by Dogpatch Press Staff
Welcome to Lux, with a guest post about what she does when not hosting furry movie pizza parties. – Patch
On a beautiful fall morning in Reno, the edge of sunrise starts to paint the desert mountains. The color in the sky is just right. I rush to my balcony and put on my glowing pup hood for photos, which I will share to a majority audience of people with fuzzy wolf characters. I am profoundly happy.
Electroluminescent wire is a sister material to LEDs. They look similar, but they’re functionally quite different. An LED is a diode that emits a single point of light, but EL wire works like a capacitor. Since it has no resistance within, it doesn’t heat up when lit. An exposed end might give a small shock if it touches your skin (but it won’t kill you, or I’d be dead). It’s flexible, continuously lit throughout its length, and has many applications to create an amazing glowing costume.
Like any wearable electronics, EL wire has limitations and can be finicky. Its battery packs (drivers) are each rated for a different length of wire. Knowing how to troubleshoot your costume is integral to being a fiber artist with this material. It’s easy to learn but very hard to master.
The technology has been around for some time, but it wasn’t until the late 90s and early aughts when the folks at FunHouse productions in Oakland, California decided to really develop the platform. EL wire is the unofficial signage of the Burning Man event, where you can often find people in these costumes wandering around the playa as strobing neon silhouettes in the dark.
This art was largely contained to their scene in Black Rock City until dance troupes started popping up on America’s Got Talent. For the 2012 season, Team Illuminate put together dance routines and nearly went all the way. By weaving EL wire and using the interplay of darkness to create floating shapes and coordinated blinking, they made the world aware of wearable neon, including me.