Todd Sanders and his Glowing Craft
“When I went to buy the run-down fruit stand that is now Roadhouse Relics, I was offered $15,000 by an Austin investor to walk away from the deal. My friends told me I was crazy not to take the money and run. But I knew creating a space and life for myself in Austin was what I wanted to do.
The roof had caved in. In fact, I am not sure it was even safe to go in. The day I bought it, I moved in to the only room that still had a roof. After a few months, I moved into a trailer out back where I lived for the next ten years.
Over the past two decades, I’m proud to say my gallery has become an Austin landmark. I f you had told me when I bought it that one day the New York Times would list it as a must-see place in Austin, I wouldn’t have believed you.
For me, I always knew I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.
Roadhouse Relics is an extension of who I am; it’s become the iconic name behind my work. The people who come in my store and the collectors who buy my work, they’ve all become part of my story. And the best part is I have this amazing space, life, and family– and
I get to do what I love.”
~Todd Sanders, Roadhouse Relics
For Austinites, Todd Sanders of Roadhouse Relics is a household name. His South Austin gallery is as iconic as are his signs.
Settling in Austin in the early 90s, it’s hard to separate Sander’s story from the scrappy, authentic story of the city of Austin. An anomaly of Texas cities, Austin’s preservation of independent business and thinking sets it apart as one of the most unique places in America.
When visitors fall in love with Austin, they fall in love with the handful of artists who have dedicated their lives to this city. There’s no doubt Sanders is on that list.
Before discovering Austin in 1991, Sanders pursued many different jobs: art supply salesman, automotive paint and bodywork repairman, motorcycle painter, and a short stint as an antique auto builder. The skills that were acquired in his seemingly unrelated jobs are applied everyday to the glowing sculptures at Roadhouse Relics.
His vintage neon murals and sculptures decorate and influence the Austin landscape, giving what Sanders likes to call a “crude charm.” His work has played a role in giving Austin an eclectic, positive identity that is known worldwide as Austin Style. For Sanders, it is modern vintage, echoed in each of his works.
“The art I create is rustic and garish and over-the-top,” Sanders says. “These objects don’t harmonize nicely with others in their presence; they dominate. Energy courses through them, electrifying their surroundings as well. They’re like that guy at a party who dresses wildly and talks too loudly, but everyone in the room finds him utterly fascinating.”
His pop art has appeared in many movies filmed in Austin. His work has appeared in Esquire, Fortune Magazine, Texas Monthly, and other publications. It adorns the walls of clients and
well known celebrities everywhere.
What separates Sanders from his contemporaries is that he has preserved the original methods for creating his signs. Everything is made from scratch, by hand, and without the use of computer aided designs.
With a personal collection of hundreds of old magazines and books from the 1920s through 1960s, Sanders has given himself a master’s education in neon art through study and dedication to the craft during his 20-year career.
His knowledge of typography, style and craftsmanship of vintage signs is both extensive and uniquely self-taught.
Amassing over 2000 photographs of antique neon signage and murals from countless miles of travel throughout the United States, Sanders has the inspiration and knowledge to create the works of neon art which cover his studio gallery.
He’s the last of his breed; a neon vintage signmaker practicing a once ubiquitous art that, unfortunately, is going by the wayside in the digital era.
~Via Todd Sanders, Roadhouse Relics, Vimeo & YouTube.
All pictures are examples of Todd Sanders’ work.