Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Frequently asked questions

I did a little FAQ sheet so thought I could also post it here. I keep telling people the instructions are on the blog but you probably have to look through a bunch of posts to find them.

Basically, if you are using Knox, make it about six to eight times the strength listed on the packets. I'm currently using 3 ounces of gelatin per one cup of water. Let it bloom in cold water and then melt it in the microwave or stovetop. Pour it into dishes, in thin layers. Pry it out when it gels, and tear or cut it into pieces, or fold it, whatever suits your purposes. Let it continue to dry until it is fully dried, in a warm place. If it starts to mold, remelt it, brush it with bleach, or throw it out and start over.

And the FAQ's:

What is it?
Jell-O Art is made from gelatin, dye and water. It 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.

Jell-O Art Tradition?
The Radar Angels have held an annual Jell-O Art Show for the past 23 years, right around April Fools Day at the Maude Kerns Art Gallery. I have exhibited every year and started making the dried gelatin about ten years ago. Celeste LeBlanc was the first artist to display dried gelatin. Yes, I am a Radar Angel, just not part of the performing “wing”. Google Gelatinaceae. I’ve also been blogging about it for years in the archives of divinetension@blogspot.com.
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 here that you would live. The gelatin itself is perfectly edible, so yeah, lost in the woods with your slug-on-a-stick, probably tastier than the live ones. No sugar or flavorings though. Bring your own salt.
It looks fragile. While the thinnest parts are indeed fragile, the thicker stuff is harder than nails. This is why people eat gelatin for stronger fingernails and hair. It is very hard to break, much more durable than say, glass, if you drop it. Plus, if it does break, it can be glued back together with molten gelatin, or sometimes just by getting the parts wet and pressing them back together. It is permanent although water will still melt it. I have ten-year-old Jell-O Art that looks new, or would if it were dusted.
What’s so great about it? It 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 it 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.
How do you make it? I tell all my secrets on my blog, Gelatinaceae@blogspot.com
Basically I pour it in thin layers, air dry, 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.
How can I get some? I’ve been selling it at the Saturday Market and Tuesday Market all season. I have a Facebook page under the name Gelatinaceae (https://www.facebook.com/jelloartandmore) and a website at http://www.gelatinaceae.com where I will have things for sale eventually.
You can get it at the Holiday Market, weekends until Christmas, space 218 right next to the south side doors. See you there!
P.S. If you make some, bring it and show me.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Slug Art Walk!

The Slug Queen's Slug Art Show opens today at 200 West Broadway. It will be on the Art Walk. Of course there will be Jell-O Art!

I named this piece The Queen Slug. It's about a foot long with the slime and roses. It will be dwarfed by the amazing lime green lit-up floor slug and other items I didn't get to see, but the show will be up for a couple of weeks I hope. This is another show from the Eugene Storefront Art Project which is a very happening group of folks with a fabulous idea that has really improved the downtown. They are actually running out of venues as the properties are improved, so let them know if you have ideas for expanding their programs. And support them! I will have little slugs for sale there, to benefit them, so take one home. You know you want some Jell-O Art of your very own. And kowtow to the Old Queens for me as I won't be able to be there. I'm crushed that I will have two pieces of my art in galleries on the premier gallery street in our town on what might be the best Art Walk of the season! Maybe my absence will just fuel the mystery.

I was working on this as a cake decoration but just couldn't resist gluing on a hairband. It looks amazing on top of my head and it might be one of those I just can't seem to part with.

I also made a couple of new roses which apparently I didn't photograph, so see them at Market on the 15th or at Tuesday Market on the 18th. Only three Tuesdays left in the season, and it looks like we will be back across the street co-selling with the farmers for the rest of the season. Get out and enjoy the great fall weather we are so lucky to have.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The rest of the world

It seems Jell-O art or whatever the kids are calling it these days, is finding some notice in the east side of the country. I was aware of the Gowanus studios competitions and had heard of the jellymongers of Great Britain, but this Slate article actually poses the question I have often asked myself, can gelatin be art? You know the answer, of course.

Those people are all about the jiggle and the edible, but still it's nice to know I am not the only gelatin fanatic, besides the ones I already know anyway. I wonder if they know about us, or if we are just too podunk to be famous. I'm thinking there is an Old Queen among the Slug Queens who has great connections in NYC who could bring us together someday.

I'm probably going to offer my installation to the Storefront Art Project. It seems like a wonderful place for a corner full of dried ruffles. I guess I have to wait to get the mask back from the Salon, which will happen when I get back from my trip East.

Haven't made any Jell-O at all this week, but I'm anxious to get back to it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New fascination

Oh, have I mentioned I have a Facebook page for Gelatinaceae?
I got the URL today, which is

I put some of my scarves and flags up too, as well as on my Weebly site, which is Gelatinaceae
as well. You pronounce that Jell-at-in-aay-sea, by the way, almost Jell-Oh-in-a-sea which is what I am making, if you think of the world as a sea and if you think that way at all.

Made four new fascinators over the weekend, bringing my total of presentable ones to seven. I discovered that the hairbands on the ones I had been wearing look worn, so I can't sell them. It's really hard to resist wearing the new ones! I seem to require a renewing supply of fascinating Jell-O to wear, so that if nothing else might keep me going indefinitely.

I'm working on a bigger piece, maybe a cake decoration or just a stand-alone arrangement. Actually I am not working on it this week, because I have too many other things to do. Seems like Sunday and Monday, which are supposed to be my days off, are the days I get to do Jell-O Art. That's what I get for adding a new product so different from my old ones.

Working on better display, too, so people can tell that they are meant to be worn, and not be afraid to ask about them.

The slugs never did sell at Eugene Celebration time, or should I say I sold just a few instead of the flock I had made. Can't call them a flock, maybe a slimey of slugs. Anyway I will give them to any and all slug queens who come by to see them. I gave one to Peterella, who thanked me profusely and will give it a good home I am sure.

Still haven't seen the Slug Queen herself at the Market, but she will come someday I know.

Sounds like a Disney song with a twist.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Emphasis on ART

Here I am in the window of the Salon Thursday night. The minute I walked into the show a woman who had been waiting for me asked me all the details about how to do it, which gave me the idea to package up some little bags of it for starter kits for people who please me enough. Simple directions are going to need to be posted periodically I suppose as more people catch on to how fun it is.

Put up a Facebook page for Gelatinaceae and spent a whole lot of hours uploading photos and sending invites to be liked. It's a silly process for a product that has not yet shown that the hours spent will pay off in any material way, but the nonmaterial gains are huge. And I got 80 likes the first day, so you know people like Jell-O.

I didn't know I could have this much fun with work at this point. It's revitalizing. I especially love sitting in the sun on the back deck putting Jell-O pieces together.

Someone asked me for a cake decoration and I think I will try some. I will have to keep them cleaner than usual and make sure no danger will be passed on to the cake but that isn't hard. This is of course an already existing and somewhat conventional use for gelatin art, but I can handle that I guess. It would be cool to get commissioned to participate in weddings and other joyous events.

Made a big yellow rose I thought I might award to the Slug Queen but she apparently has been moving so slowly in her eminent sluggishness that she couldn't make it to Market yesterday. I expect she will at some point. I imagine that she is in such a fluff by now that she isn't thinking about much but when she will get to relax and not be the Slug Queen for a minute. Royalty is a pain, I'm guessing.

Writing an essay in which Jell-O Art features as the hope and key to my future. It makes perfect sense to me, but might not be the first time my tendency to magical thinking takes me down a primrose path. At least I am still exercising my sense of humor.

Friday, August 19, 2011

New This Week

Got the big slug finished, put it on some roses that fell off the installation. It is about a foot long, and quite fat.

Made two small orchid headpieces, or fascinators as we have been calling them.

Made one of a slug too, just because.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


No Mayor's Art Show for the Jell-O, finally got the lost email telling me so. I was wondering what was taking them so long.

No matter, The Salon de Refuse (yes, I know they changed the name, but that's like changing the name of What's Happening. Give me a decade or two.)

Refuse! Refuse!

Painted details on all the slugs, so they get more pictures. The big guy doesn't have his habitat yet, I had to make a big slab of green.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Slugs have taken over

More Slugs.

About half are on sticks. The others sit lightly and I thought of fastening them to a rock...didn't seem right.

A plexiglas stand maybe. Or a leaf.

See them Saturday, booth 120 on the west side of the fountain, near 8th. Next to the shakers.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What you missed on Tuesday

Slugs on sticks.

Some slime.

Some will be sitting on a piece of lettuce.

These were the first batch. There will be others.

Making the eyestalks was the most fun. I am debating whether or not to paint little details on them, or to just leave it up to the imagination.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Slug Biz

Here's a picture of the big slug piece I gave to Kim, which she says she will make part of her Slug Queen outfit. All the potential Queens, Old Queens, and Exquisitely Old Queens will be very jealous.

She told me some about how she makes the crowns and sashes every year, trying to make them unique and special to each queen. She sometimes gets a notion who will win the contest, being the person who receives the applications, takes the bribes for distribution, and knows the most about what may transpire on stage. If you haven't seen the Slug Queen competition, you must make a point of going. This year it will be on Friday, August 12th, in the early evening on the Saturday Market stage down at 8th and Oak.

I had a wonderful time making the headpiece, and spent the whole week on it. Lots of people have asked me about workshops for Jell-O Art, and I have thought about it, but don't really want to lead one. I spent a few years doing art workshops in the elementary schools (Family and Patterson) and I have no desire to take that up again. But never say never.

I think with planning this could be a fun activity for any age group. If you have a week, you can try the dried Jell-O, but if you don't, just use the wet, harder-than-normal Jell-O. You can pry it out of any mold with your fingers, and there are a million plastic objects to use for molds. You could have a little show, with each person making objects such as animals, flowers, or just sculptures. You could use food coloring to make sure it is nontoxic, or make the real Jell-O brand kind, using less water so it will gel without refrigeration. I've used real molds, ice trays, molds I made from pressing objects into wax, and molds I've made in other ways. You can cut and carve on the Jell-O a little, but it isn't too amenable to most art processes. You'll just have to try it.

You could make a bunch of flower parts ahead of time and let people assemble and make hair ornaments. Hairbands and clips are cheap and you could make little magnets too. You could use chopsticks or pencils for sticks, or make pieces with artifacts inside like buttons, plastic toys, or whatever.

If the stuff gets thrown away at the end, no matter. I put mine outside where the slugs eat it.

It's just fun to play with a new material, and this is probably a lot less expensive than fimo or some other kinds of sculptural material. I've done it with kids and they were pretty receptive if I gave enough structure. I found that because this isn't a well-known artform, most people are somewhat stunned and stopped by not knowing enough to experiment, so I would keep the focus somewhat narrow and not just open the whole thing to every possibility, unless you have older people already experienced with creating things. It's supposed to be fun.

And if things don't work, just remelt and start over.

In other news, the Jell-O wrestling party was a big hit with the attendees, although the Jell-O was thin and not the proper texture. I think they may have miscalculated the volume of the pit. At any rate, it was slimy enough for lots of play and a pleasing pink color. They ended up buying all the gelatin I had on hand, which was about 15 pounds, so I had to order some more. Don't want to run out or anything.

Have fun!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Giant Slug Eats Orchid

Worked outside on the Jell-O today and was happy to find that summer breezes and sunshine are really great for drying the pieces quickly. Even better than the top of the piano!

I took the mask downtown for Kim to take some photos, so I can enter it in the Mayor's Art Show. The photos are amazing, so we'll see if Jell-O Art is Art or not. I have to figure out some kind of wall bracket though, whether or not it gets in the show, so I can put it in the other show. It was interesting biking around with the mask in a plastic tub, on our very bumpy streets. I had to glue a couple parts of it back together afterward, but I hadn't done anything to it (except drop it once) since the Jell-O Show, and apparently Jell-O art may require a bit of maintenance now and then.

This is something I am making for the Slug Queen Coronation, for Kim, the First Lady in Waiting, and I think it will look quite fetching on her or whomever ends up trying it on. It has been super fun. A big 9x13 slab of yellow made the most wonderful, natural looking slug you could ever want, all frilly on the edges and everything. There is a little fuchsia slug on the back of it, too, extra sliminess all around. I am donating it to Kim to put in the Slug Queen Archives which is probably a cardboard box in someone's garage somewhere in the South Hills.

I am very pleased. I made the headpiece flat and it's very comfortable to wear, not too heavy, not too fragile. The art is evolving. I'm wearing the first tiara in the photo here from Market, nice to see how it looks. That one digs into my head just a little bit. Beth said she was talking to the cops about an incident she was having on the corner when I walked by and the sun caught the Jell-O, and she felt like her world was really just fine. Imagine a world where an old woman can look perfectly normal and safe wearing Jell-O Art on her head in broad daylight, and then recreate that world every Saturday.

On Saturday night, my next door neighbors are having Jell-O Wrestling at their birthday party, and I'm excited to get a look at it, though it is far too weird for me to want to participate. I think it's rather hilarious though. It won't be Jell-O they will be using, there is a special product made just for wrestling, just add water to the pit you dug in your yard. They're super serious about it, scheduling it like a tournament, and making all the kids go to bed.

I'm not telling them about the roomful of dried Jell-O I have over here. It will just be a delicious oversupply of Jell-O in the neighborhood for a night. Wonder what you do with a pit full of strange gelatinous stuff in the morning.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


The Jell-O Art has been getting a lot of amazed attention and compliments at the Market, and this week, as it was finally sunny and warm, I displayed it well and it looked wonderful in the sun. I wore the tiara most of the day and Kim took some pictures so when she gets them posted I may have some to add to this post.

I keep giving out cards and referring folks to this blog, but I haven't really done a tutorial yet to be helpful. I say it is really simple, and if you put aside the 23 years of experimenting with the medium and learning all of its little idiosyncrasies (well, some), it is really simple.

I use about 3 ounces (dry measure, not weight) of pure gelatin powder to one cup of water. I mix mine in a quart jar, half full of cold water, w
ith six ounces of gelatin sprinkled in. I do it gradually, stirring with a big spoon, and the reason you use cold is if you try to shortcut and use hot water, it gets all lumpy and does not dissolve well. In the cold water, it "blooms" and after about ten minutes it is all wetted. Then I put it in the microwave for a minute or two to melt it.

I skim off the foam, and then divide the liquid gelatin into several smaller jars for coloring. I use procion dye, because I have a lot of it around and like the colors, but you could use any kind of coloring you like. The transparency is important and I like a wide color range, which is why I don't bother with food coloring. You can use things like milk and candy co
loring, whatever you have and want to try.

To dry it, I simply pour it into glass pans in thin layers, about a sixteenth or eighth of an inch thick. You will find out what you like. If it's too thin, it dries fast and can stick to the pan too much to get it out if you aren't watching. If it's too thick it will mold before it has a chance to dry. Moldy gelatin has a way of re-liquidizing itself in a very smelly fashion.

I use a variety of textured molds, too, since I have been collecting glass and plastic molds for Jell-O art for many years. I have t
wo excellent plastic salad bowls pressed to resemble bowls of lettuce leaves and I often use those for flowers or parts. The subtle veins are wonderful, but the plastic surface does leave one side duller than I like. I really like the glossy surface that glass imparts, or that the side that is not in contact with anything retains. Sometimes I just dip the pieces that aren't glossy enough, to resurfaced them. You can layer up colors too that way.

After a fairly short time you have to flip the gelatin over to dry the other side, and to extract it from the container. I usually tear it or cut it into geometric shapes at this point, triangles or squares or leaf shapes or specific shapes to fit whatever project I am working on.

Then the tending begins as you have to flip each piece several times as it dries. I use the
top of my piano as a place to put all the dishes and plates of gelatin pieces. As they dry, they distort in wonderful ways and I sometimes encourage or discourage this as the pieces are quite flexible.

Making the flowers is much like making paper or cloth flowers, using rolling and assembling techniques that I will leave y
ou to explore on your own. It helps if you stick to similar colors so that you can find enough of the same shade to assemble a full flower, but anything goes really.

Nature makes outlandish flowers, especially in the Orchidaceae, so I don't try to restrict myself much in the forms and combinations. I add leaves and use a stick from my apple tree for a stem, but it is possible to make stems with long strips of gelatin, if you like.

In the Cake Connection video online where they show their system for making flowers to use for cake decorations, they use florist's tape and wire for structure, but I don't usually use anything but the gelatin itself, and the sticks.

I melt a small amount of gelatin in a half-pint jar for assembly. I just dip pieces in or use a spoon to drip the "glue" where it is needed, and then press and hold the pieces together while it hardens, or clip them with a clothespin to hold them for awhile.

I will caution you here to be careful with the hot gelatin. I have burned myself, of course, and it can be nasty, just like glue. Be ready to immerse in cold water. During assembly I do usually wear out my fingertips with the repeated coating of thin layers, but I suppose you could wear g
loves or something. It's not toxic (the dyes are, though, in the powder form) and although the annoying question "Can you eat it?" has become routine, it's only technically edible, and I certainly haven't recommended eating Jell-O for many years. This is art, people, why would you want to eat it? That's what food is for.

I have large plastic trays of pieces all over my "studio" and periodically make a bunch more pieces in the colors I like. The fairies were supposed to be mermaids but the OCF came around and I thought a fairy on a stick would be cool. Faces are quite difficult, especially as the gelatin almost never stays flat, and you have to plan for the shrinkage. I tend to find a picture similar to what I want, put it under the pan of gelatin, and cut out holes for the eyes and mouth, which I then fill with the colors I want (blue for the eyes, etc.) This is tricky work and you have to do it in stages and keep the gelatin just barely liquid. I've done extremely detailed cutwork, like the fractals, which are 6x6 inch square, and this kind of thing is a fun challenge when you get farther into the art form.

See, it really is so simple. I purchase the gelatin online in bulk, but you can start with the Knox brand at the supermarket. Just make it 6-8 times stronger than the package directions, or figure out how to convert to my recipe. It is really not a precise kind of thing. Celeste Le Blanc, who introduced the dried technique at a Jell-O Art Show a couple of decades ago, does big forms and garments and said she makes it 16 times the package directions. You will find the recipe that is thick enough and stays liquid long enough for you to do what you want. You can remelt it in the microwave (or in a pan on the stove) many times, though I have a theory that it gets more brittle with repeated meltings. Not a scientific theory.

I try not to let much of it go down the drain, because I picture it jelling and making some lovely blockages with all the coffee grounds, pet hair and whatever else goes down your drain (let's stop there). You do have to soak it off of the glass sometimes and throw it away when it gets moldy and muddy.

I will again mention that I blog over at http://divinetension.blogspot.com/, where in the past I have discussed Jell-O Art at length, though that is also a personal blog where I discuss many other issues, and talk a lot about Saturday Market and my thoughts about my membership and history there. If you really are interested, you can go back into the archives there and find out more than you want to know about me and my Jell-O Art. There are artifacts online from my Yahoo 360 pages and Tribe.net pages, but I doubt if even I can find them at this point. Suffice it to say I have been writing about Jell-O for at least a decade and if you believe that everything on the internet is still there, you can look for that stuff. I may go find it and bring it here, someday when I have nothing more important to do.

But that day won't be today. We finally got some hot weather and I am going to swelter in it and love it. Oh, and yes, the Jell-O flowers will melt in water. I have worn them in the rain and with wet hair, and they soften up and would dissolve if I didn't let them dry, but they last really well. I have dropped them and compressed them and they are much stronger than I expected. If they do break, however, just re-glue with more gelatin or get the broken ends wet and press them together until they stick.

As far as the archival qualities of my art go, it's unknown, but I have pieces that are ten years old and they still look the same. They get dusty, but you can dust them or even wash them quickly and they are renewed. I think once it is dry it will last as long as you need it to. Life is brief anyway, and I feel that the ephemeric quality of the art just adds to its charm. Not everything is a piece of furniture that will still be valuable 300 years from now. Some things are just for today, just to be delighted, just to marvel at. Just for fun!

So enjoy yourself!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tiaras! and Fairies!

Of course I will take Jell-O out to the Fair, though I can't sell it during public hours, since it isn't juried.

And of course I don't really want to sell these fabulous creations, at least not the tiaras. But I suppose I will.

I am not sure if I am taking the wings, depends if they fit in the car or not. They won't be wearable in sweaty, naked crowds...too scratchy.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Yellow Jellow

Have had zero time to make Jell-O or write anything, but will post the pictures of the yellow roses I made, just so they'll be here. I still want to make fairies and mermaids but don't know if I'll have any time in the next few weeks or not. Also don't know if they will dry in this weather, when I'm not using heat.

Guess we'll see.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gelatin Art My Way

I've been having fun in the last few months trying for a presence in the world of Jell-O Art. Today I googled Gelatinaceae images and it was all my photos! Actually way more, it included photos from my other blog and even stuff from the Saturday Market photo gallery. Not everything of course, because strange are the ways of Google.

I have to bring some of the posts and images from the other blog to here, and I will start with some photos from this year's Jell-O Art Show. For anyone new to the scene, the Radar Angels have been holding a Jell-O Art Show for some 23 years, and I have always been a part of it. There has been an evolution, and now I spend a lot of time during the winter months when I'm not retailing, working on Jell-O.

This is me at the show, trying to get the piece assembled, and the show has already started. The next photo is the moment I turned to see a crowd of curious and amazed people all focusing on me! I look quite startled and utterly delighted. It felt like a highly significant life moment, the true fame I didn't know I wanted.

I had made two sets of win
gs, an upper and lower, but they wouldn't stay on the way they had at home and I eventually gave up and wore the top set, the pink ones. The third photo is a shot of the wings, from when Rich Glauber invited me and Scarlett the Old Queen (who is wearing the other set of wings) up onstage on Opening Day of the Saturday Market, which is the same day as the Jell-O Show most years. It was quite the triumph for me and for Jell-O Art, though in the big world it went largely unnoticed.

The top photo is one of the mask, shot by Kim at the Market, which stands out on its own as a wonderful piece of art. the last shot is the piece set up at my house, in my project room, which is going to be my Jell-O Art Museum. My retirement plan is that I will charge a dollar admission and give tours of my archive of Jell-O Art and Radar Angels memorabilia and artifacts which will probably force me to be open every Tuesday between 1:00 and 1:15 pm. It's about as solid as all my other retirement plans.

But the good thing about being a Jell-O Artist is that there is no need to retire.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nothing New Under the Sun

Upon further googling, I found gelatin art and even a book with plastic templates to make the process super simple. Primarily for use in cake decorating, the flowers shown by Cake Connection are made with wire stems and florist's tape, with very thin gelatin petals that are quite beautiful.

Mine look much more one-of-a-kind and are thicker and stranger than theirs, but they have not only products to sell you but a video showing the entire process. It does give me a few ideas for texturing and shaping using flat molds, brushing on the gelatin in its liquid state.

Still, I will forge ahead with my plan to make many of these, and expand the possibilities. They do fascinate and delight. That may be quite enough.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Highly evolved species

I am so in love with the useless objects that really need a glass dome or pedestal for proper display. Maybe shadow boxes, or anyway something fancier than the spruced-up cardboard boxes I'm providing.

This last one is an iris, about a foot high with stem, very difficult to see flat like this.

Presentation will come, I feel sure. I'm only charging thirty dollars for these right now, a bargain. Of course remember they are jello, with no data about how long they will last and still look beautiful. I'm prepared to say a decade at least, since I have pieces that old that still look perfect.

But marketing will definitely be my challenge. Useless objects of beauty and astonishment are perennially popular, though. People need these.


Here are the roses, some bundled in threes for bouquets. The hardest part in making these is matching up the colors of petals and leaves. Even using mainly the same two dyes, fuchsia and avocado, with a bit of yellow and forest green here and there, the endless variety of shades is amazing.

I so love the way the petals distort themselves beautifully with very little direction from me.