 18, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A neon sign that reads 'Thrills' is exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, March 31, 2017. Picture taken March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A neon sign that reads 'I love you' forms part of an artwork exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
Neon signs that reads 'Box Office' and Crystal Pool' form part of an artwork exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A neon sign that reads 'Fetish' forms part of an artwork exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
Third generation neon light artist Marcus Bracey (L) inspects the glass tube shaped by Neon Bender Nick Ellwood as they work on the latest designs in God's Own Junkyard workshop in Rainham, east London, Britain, May 17, 2017. Picture taken May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A neon light in the shape of a gun forms part of an artwork exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A neon sign that reads 'The Dogs Bollocks' forms part of an artwork exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A neon light that reads 'EATS' forms part of an artwork exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
Neon Bender, Nick Ellwood uses a pump to vacuum out neon tubes to remove impurities in God's Own Junkyard workshop in Rainham, east London, Britain, May 17, 2017. Picture taken May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A neon sign that reads 'BOOM forms part of an artwork exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A neon light in the shape of a motorcycle forms part of an artwork exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A neon light in the shape of a gun forms part of an artwork exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
A neon sign that reads 'Amour' (Love) forms part of an artwork exhibited in God's Own Junkyard gallery and cafe in London, Britain, May 13, 2017. Picture taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
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"This is my neon emporium, my museum of light, my Aladdin's cave," Bracey told Reuters from the center of the high-ceilinged studio which runs up an electricity bill of over $900 a week.

Some of Bracey's works have appeared in films, including "Mission Impossible" and "Eyes Wide Shut", or decorated department stores, namely London's Selfridges, while others have been bought by celebrities such as Kate Moss.

Bracey recently sold a large God Save the Queen neon sign in front of a heart-shaped British, Union Jack, flag for $74,700 at auction to a buyer in Dubai.

A replica is on display at God's Own Junkyard, which Bracey opened with his father Chris in 2008 after running out of space at home to store the family's work.

The earliest pieces in the showroom, often used for film shoots, date back to the 1950s, when Marcus's grandfather left his job as a miner in Wales to join a lighting company and eventually make signs for carnivals across Britain.

"He left the dark and came into the light," Bracey said.

Numerous sex shop signs can also be found, pieces made in the 1980s by Marcus's father Chris who flooded London's seedy Soho sex shops with a swath of fluorescent neon signs in a bid to turn the area into a replica of Las Vegas.

Bracey's new works, which take around six weeks to make with neon moulded over 800 degree burners, now sit alongside those of his 17-year-old daughter Amber, a graffiti artist and next in line to take over the family business.

Bracey, however, isn't ready to step away from his neon wonderland just yet.

"The buzz, the feel, the happiness. To turn it on and see what it looks like," he said of the excitement he gets every time he flicks on those switches.

(Editing by Susan Fenton)


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