Friday, March 30, 2012

Finished My Piece!

Here is an inadequate picture of my Jell-O Art. The base is about a foot square and the leaves extend out in all directions, making the thing about the size of a two foot cube.

It's a book, a book about my life as a Jell-O artist. The first page is titled Jell-O Art and gives sort of an introduction, and the following pages are about the Radar Angels, the creative process, metamorphosis, and other things that are significant to my artistic experience.

A few of the pages are printed, which as far as I know is a new technique to our group. I just did them with existing screens since making new screens is still very difficult with my broken foot. The fractal one hangs off the back and is drooping a bit much, but we'll see how it curls, since random effects are usually fine. The tree page needs something more behind it but I need to be finished with piece. I drew and collaged a bird on it, and since customers are constantly telling me that tree is the Tree of Life that is what it represents. I seldom argue with my customers. If I were ambitious and had more time I would probably add more creatures to it. I might just do that because I'm not quite satisfied with it the way it is. I tried making one more leaf to put behind it with a collaged fish on it, but it just didn't fit right.

I printed the word Imagine as well and wanted to print a few more of my hat images, such as fear less and YES and those would be great, but the screens were hard to find and I ran out of shop time. I probably could manage doing those without an assistant but now it is wet outside and although I just crutched my way out there to get something I needed, it seems like too much effort to go out there again for such small details to add to what is essentially a finished piece.

I know I have a tendency to amass too many images and as you can see from the picture there are many layers and this will be a piece you really will have to study from all sides to fully experience. The photograph presents a sad mishmash of what is an elegant and intensely meaningful piece. The greatest piece of Jell-O Art ever made! I wish.

The rest of the pages are hand lettered with markers and drawing pens and I hope the colors don't turn out to be fugitive. This piece might have to be stored in a box for long-term life. I poured some clear gelatin into the bottom of the box, which is just a plexiglas picture frame I found in a drawer, so the piece might transmit light from below for an interesting effect. I took some flowers off of last year's dress (intending someday to restore it to the simplicity of Celeste's original conception) and put them in there, added a flower and a shell from my current retail stock, and some grass from another part of last year's piece.

I asked Maude Kerns management if I could display and (hopefully) sell my retail Jell-O Art at the show this year along with the t-shirts. It hasn't been the case that any individual's art has been for sale during the show, so it might not even work, but my medical bills are frightening and I don't know when I will have a regular income again. June I guess.

I researched physical therapy for this kind of break (calcaneus and part of the ankle) and it turns out that although I will be able to put weight on my foot after twelve weeks of rest, that doesn't mean that I will be able to walk. I'll still need crutches and eventually a cane and will have to rebuild the muscles of my leg and convince my brain that it is safe to put the foot down and use it. That means another month or two of hard going. Since my main income is from the grueling 12-hour day of Saturday Market and the screenprinting I do standing up, I'm not going to be fully back to work for a really long time. So now's your chance to collect a little piece of some really unique Eugene history, the living, breathing, quarter-decade old Jell-O Art Show, and to support a local artist who needs your cash.

I will of course gladly accept your admiration if you don't want to own a collector's item or a fairly useless but gorgeous piece of gelatin made permanent. I understand living simply and not accumulating stuff. I do hope you take a good look at my piece though. I'd be glad to talk technique and give tips to other artists who want to try the dried stuff. It's much more simple than it looks.

Even if it did take me twenty-five years to make it. See you at the show! Don't blink and miss it!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

T-shirts! Next week!

Here's a preview of the t-shirt design. It's not easy to make art and take photos in a recliner with your foot up, but I couldn't just sit here and do "nothing."

I love the theme. I (obviously) love starting my creative year with a completely open, ridiculously self-referential project that has no enduring value on its own, but an astounding one from the perspective of living a creative life.

I bought a few pink camo shirts which will look so good. The rest will be gray. Begin to covet one. If I sell enough to pay for what I bought (and oh yes, I got tote bags) I will be able to make a contribution to the gallery and to the Radar Angels fund for doing it again next year. This is like the 24th annual show!!!

Everything depends on the level of participation from the public, though we will have fun no matter what. It's rolling like a giant rock downhill. Make some Tacky Food! Come to the Show! Buy a t-shirt to show off and prove you are among the hip-oisie.

Be the artist clamoring to come out. Anything goes at the Jell-O Show. You know I mean you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Today was the thrilling illustration of the creative process which keeps me so engaged in life and Jell-O art. Back in December when I heard myself telling someone you couldn't even make flat dried gelatin, and that little smile took the corners of my mind, I set this part in motion.

Today I actually screenprinted on it. I know there aren't very many people working in gelatin art, practically none in fact, but I am fairly certain that this is a technique that no one has tried. It's hard to express the satisfaction of pulling it off.

I owe a huge thanks to the intrepid Radar Active, aka Indi, who came over today to give me a couple of hours so I could try my first day back in the shop. I thought I would sort some shirts and maybe get ready to print them tomorrow when another friend is coming, but the shirts went fast (actually were a print of a design F.A.S.T. for a local school program) and before you could blink I printed up three scraps of really flat Jell-O trimmed from the pages I cut last night for my book project. Indi was as excited as I am even as she firmly insisted that I stop and go put my foot back up on its elevated pillow.

They look amazing. They curled up a little so I'll have to flatten them (Indi suggested putting them between sheets of waxed paper which shouldn't stick to them, not that they are wet). They will add color to the project which I was thinking I would hand letter mostly in black sharpie although now that I think of it, I do have some colored sharpies somewhere.

I'm still all giddy. I got the t-shirt design more-or-less finished, not the best one I've ever done, but I bought some pink camo shirts to print it on, which look like pink lemonade Jell-O with swirls of cool whip. The other ones are grey, because I'm only doing a one-color print so I don't have to use white shirts to achieve good Jell-O colors. They were a little expensive, but perhaps this year I will insist on selling them instead of giving most of them away. Seems like after years of free shirts some people might be able to part with some bucks for my considerable medical bills. I hope so.

But they will all get to see my innovative, fabulous printed Jell-O for free. It's impressive.

And yeah, my foot does hurt a bit. It was totally worth it, though.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

This Year's Jell-O Art

For me, each year's exhibit has to explore some new technique (which gets increasingly difficult) and also say something about me, now, this year, in my life. Because I have found it to be my highest level of artistic expression, it begins my creative year and sets the tone while bringing renewal and all of the promises of spring. I stuff a lot of meaning into a three-hour show.

I've been concentrating a lot on writing this year, and have noted earlier that I heard myself saying you couldn't make flat dried gelatin, so I had to try. I have several oddly-shaped pieces of relatively flat gelatin in pale colors, some slightly patterned, and I decided to make them into a book.

Artist's books have always intrigued me and they do not have to take any conventional *book* forms, so I considered the box I made a few years ago to be one...but this will be more recognizable. I think I will make it as an open book with the leaves standing up fanning out so all can be read at once and no one will be tempted to try to turn the pages. Thin gelatin is breakable.

All I've done so far is look at the pieces and let my visual mind get a handle on it. I've brainstormed some of the content, and as I'm reading a book now that includes story theory I'm looking for a narrative arc and some thematic continuity. I hesitate to write on the pages because I probably only have one chance to get them right.

Then I expect to use some type of hinges or gelatin tape to connect them to each other. It will be somewhat painstaking so of course I am procrastinating, which is part of the whole role of blogging in my life...if you don't know what you're doing, write about it. Fortunately we're having a giant wet snowstorm so all of my mundane plans for the day were scrapped.

First thing I'm going to try is transferring a copy from paper onto gelatin with water and maybe with alcohol. I've read about it but don't feel like doing the research. I think it will work or give me some random effect I can use.

I've already got some patterns in some of the sheets...I can't really make any more now because of my foot, so I'll have to make do with what I have. With the open pages I can insert some 3-D objects such as fish and flowers or other significant items as I develop the content.

I've already used a lot of technique I learned from paper-making such as laying the gelatin out on blank screens that I use for screenprinting. I had thought I would print on some of the flat gelatin and I still might, but I'm not supposed to be on my feet so that seems a little like self-torture for the sake of art which I promised I would not do. Because I don't want to end up back in the surgical ward.

The t-shirt design references my broken foot...I have the design mostly laid out but I don't like it so I'm setting it aside for a day. I ordered the shirts though. Mostly grey, a few white, and a few pink camo. I have to do a one-color so I thought I'd just use black ink and keep it simple. I cribbed most of the images off Indi's poster. I'll probably print them even if I don't like the design, because otherwise we won't have shirts.

So I'm going to get to work and make the book today if I can. I can write later if the electricity stays on. I want to welcome Grace Mitchell to the Jell-O Art universe. I got a message from her this morning from Adelaide where she is finishing up a sculpture degree and found me and my art online. I can't wait to hear and see what she will do with the medium!

Get to work on your pieces, everyone. There is always room at the gallery for your Jell-O and today is the perfect day to play with it, since all of Eugene is stopped in its soft tracks.

The fractal is one of my earlier pieces...someday I'll tell you how I did it. Took forever. About 6x6" and still looks perfect.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Make Some Jell-O Tonight

I don't know what I was thinking in my last post offering to pay for people's entry fees. I'm worse than broke, I have tons of medical bills to pay! But don't not participate because of money. Get some kind of patron.

I hope everyone has a pretty good idea of what their Jell-O is going to be like, and is gathering the molds, props, and colorings they will need. I probably talk too much about the dried gelatin I like to do, because virtually all of the other Jell-O will be the jiggly kind.

You can't do it too far in advance because it will mold, though you can refrigerate it if it fits. A lot of times I do practice pieces and remelt them, or make components and leave just the final details for the day or two before the show. You can freeze it too, with interesting results. Old Jell-O does odd things as it slumps into itself.

Using molds is probably easiest. Any kind of plastic container can work. I used to cruise the goodwills for interesting props or things to use for molds for odd things like fish or tiny tents. Barbies are sort of traditional, also legos and such. Purists don't use props, but again, there are no rules. It's fun to surprise people of course.

I've attached some photos of books I have to get you in the mood. The big one is a really cool book filled with details of the history and life of Jell-O, and there's a little three page spread about our Show and the Radar Angels. One of my Tacky Foods, Jell-O sushi, is pictured. That stuff was tasty, real sushi with jell-O strips substituted for the veggies. I'll bring my copy of the book to the show if you want to take a look at it, or you might be able to find it online.

I love the old slogans. They did one for nearly every year, and Jell-O turned 100 a few years ago. A few that might relate well to this years theme:

1909 The American Dessert Everything is ours, right?

1910 The Fairy Dessert who knows what they were thinking, some pop culture thing

1946 Jell-O Again right after World War Two

1952 Now's the Time For Jell-O as opposed to some other time when it wasn't

1967 The Best of Everything The giddy mid-Sixties

1968 How Sweet It Isn't Oddly prophetic end of the peace and love dream?

1975 Don't Say No, Say Jell-O Hell No, We Won't Go...

1987 What Being a Kid is All About As if...

1988 You Can't Be a Kid Without It Getting desperate

1990 Jell-O Gelatin's Place is a Kid's Face Rude

1995 It's Alive No, it's really dead cows skins and other offal. But it is pretty.

Maybe some of these will inspire someone. What might the slogans for these years be? I don't know any current ones. Someone ought to be able to translate some protest signs into Jell-O speak.

Whose Jell-O? Our Jell-O!

Banks took the time, we got the slime.

It might be a stretch.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Occupy Jell-O Art

I've been thinking what a big and wide-open theme the Occupy part is: what started at Wall Street has gone literally everywhere. I got the most juice out of a speech by Michael Meade about Occupying Your Soul. It was "Be Here Now" taken to a personal, political contemporary reality.

Free your creativity, your fears (let them melt into a sweet colored puddle), free yourself from the restrictions that tell you that you can't be an artist. Everyone is occupying everywhere...I just heard that the Irish will occupy the Vatican and call all the pedophilic priests and other religious criminals to accountability. Maybe we will soon be free to end religious domination of our culture and it will be up to us to cut the chains that we impose upon ourselves in trying to be good, to make it to heaven, to never sin.

Dessert is sinful, isn't it? Jell-O is so sensually delightful and gorgeous. Free the desserts! Free the dieting people everywhere. Make dessert your art form. Free Jell-O Art and Tacky Food for the taking. Oh yeah, you are supposed to pay $3 for your display but if you can't afford to put your art in the show talk to me and I will make sure you can get it in. You are also supposed to pay a donation to get into the show, to support Kerns Art Center. (Not really both...if you bring an exhibit don't also pay at the door-it's voluntary) If I get the t-shirts made, and I think I will, I have the opportunity to make money at the show. I generally sell so few that I don't even make my expenses, but if I sell them I will donate for you if you can't. I can't really speak for the Radar Angels or the Gallery, but I'm pretty sure it would be wrong for someone to be turned away for lack of $3. It's not supposed to be for the elite.

The beginning of the Jell-O Art Show was as art form that is legitimate in itself, without evaluation of its goodness or badness, taking a common kitchen material and transforming it with pure artistic creativity. Putting it in a gallery elevated it, and us, into the world of real, capital-A Art, and it can't be sold or graded. I know I've broken out of this with the Jell-O Art I've sold at the Market this season, but the show is still pure creation. I think the decision to charge the artists and the public was in the spirit of supporting the gallery overhead and staff, so that they didn't have to do it for free just because we wanted to. There's always going to be a little cognitive dissonance when artists interface with *the establishment.*

But it isn't about money, and to be honest I usually end up giving the shirts away, even though I am worse than broke now that I have these awful medical bills. But since Occupy is a people's movement, I just want to make sure it is accessible to people.

And I want to make sure it is fun and easy. I don't know if I will manage to get a piece finished. I'm trying to get the shirts done and whatever else falls in place after that. But I will brainstorm and work over ideas on the theme while I wait to be mobile, and I hope you are working on your ideas too. If you have questions about technique email me at or read back in the posts to see if you find answers. Or just experiment until you get the results you want. You can remelt it endlessly.

I got a plastic sandwich box at the hospital which will make awesome tiny tents. You could easily carve one from a square block too. You are of course allowed to use props and things that are not Jell-O. And if you can't find a way to interpret the theme or part of it, just do what you want.
Play. Enjoy. Create. Get lost in the flow. Embrace the jiggle. Put your soul into it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Poster!

Indi Stern did a fabulous job on this year's poster. I love the way she pulled up so many related images and made them make sense of the theme. This particular theme takes some creative thinking, since at first take the purported end of the world/Mayan calendar speculation seems fairly unrelated to the nascent political movement umbrellaed under Occupy.

But artists interpret and they often take seemingly unrelated subjects and lead us across bridges between them. So there may likely be many rich interpretations of the theme.

Or not. People may focus on one aspect only. It doesn't matter so much, as in this art show pretty much anything goes. Sticking to the theme is certainly not mandatory; it just provides a starting place for those who need one.

All my Jell-O is now shoved into the project room, out of sight though not out of mind. I just can't do it in the days between now and Thursday when I have surgery, and for the two weeks following the surgery I will have to be extremely careful not to injure myself. The flat sheets worked out sort of well and I might try writing on them instead of printing, since I can't get out into the shop. I could make an illustrated book-of-hours type of thing. That might be quite doable in my current condition.

Another idea is to let some other interested Jell-O artist or artists come over and play. The piece I really want to do is a diorama of the Jell-O Art Museum, and what I don't think I can do is hobble between the two rooms fetching art supplies and managing all the different pieces of it. What I might be able to do is construct the various pieces, but maybe with some help I can get it done in the couple of weeks between surgery and the show.

No Tacky Food for me this year I guess. I can let go of that piece. There is always plenty, and if someone wants to borrow my molds, I have tons of candy molds with which I make the little molded jigglers that are edible. It can be a lot of fun.

T-shirts are iffy, but I can work on a design. I kind of have one in mind. There I have the same problem of having art supplies and stuff in the next room, but I can be organized about that. I had just finished setting up my project room with shelves and got all the various arts accessible: sewing machine, silk painting supplies, paper arts, etc. I've started using baskets with handles to help me ferry things on my little trips to the bathroom and bedroom from the living room...I'm able to navigate fairly well on the crutches using the baskets to carry. So if I convince myself I can do it, I will be able to do it.

Not taking any chances though. I looked at some pictures online of what happens when people don't follow doctors orders regarding pins and plates in their bodies...just like fixing a door or something, if you tear out all the supporting substrate, you will not be able to get a hinge or hook to stay in the will just tear out more until there is nothing left to hold onto. It is a rather sickening image when applied to one's foot, so I WILL stay off my foot and let the bones completely heal. Even if this means missing all of the usual things I do in April, May, June and July, I will. No taking chances. There is way too much at stake.

So. Poster!