When it comes to the uses of electroluminescent wire, many might draw a blank. Others, like Benjamin James Jr., founder of production company Funhouse Productions, see the bendable, glowing phosphor wire and envision a luminescent, colorful school of 4-foot fish swimming through the pitch-dark Nevada desert.
In 1999, James brought his fish to life at Burning Man, an annual art festival, and was further inspired to import the Israeli-made wire after realizing how difficult the material was to obtain. He trademarked the wire Cool Neon and revolutionized his 12-year-old Oakland, California, business by becoming the primary source for wire artists worldwide. Cool Neon applications range from necklaces to safety lighting. And with help from his eager friends, James has taken on some innovative projects, including making glowing suits for the recording artist Beck. "There's a wide margin between business and pleasure," says James, 40, who expects 2006 sales to exceed $450,000. "It's so wide that there's plenty of room for all my friends to dance on the line."