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Conversations with Todd Sanders

Today we’d like to introduce you to Todd Sanders.

Hi Todd, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
Ever since I was a little kid I always wanted to be an artist so I studied Advertising / Graphic design at Sam Houston State University. While I fell in love with typography and designing in school, I quickly realized I was not going to be able to sit in an office someday and work as a traditional graphic designer. To help pay my way through college, I started painting signs for local ranches and coffee shops in downtown in Huntsville where I was studying. I really fell in love with sign painting and creating type styles but I was still kind of looking for the missing ingredient of what my future career would be.

During spring break while still in college, my buddy and I took a road trip to New Braunfels from Huntsville and we were supposed to turn just outside of Bastrop. We weren’t paying attention and we came over the hill and we saw the Austin skyline. We agreed to drive into Austin and go to New Braunfels afterward. After 10 minutes of driving around Austin, I told my buddy I was moving. I’ll never live anywhere else. I just fell in love with the vibe of the city.

I started noticing all the neon in Austin and on the corner of Lamar and Enfield I saw this this enormous neon 3D bug on the Terminix exterminator sign. That was the moment I made my decision that I was going to move to Austin and learn how to make neon signs.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
When I first bought the building that would become Roadhouse Relics, it was a crumbling old fruit stand that the roof had caved in on. I didn’t have much money so it took me ages to put a new roof on and more than a decade to be able to put air conditioning in. I lived in the 1950s travel trailer in the backyard for years on almost no money while I fixed up the place bit by bit. The New York Times has since listed my space as a must see in Austin.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I make neon art pieces that look like an old rusty neon sign that was rescued from some old Route 66 Roadhouse, but are in fact brand new. My work is created as a tribute to the original sign masters of the 1930’s and 40’s. I try to construct them as closely to the original specifications as possible, but with my own creativity. I feel that my pencil sketch designs, weathering and hand painted graphics really set my work apart from most neon art.
While my art is collected by celebrities including Willie Nelson, Joe Rogan and Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top). The thing I am most proud of is that I put food on the table for my family by making art. That’s a dream come true for me.

If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
I think I am still the same person I am today. I have liked art, Johnny Cash and old cars my whole life. I bought my first truck when I was only 12 years old after working all summer helping to pave roads. It was a 51 Ford and since couldn’t drive it, I took it apart to figure out how it worked.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Photo of Todd: Roj Rodriguez

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