Wednesday, March 25, 2015

For All Twenty of You

I have about twenty readers on this blog most times, sometimes more, usually less. I expect this with my personal, not-very-mainstream subject matter and style. The good side of that is I can post my secrets here and few people will notice, much less be shocked by them. So today for my loyal readers I will reveal what I have been slaving over for weeks...props for the Jell-O Art Show!

I won't post all of them. You already saw one side of the tall prop that will change with the scenes. I made them detailed purely for my own enjoyment, as most of the details will not be seen from the audience at all and since the show duration is at most three hours and at the least a few minutes, this is obviously a fool's errand. I continue to love being that fool. This is the third year I have made this ridiculously detailed props and have endured the comments of "obsessive" and all the things you mutter under your breath when you come in my house and see them still enshrined for lack of better places to go. They're made of cheap materials and fall apart and are so very ephemeral. To me that is part of their appeal.

Just like Jell-O Art! Nobody knows how long my dried pieces will last and there is no intrinsic value or extrinsic for that matter. They don't appear on the fine-art scale. I don't pay a lot of attention to the many critical pieces of art evaluation that might go into a piece for sale or permanent display, I just have fun with them. I get to interpret the show and my life as an artist and be just as self-indulgent as can be.

And although the show is secret and more fun that way, I think my twenty people deserve a taste of what will be on stage. The photos today show the Jell-O Art Studio, which will appear briefly in the show and will actually be on display throughout the show, on the stage. Go ahead and go up there and look at them if you want. (Don't trip over anything as it might be slightly hazardous with cords, etc.) Maybe I'll put them closer to the front than they will be in the play. You will get too many clues about what will happen but maybe that will help you if you get stuck in the back and can't see the props behind all the kooky cladded *women*.

The Eugene Weekly gave us a great write-up with a photo of one of my pieces in a jar. I think this is the one I gave to Indi for her birthday last year. I've made several jars now and did so to keep the pieces from getting dusty on the shelves of their collectors. I will eventually do more, but if you have any cool jars you don't want, I'll take them. It makes for a good photo, so thank you Weekly! I wrote a joke letter to them about the slip that left out the Men of the Radar Angels, which contained rather violent images I am sorry for now, but it was all in fun. I'm glad I left out the part where I called them Fascist Republicans since there are so many people these days who don't get jokes.

Have to clean up all the scraps of these projects now and get out the sewing machine. Here's your preview!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

We Will Have Shirts!

What a day! I finished up the t-shirt design, Facebooked a bunch of posts and shares from the writer's conference, made screens for the shirts (had to make three to get two good ones, aargh.) Broke my phone, Facebooked some more because I'm so excited about the conference, then printed a big pile of shirts. Went through the usual rejection phase where I didn't like it for awhile, but now it's too late for that. I do plan to spend a hour or so handpainting some details like making the shrimp pink on the Jell-O and polka-dotting the skirt. It isn't quite colorful enough but I really didn't want to make it a three-color.

I'm fairly exhausted but did a rewrite on the piece I am going to show for my lab appointment at the conference. Going through the usual rejection least my creative process is consistent. I'll have to get over that, as tomorrow night is the Introvert's Ball and I plan to do some dancing, so I probably won't be writing.

Conference all day tomorrow and all day Saturday, then back to Jell-O Land on Sunday for another rehearsal and a week of finishing props, costumes, getting all my lines and songs down pat. Hope I get a moment to rest, but I might not need it. I'm having such a blast doing all this creative stuff at once!

Want to link my personal blog here as I don't know if I had it on all my cards that I handed out today. I couldn't be happier about hanging around in the community of writers. I feel like I have been waiting a long time to step through that doorway, and all this time the door was open! I just was in the other room keeping busy with other things.

Personal blog

Monday, March 16, 2015

Funny Ass Questions

I know, your Queen does not use words like *ass* in her normally staid dealings, but I am trying to loosen up a little in my old age. And while I am completely fine with repeating myself and usually don't even notice it, I feel that I should post another Instructions Post for all those people new to Jell-O Art who would make some if they only knew how easy it is. Fortunately the newbies and their questions keep coming, and in my archives is a real FAQ for me to reference.

Our first question comes from our old friend Maude: There are other Jell-O Shows? Yes, in fact, there are all kinds of them. Gowanus Studios in Brooklyn NY had at least two in their fancy design studio, where they required all kinds of conditions, such as edibility and actual design expertise. Ours, of course, requires only that you show up with $3 (you can sneak in on the admission donation if you have the nerve but it does support the gallery and is only another $3) and something with some amount of gelatin in it. We probably don't even require the gelatin, in fact I remember one exhibit that was a pile of Jell-O boxes, called Oh, Fuck it. At least there was proof that they had purchased the Jell-O, which of course I do not officially recommend as it is made by an evil corporation and includes no food in its ingredient list. And the cows, you know. But of course, true art requires sacrifice of someone. Better the cows than I. And oh yes, an artist named Liz Hicock made a lot of famous Jell-O Art and you might find others if you search online. The last time I did that it was horrifying to wade through that many selfies drinking shots (not me, I don't like vodka) and people making rainbow desserts. There is, however a lot of dried gelatin cake-ornamenting now and those gorgeous injected flower things that are very hard to make. I know, I tried it last year and mine were lame. Of course lame Jell-O Art is still pretty interesting. Google your heart out.

 Then the perennial element of surprise: WtF? Jell-O Art is made from gelatin, dye and water. Mine is air-dried and glued together with more gelatin. I don’t actually use Jell-O Brand gelatin but call it Jell-O Art because it comes from the Jell-O Art tradition. I don't use the brand stuff for the reasons above, and because I am thrifty and use a lot of it, and you really don't need all that sugar. Really, you don't, because to make good sculpture your media must be pure. And unadulturated. But go ahead and use what you have and are willing to buy. It's very hard to duplicate that berryblue color.

Can You Eat It? Every craft comes with an annoying question. The current answer is “Why would you want to?” It is technically edible except for the dye, which is toxic in its powdered form, though in such tiny amounts that you would live. The gelatin itself is perfectly edible, so yeah, lost in the woods with your gelatin slug-on-a-stick, it's probably tastier than the live ones. No sugar or flavorings though in mine. Bring your own salt.

This brings up another type of Jell-O Art, as there are shows in which Jell-O creations are made to eat and exhibited like cakes in a bake-off or a County Fair. We had a superb artist of this type who drove down from Seattle one year with five excellent pieces, primed to win the competition. He was probably devastated to see that we have no competition, actively discourage it in fact, and relegate our edible stuff to the Tacky Food Buffet where lots of people eat it without a second thought. I'll try every new recipe just to see, but generally I like some food in my food. We have another artist who usually makes an old and real recipe and I always eat hers, as by that time of day I am starved and need some tuna aspic or chocolate-covered brussels sprouts or a salad with carrots and celery in it. The Tacky Food Buffet is a very popular feature of our show and feel free to bring something technically and legally edible to donate to that. Family friendly, except for all the sugar and chemicals.

How do you make it? I tell all my secrets on this blog but you have to wade through a lot of attempted wittiness now to find any helpful facts. To make the dried kind, you just make it very thick, mix it in cold water, let it bloom, then melt it and pour it into molds or pans. I like to use glass pie plates but the dried can actually pull off parts of the pyrex so don't use those for food. Keep them in your Jell-O studio for use next year. 

Let it air dry in a warm spot like the top of the piano, and tend it by turning it over and doing things to it (it will stretch and curl), and then select pieces and glue them together with the gelatin. No other glues, coatings, or enhancers are used. Try it yourself with the Knox brand plain gelatin. I use 3 oz per cup of water.

If you want the jiggly kind, just mix it a bit strong, like maybe use half or a fourth of the water recommended on the package.The Jigglers recipe works for edibility but for sculpture it's still too melty. You don't want your sculpture to melt, unless you do want your sculpture to melt. Tastes vary.


What’s so great about it? The dried gelatin, at least, has a randomness that is just amazing, as it curls itself up and shapes itself while drying. It is practically weightless, so wearing it on your head is really easy and spectacular. It looks outrageous in sunlight. It’s something you never saw before! You need new brain pathways just to integrate the possibilities.

The Jell-O Art Show itself  is an ephemeral and precious event that only lasts for three hours (say, is this anything like the voyage of the Minnow on Gilligan's Island? Another post someday.) on a night at the end of spring break when nothing much else is happening anyway. It's five to eight pm so you can go out later to eat real food or see a real show (no offense to us Radar Angels, who do put on a real show). People like me spend all year or at least the previous three months planning and writing a performance and practicing for it and sewing costumes and getting up their nerve, not to even mention making art pieces that might be spectacular. Sure, a lot of them get thrown in the compost but that is not because they aren't fantastic art. Once you try to work with Jell-O you will get how it can hold your interest for 27 years. It's not an easy medium and the possibilities seem rather endless for interpretation and technique. The theme is optional and changes every year, and there are no rules! Plus you can exhibit whatever you damn well please with no judges, evaluators, credentials, or critical structure attached. How many gallery shows are open like that? You, yourself, or your five-year-old can be a real, capital-A Artist with just a little bit of fun and effort, and I do guarantee you that if you look at the exhibits you will find one that will amaze and edify you and get those juices flowing. It is so great!
This one will be for sale. $25, or make your own.

I can say that without the slightest reservation or defensiveness. Jell-O Art made me an artist. I make my living as an artist and have for most of my life. You sell Jell-O? 

Yes, yes I do. I will have a limited amount of lovely pieces for sale that you can wear on your head, flowers and things that look a little like flowers. You can try them on and admire yourself if I remember to bring a mirror. I will also sell t-shirts if I get off the internet and get the design done soon. (I will.) There could be other things to buy, who knows? The element of surprise is always present in our rarified atmosphere.

And our last question: Is it really Art? Oh, the age old question. Art is in the mind of the artist and the beholder. You will have to see for yourself. But, Maude Kerns Art Center is a real Art Center. They now have a piece of Jell-O Art in their permanent collection, which will be kept in the climate-controlled vault with the founder's paintings. This is not even a question in my mind, but I had to put it here so I could mention the permanent collection. I only wish I had a picture of it to post, but here it is hidden just behind me where I am posing with the other Maude, who doesn't ask many questions these days. I do wonder what she would say, but maybe it's better if we don't know. 

Go make some Jell-O! It does eventually compost, or get eaten by varmints out in your compost pile, if you don't want to serve your experiments to your family. It's usually on sale around Easter, which is is now. You have no excuse! I know I don't.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Only Two Weeks From Today!

Ooh, I see by my statistics that the Jell-O blog is getting a lot of interest (in comparative terms...)! I had better throw a crumb to my fans. I will post a photo of one of the secret props.

 It's kind of a tease, because if you have seen the poster you know this is right off of it. Jacque, who designs the poster, has been a gem at providing me with images to kickstart my process for making the props and shirts. Now I can just use her lettering instead of inventing my own and often I can adapt an image for the shirts as well. Ack, I have that on my list for today. I had better get cracking.

*sings*  Ooh wheee, Ooh whee baby, ooh wheee baby...*

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Too Many Projects!

The overwhelm week. Next week will probably be worse, and you will know because I will be very quiet. I have far too many life tabs open. (This is something I learned about have to close the tabs when you check the weather.) Since cellphones are apparently what passes for life these days, it's all one.

Props are coming along but they need to get out of the livingroom so I can bring in the sewing machine. I really have big house envy today. If I only had another room...maybe I should fill up my car with things I don't want and park it somewhere with the doors open. I did start to scavenge parts of old props instead of keeping them enshrined for no reason. It is still fun to have something creative to do every minute.

The t-shirts....ergh. I'm really not motivated to make shirts anymore. I'll do what I have to do but will probably drop them from my retail now that I will probably have to bring 160 pounds of dead weight when I use my pop-up. Yes, the fire marshal is wanting to enforce a new-ish technical tent advisory for weights. It is sensible, of course, as those things do catch wind if you are not a consummate craft professional like most of us are. Most of us tie the booths down to the stuff or to each other or in some way  make sure they are stable, and I would say out of 250 vendors at the Market each week, probably 240 of them take care of this just fine. Lots of people already bring weights, but I don't know anyone who could bring 80 pounds per leg like the advisory advises.

Fortunately our managers are working on it, have been for months, and will find some ways we can work within it to make sure everyone is safe and no one gets speared by airborne aluminum. I hope we can get some reasonable accommodations for our old bodies and our tiny lifestyles. You may know that I bring my stuff to Market on a large bike cart, capacity 500 pounds. I have no problem (well, few problems...) loading it with a quarter-ton of goods and fixtures but no way can I add 320 or even 80 pounds. I will have to eliminate stock, or only come on days when I don't need a cover so don't need to weight it. I do know that I will find a way. I have to. Still, it's hard to deal with this type of stuff. Obviously the people who thought it was a good idea to legislate this had not considered the reality of what we do and how we have to do it.

So while I cannot ignore this messy realityJell-O Art!
, it is getting in the way of my priority, which is
I started making it again, without much of an idea in mind, but again, I have to get these props out of the way if I'm going to start building sculptures. I need a good tacky food idea, too, something that uses a lot of orange-flavored Jell-O. Maybe a nice carrot and celery salad made into bite-sized chunks. I might even eat a piece or two of that if the vegetables outweighed the Jell-O. Except for the image of the stuff hardening in my guts...okay, back to sculpture ideas.

I will probably reference my personal odyssey and the idea of being community partners with Maude's. It's timely and meaningful though lacks humor...except for the personal odyssey part. I have had a pretty humorous life when I think about it. Dreams aren't helping. Last night I was making things appear that I knew could not, like the cat who is buried in the yard, Jake. I do miss him. He was nice and whole and pettable in the dream, but I made him appear from a fuzzy blur. That was some neat personal maybe it is a clue to what to make. An orange cat...if I go ahead and make it now it could grow some nice fur in three weeks. I might if I didn't have intense familiarity with the smell of rotten gelatin. One of those you don't forget.

Okay, I'll just finish with the news that the show is really coming together and will be quite amusing and somewhat professionally staged. We will have mics so I didn't have to pitch my audience-participation idea which was not going to fly with this group of divas. They actually told me that my presentation as Athena, or actually the Queen of Jell-O Art playing Athena, was too humble and should be more ostentatious. (Of course they didn't use that word.) I said that it wouldn't be necessary, as everyone in the room would absolutely know that I am the Queen of Jell-O Art, and I have no doubt about that.

Partly because I will be wearing my crown and maybe my old costume for part of the non-performance hours of the show, but mostly because it will be entirely obvious, and since I have played her in the last three shows, she is legendary. I'm pretty sure mostly the same people come every year, because we are the Jell-O Art community, the partners. We'll see. I still stand by the idea that if you want to heckle, you should. All ten or so of you who read my last post still have my permission. If you want to sing along, do so. I am all about letting you in. It's a lot more fun that way.

But the show is still a secret. I'm not sending out any scripts to you all. It will be more fun that way. Trust me, I'm royalty.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Just One of Many

While thinking of updating the script I got a brilliant idea, or one of those that seems brilliant in concept but can fail in execution. It's such an irreverent show. When I was in the audience, I always felt free to heckle, in a kind way of course, just things I thought added to the fun. It occurred to me that people in the room feel such a part of the show and of the Angels that maybe we ought to just give them permission to heckle, in fact, maybe we should engineer it.

An early version of my bouquet
We don't yet have a sound engineer who will set us up with a bunch of mics and amps and know how to set them and modulate and whatever it is we pay the big bucks for. It's a lot of work for a 20-minute show and I was wondering if we could do without amps and mics. When we sang in the room for the awarding of the Community Partners thing, we didn't use mics, and it seemed to be perfectly loud enough. Of course we had a lot of people on stage, but even when we introduced ourselves it was easy enough to hear. The room only had an audience of less than fifty though, while at the Jell-O Show it is generally packed in both rooms and spills out the doors. But it is a church, and was probably built with a choir in mind. There's even a choir loft still remaining. No one used a mic in the days either of Greek drama or church meetings in the nineteenth century. You got volume from the number of people singing.

So then I thought about Occupy, how people who do hear repeat things for those in the back who don't. I was thinking we could get these hecklers to subtly transmit our lines (or the gist of them at least) to those who might not have heard them. This would provide another level of comedy as we could choose people to do that and let them show their own personalities with what they chose to echo, and there could be some hilarious malapropisms and additional jokes. I'm still quite tickled with the idea.
This got turned into a headdress.

Of course I have to run it by the group and probably will  have to use some supportive arguments to sell the idea. There could be some timing problems if the hecklers stepped on the lines instead of enhancing them. We would probably have to let them read the script and it might ruin the element of surprise for them. But if you are reading this, keep it in mind in case it is an idea that doesn't make it to the show reality.

Heckling at the Jell-O Show is okay by the Queen. Just be kind. Maybe don't ask for Free Bird or more cowbell. Rule number one about the Jell-O Show is that it has to be fun. That might be the only rule, and even that one is occasionally broken. But it seems that a tradition of participation is something worth nurturing, and I do want everyone there to feel a part of it. Sing along, too, if you think you can do it. We change the words but sometimes the choruses are intact or only changed slightly, and the more harmonies the better.

I'll be making a Jell-O flower arrangement for my brother's wedding in Australia next month. Jell-O Art in Sydney! Who knows what kind of fame and fortune that could bring. Better get that one started today.