Sunday, May 12, 2013

Still Working

I've still been making Jell-O, just not any finished pieces since the porch Jell-O from my video. If you like watching science meet art meet fashion, here is someone else who does what I do, with a very different style.

I wish I had her lab equipment. She apparently uses glycerin and other substances to make the foam stay bubbled...and I love the metallics, which I assume are cake decorating colors.

People have been wearing my Jell-O for several years now. What I am doing is far afield from her mostly foamy pieces. I mostly use the foam for slug lime. I like the glossy surfaces that result from using glass to dry the gelatin on.

Mostly I'm constructing large flowers, of which you have already seen a plethora, in order to decorate a collection of steampunky hats for my son's wedding in July. My entire family is coming from thousands of miles away for the weekend, so I told them rather than trying to bring costumes, they can just choose from my collection. Perhaps some of the hats will make it to next year's Jell-O Show.

I'm also making a big (three feet tall?) Great Blue Heron as part of an arch or something for them to stand near or under during their ceremony. I will just build it around a curvy stick and try to keep it light enough that it can be carried in their procession. Should be no problem. I already have an eagle about that size, and probably both of them will make it to the wedding.

Making big pieces is a little more challenging than small, because they distort more in the drying, but I just use plastic lids from large tubs to pour out the gelatin and shape the pieces. You have to peel it off and flip it over to dry on the other side, several times, so there are lots of chances to ruin it or make it more interesting, depending on your perspective. I generally just make a lot of pieces in the colors I am using (blues, grays and purples in this case) and then assemble them into the desired sculpture.

Hot sunny weather is pretty good for drying Jell-O although there are more pieces of dust and fluff and debris from sitting outside, which could be limited somewhat by letting it dry inside until it has hardened sufficiently to not pick up pieces of wind-blown detritus. In the winter with the heat on, drying is not a problem, but I have also discovered the top of the water heater and the TV as hot spots, and I suppose the top of the refrigerator would be good too if it were not as dusty as mine.

You want the gelatin to dry within maybe 48 hours so it doesn't have a chance to mold. I try to keep it as thin as I can, maybe an eighth of an inch thick, or less. If you don't like the shape it ends up in, remember you can get it wet and in a few minutes it will return to a flexible state, so you can reshape it and try again. You can remelt it in the microwave, too, though not if it has fully hardened.

But go ahead and try whatever you want. Art is nothing if it doesn't include some experimentation at some stage. I like it when I am forced to adapt to what the gelatin wants to do. Except the mold part.

And if you don't feel like reading back for instructions, I use 3 ounces of gelatin per cup of water. You can succeed with a lot less (this would be, I think, 12 envelopes of Knox per cup of water) so you don't have to start with such a dense formula, but my theory is that this is a good level for durability and strength, so your wonderful constructions will be sturdy enough to transport or wear.

I just add procion dyes for color, as I have a lot of them around from dying fabrics. You can use anything that you like for color. You can get creamy colors with added milk, though I try to stay away from foods to keep the ants uninvolved. Cake colorings would work. The little four-pack food colorings are perfect if you don't mind the limited colors, and you could also add Jell-O brand if you like, though it has too many chemicals for me, and I have found that it shortens the life span of the art. Just gelatin and water and as little else as possible is best for saving the pieces without dulling or decomposition.

They do get dusty. I like putting really nice pieces under glass, so now I am collecting large glass containers as well. My house does have a unique look.

Back to flipping pieces. See you with some pictures soon!