Andrew Hibbs

When a young Andrew Hibbs was playing host, his friends couldn’t wait to make their way back to his garage. There, behind the door, would be David Hibbs, cool Dad, playing with fire, bending glass and crafting neon signs that might show up anywhere around Vancouver. “They all thought it was really cool,” says Andrew. “Dad would make them the first letter of their name, or even let us try to do some bends.”

Andrew was always intrigued by his Dad’s work. “He made the giant, ninety foot long Grizzlies neon sign in BC Place, back in the 90’s. He would takes us to the Grizzlies games and let us check out his huge creation. It was the biggest indoor neon sign in North America at the time.”

The young Hibbs was itching to get more formally involved in his Dad’s business and, at the age of 13, finally got his chance. “I started pumping the neon, which is putting the gas in the tubes to make them light up. From there I started repairing broken units.”

By age 17, Andrew knew that he wanted to follow his Dad’s career path. “It wasn’t until my last year of high school, where I did an apprenticeship with my Dad and realized I wanted to make a career of bending neon. It takes years of practice and a lot of patience to learn.”


Bending neon is a complex undertaking that few people attempt these days. “It starts with tracing out the pattern with a tracing wheel,” says Hibbs. “From there you have to map out all your bends and different units. That in itself takes years to learn. I still have to have my Dad help me map out some of my pieces. You have to know how to mark it to get the bends in the right place.”

After the mapping is done, it is time to bend. And some of the bends and welds take years of practice to perfect. “You have to know to get the glass to the perfect temperature before making the bend and blow the perfect amount of pressure in the tube while blending.”

If you blow too hard, the tube will bubble out. If you blow too little, the tube will collapse on itself. “If you heat the tube too much, it will drop and stretch; too little and you won’t get an even bend.”

Now, Hibbs Junior has developed his own reputation as a master bender, with high profile signs all around the city. “I love watching designs come to life.” It is hard for him to pick favourites, but if pressed he can choose a couple. “I would say the Time is Precious sign in Gastown and the Bao Bei sign. That was the first, large, challenging sign I made.”


People will come to Hibbs requesting signs for business and home, indoors and outside. “When making neon for outside, you have to keep everything water tight. So, you have to plan where to put the electrodes. They all have to face up, so when you put the end cap on, the water can’t get in. When making indoor neon, I just try to hide the electrode so it will be less noticeable.”

Clients will work closely with Hibbs, offering their feedback on mockup drawings and choosing glass colours. “Once the bending is complete, I weld it on the pump and suck out all the air and heat it up to 230 degrees to take all the impurities out of the glass. Then, I fill it with either neon (which is red) or argon (which is blue). I then paint the drops of the bends either black or white.”

When the neon is ready, Hibbs will build a plexiglass backing, assemble everything together, then ship the new artwork off to the client.

Hibbs is proud to be working in a city like Vancouver with its strong history in neon. “Vancouver was second only to Shanghai for signs per capita,” he says. “People were afraid Granville was looking too much like Vegas. I would love to have seen that.”

But neon, Hibbs notes, is making a comeback. “In more of a modern way. More artsy than just commercial signs.” Meanwhile, Hibbs is able to put his stamp on neon history. His Dad, David, did the original sign for the Vogue Theatre. Dad and Andrew then redid the sign together seven years ago.

Through all of his own difficult work, Andrew’s wife, Dad and family are there to support him. “My Dad and brother own TDH Enterprises and we work out of the same shop. If I ever need help with my business, they are always there.”

For more on Vancouver’s neon history see:

Neon City Vancouver

Written by Elizabeth Newton

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* Photos courtesy of Endeavour Neon


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Elizabeth Newton