Skip Links

An Interview with Neil Ellis of Brilliant Neon

Can you talk a bit about your background?

I founded the creative agency Planarama 20 years ago. We have worked with many high-profile clients, including Cartier, the Shard, Tate, the British Museum, Penhaligons and Fred Perry. Three years ago, I had the idea to launch Brilliant Neon, which offers the public the chance to design their own bespoke neon.

You have been involved with Artists’ Open House since it began, both as host and artist. Can you tell us a bit more about how you became involved and what you like about being part of it?

When we moved to Dulwich 15 years ago, we wanted to get involved with community groups, then became aware of the Dulwich Festival and the launch of the AOH. We were delighted to be part of this exciting initiative. We have hosted various artists in our home and have enjoyed every moment. We were great friends with Ingrid Beazley and often held legendary joint launch parties on Court Lane. It’s such a great opportunity to promote a range of exciting artists, and also now our own Brilliant Neon. Apart from that, the chance to get to meet people and strengthen local bonds is much appreciated.

What do you think makes for a successful Artists’ Open House event?

Firstly, having a broad variety of artists and makers. It works particularly well when neighbours have joint openings, making it more attractive to visit several locations on one street. A clear guide is essential and AOH has always produced a great booklet, making the event interesting and accessible for the visitor.

What gave you idea to start Brilliant Neon?

Working in my creative agency, I often use neon and thought it would be great to make this commercial product more accessible and affordable to the public. The opportunity arose three years ago and Brilliant Neon was launched to much acclaim at the DF AOH.

Where do your ideas for each piece come from and how are they produced?

I have a highly creative mindset, and working with global brands has opened inspiration and ideas. I leave the technical making of the LED neon to craftsmen and women who I work with closely to realise my concepts.

Can you tell us about what inspires you?

I am inspired by the glamour of traditional neon, trips to Hong Kong and New York with their incredible buzz and visual delights, along with nights out in our own multicoloured Soho. I also love visiting the V&A and British Museum, where the applied arts give me great inspiration.

Where do you exhibit your work?

I like to show my neons in interiors such as Pedler in Peckham – and I have neons in over 500 homes across the UK.

What do you like about living in south-east London?

My neighbours, the sense of community, the trees, Dulwich Park and the shops of Lordship Lane – and my home and lovely garden on Court Lane.

What are you going to be showing for this year’s Artists’ Open House?

I am showing one of my recent neons, which is currently being featured in Tatler – come along and find out what it is! I am also delighted to be hosting portrait artist Julie Bennett along with sculptors Joss Smith and Junior Phipps. It will be an impressive show.

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag('js', new Date());gtag('config', 'UA-11658545-30');