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'You only live once': Milwaukee woman breaking boundaries with neon artwork

Posted at 10:27 PM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 23:27:48-04

MILWAUKEE — The hot flame lights Marjorie Inman's face as she bends glass rods with ease. In her south side studio, she forms her neon creations, and gets inspired.

"There is nothing like neon!" she says.

Inman does more than create "We're Open" signs. Her designs are a work of art. Displayed above the studio entrance glows a devil, and over the doorway of her living room hangs the tail end of a vintage car in hot pink and cool teal.

Inman's love for neon started 35 years ago after she was looking for a career change. She came across an article on neon, and was immediately drawn to the light.

"Out of the blue, I read an article about neon. I never thought about that before," Inman recalls.

Knowing she had to keep the lights on, she opted to apprentice with a neon sign maker in Thiensville.

"I would work all day, go to the shop two to three nights a week, and practice," she says.

After much practice, she went out on her own and opened Electric Eye Neon. You can find her signs at many local coffee shops and restaurants like Anodyne Coffee in Bayview and Ono kine Grindz in Wauwatosa.

Her partner Jeff Kelley does the wiring and installation. The two have been a team for 25 years.

"I worked in the trades for 20 years and had been to a lot of bars, never paid attention to the beer signs until I met her, and I said 'oh that's how they make it,'" said Kelley.

Neon glass making is predominately a male-dominated industry. While Inman is the only woman in Milwaukee bending glass, she says recent popularity has made it easier for women to break in.

"Try and do something not everyone else is doing. You should try something new. You only live once," she says.

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