Monday, August 8, 2016

Where's the Jell-O?

Serving up a huge slug
Sorry I have been so lax about writing here while I give out card after card sending people here to read things...I have another blog, a more personal one, where I write much more frequently. If you are interested in other aspects of my life, go there. You never know what the subject will be: often Saturday Market or local politics, Oregon Country Fair, or some drama or other. I like to process emotions by writing and often work out what I really think or feel in the course of writing the post. Here I thought I would mostly focus on Jell-O Art, and work.

Jell-O Art is so highly concentrated in the months of January through April that sometimes I really lose my taste for it the rest of the year. I took some to OCF but as it was rainy every day I didn't even open the tubs to wear any. This week, though, I will be taking it out and putting some selected pieces to work for the annual Slug Queen Coronation at which I appear as that other Queen, the Queen of Jell-O Art.

The event is this Friday evening, August 12, and the dedicated crowd will show up ready to be delighted. Apparently we will have a canine contestant for the first time, so we are all curious to see how that plays out. He may be fairly talented, but that question with the complicated answer might not work for him. We shall see. There will also be the full range of talented and wacky-ish human contestants. This year you can even try for a chance to be a "Celebrity" Judge by putting your name in a hat. I've been one, and found it highly entertaining in a different way. I would actually prefer not to vote...I like everyone to win. But obviously we need a single Queen...except maybe we don't. A set of identical twins would be a cool wrinkle on it...they wouldn't even have to be conjoined, just confident and sufficiently confusing.

This event is one of the most pure fun ones we have here, so no wonder it has survived the Eugene Celebration, the parade, the Mayor's Art Show, the Festival of Eugene, and most of the other related Eugene celebratory notions. The Queens serve for life as Old Queens, and just won't go away. They often make new outfits for each show, get to perform if they want on their 10th and 20th year anniversaries, and show up at randomly chosen events throughout the year. They serve an important local purpose and so do I, so I will show up and do my usual service. I like to go early and help the First Lady-in-Waiting, Kim, put up the decorations and get the place ready and reserve myself some seats for me and my entourage, such as it is. I don't require a lot of minions but it's nice to have a few at the ready.

At the Jell-O Art Show, 2016
Our Radar Angel Queen #2, Markalo Parkalo (Your Queen and Mine) will end his year of glory and sing a song. I'm sad to not be in his back-up band but I have a meeting the night of the rehearsal and am too far out of the loop to get back in there. The Radars are now a fairly large group at Fair and as I have zero time there to play with them, I have to restrict my Angel stuff to the Jell-O Art Show in April, for the most part. But this Friday I get to put on some lipstick (I have to) and something smart and flouncy. And of course I will wear Jell-O on my head, because I can.

So look for me there, and we will have some fun for a few hours. I bug out early to get to bed for Market the next day, but if you want to touch my Jell-O you can. Probably you don't want to sit behind me unless you don't mind looking through layers of dried gelatin. I'm not tall but I like to keep my hat on. Those in the know come early and bring a chair, as the red ones fill up quickly. Will I make new Jell-O? I just might. None of mine really looks that spectacular to me anymore. I have just enough time if the sun comes out.




Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Jell-O Art Show Review

My piece
It's hard to explain just how satisfying the Jell-O Art Show is for me. It's the beginning of my art year, and I work on it for a full three months, the offseason of my retail Saturday Market experience, with them both opening at the same time, April Fool's (roughly). It's sad when it's exactly the same day, because Jell-O takes precedence, so I miss out on the equally exciting Opening Day, but there will be 32 other Saturdays and only one Jell-O Art Show. A lot is packed into that day.

Jell-O Go Boom! by Radar Active


David's corner
Making something from nothing is probably the activity that gives my life the most meaning. Just the art alone, trying to interpret the theme or explore some technique gives me pleasure. Since my coronation, I have also loaded myself up with royal duties such as greeting each artist, showing interest in their piece, and taking their photo with it whenever possible. Since I have no staff this can get hard, but for the hour and a half pre-show I try to greet everyone. Many return each year but we always have some very interesting artists who are showing for the first time. Sometimes they take it seriously, but sometimes they are into the silliness, and often they take the opportunity to make an environmental or political statement. Many do it for time with their kids, to encourage a lightheartedness about art-making. Many drag their kids along and I always try to engage with them so they get how easy it is to enter. Whenever anyone tries to talk about "winners" or "Best of Show" I try to quickly remind them that there is no good or bad Jell-O Art, and that the art and the artists must be taken on their own terms. There is no critical structure, just participation. And the audience is an important part of that, of course, so I try to be as appreciative and generous with the patrons as I can be.

Jell-O Experts
Trying to make all the performing parts happen on time is hard and I do have to engineer my own costume changes and all that too. I even wear make-up, as much as I hate it. Glamour takes work. Again, though, the audience makes this satisfying. I took a photo of them when I got on stage, to remind myself that there is a symmetry between them and what happens on stage. We make something out of nothing up there, but without the willing participation of the fans, there wouldn't be much point in it. I go through a little sadness each year, as it seems like such a huge, explosively creative endeavor, yet none of my family and few of my friends (outside the Jell-O circle) have any idea it is even going on, much less how much effort is going into it. That's just life though, all of the huge things we each do and think are important, that get little general notice in the clamor of messy public life. Oh well. I can live with the ephemeral nature of it all. That's part of the charm of Jell-O. There isn't much substance, it's mostly glamour, but there's a vast lot of metaphor in there, and authenticity, at least when we get finished with it.
Mobile by Ren and Joanna

Not Tacky at all


There were two big hits in the show, this mobile by Ren and Joanna, and the Christmas Corner by David Gibbs. Ren and Joanna, Radar Angels, entered their dried gelatin for the first time and really landed on the art side of the equation, and said they'll be back. Even though they had a price tag on their piece, they were glad to get to keep it. Joanna also dressed most appropriately and brought this awe-inspiring and hardly Tacky Food. The table was quite loaded. I ate a few olives from Holly's dish but did not try the Unicorn Poop. I did eat a slice of the gorgeous blueberry Vegan Wave which was made from agar-agar, but I was too nervous to eat much before the performance.

David was knighted for his 20th year of participation and several of his photos showed previous pieces. He claims to already have an idea for his next year's piece. Julie and Doug and their friends (names forgotten, sorry) came back after a year off and dressed the whole family as usual. Maile was our youngest (perhaps) with this great piece and Marion may have been our oldest with her miniature explorations. She had a blast taking lots of photos. She said last year the Jell-O was not exciting so I hope she liked it more this year. Apparently she used cabbage leaves to make at least one of her teensy pieces.

Angela may have come the farthest (from Seattle) and Annemarie brought a piece that she made for the performance last year, sliced, and dried in the food dryer...that was a new technique. The layers made a frilly hat that I wish I had gotten a close-up of too.

Might have to write another to include more of what was great. Might be another year when Jell-O Art just doesn't stop. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Best Tsunami Ever


I think that's what I'm naming my piece. I might think of something more serious that better fits the simplicity and elegance of the sculpture though. Today I took it outside and fussed with it a little, but it was really finished so I simply dusted it off and put it in a tub to take to the pr
e-show tomorrow night. We have dress and tech rehearsal so I'll use the opportunity to get my carload of stuff over to the gallery. Besides the sculpture I have a big tub full of fascinators, a box of props, a pile of hats and wearable Jell-O for my characters in the stage show, a table, tablecloths, and a bunch of things like tape, hammer and nails, and display pieces for my Jell-O to sit on. It's a big pile, so I wanted to get it all organized today.

This great hot weather was perfect for drying Jell-O outside (and laundry too) so I made three little roses on sticks just to round out my offerings in case people want to buy things but not wear them. I still love the shirts which is a good sign. Often I'm disappointed in them and sometimes they don't sell, but I think the laughing Einstein will be a winner. People might not recognize the image of the gravitational waves but they soon will. This interpretation is pretty far from the ones I found online, but all the nerds will get it. Most Jell-O artists have nerdy tendencies. Most Eugenians have nerdy tendencies for that matter.

A couple of people had technical questions about the dried gelatin this year (including someone eating lunch outside the Kiva today when I put up a poster) so I thought I'd take this opportunity to write about my piece instead of waiting for Sunday. Thinking to explore the liquid properties, I poured my gelatin out on big tub lids and let it flow around, tipping and shaking the lid to see what the molten goo would do. When it stopped moving I let it dry on top, then peeled it off, flipped it, and laid it over some glass jugs and jars I put on their sides atop the entertainment center. That let it sag and curve and I made about ten pieces of various watery colors like that. Some curled more than others, and some I curled on purpose. Then when I thought I had enough I simply stacked them up and made them look like waves lapping over each other kind of like the surf does when it runs up the last stretch of beach before it all sinks into the sand or back down into the sea. One trick I used was to get pieces of it wet, usually by brushing it with a bit of water, to bend it and shape it when it would crack if I tried to do it dry. This takes restraint, as it will certainly fall apart and melt and stick to everything, including your fingers, but I'm careful and usually get the results I want. I still enjoy it when it does something on its own without my help. Randomness in art is very appealing to me.

My wave isn't completely realistic, of course, but it all fit together quite naturally and I barely modified anything. I glued it together between the layers in a few spots but mostly just let it sit, feeling like it might not be a permanent piece so it didn't matter to me if it stayed together in any particular way. I'm really running out of space to store this stuff so I have to start recycling it into other pieces or letting it go to the compost pile. I'm a bit less attached to some of it as I age. Some of the earlier stuff looks quite crude in technique and hardly worth dusting off, and really, I say it should go into the Smithsonian but the chances of that are pretty darn slim and meanwhile I could use my project room for actual projects. As I learned from my one year of trying to be a famous Jell-O artist, it takes rather constant promotion to keep oneself up in the googleverse and trying to get into a museum would involve much more serious promotion than I am willing to do. Everything takes time, and I'd much rather spend more time out in nature than on the internet or writing letters and making phone calls.

We'll see how much of my collection I do let go, but you never know. People change. I don't really want to continue to accumulate worthless stuff, making a nasty chore for someone if I leave unexpectedly. My Mom set such a good example recently of selling her house and almost all of her stuff, and hers was actually worth something, so there was a reward in selling it. Mine will merely involve a large dumpster or several trips to the dump, plus a giant free pile. Maybe it would be fun to put some of the Jell-O outside in a rainstorm and watch it turn back into mush and get eaten by slugs. Might get the chance on Sunday.

Sunday my plan is to do as close to nothing as possible, though. I know I'll be exhausted. It's hard to explain how much work is involved in producing this event, which is literally the focus of three months of my life. From helping write and stage and practice the performance to putting up posters and sending out PSAs, we all participate and do as much as we have time for to make it happen. I'm skipping Opening Day of Saturday Market for it, kind of a blow to my income for the month but if the shirts sell that will help make up for that. I'll miss my Market people but there will be another Saturday right around the corner. This year we have some excellent musicians working with us, so the musicianship is a few steps up from amateur. It's not all the way to professional, with the exception of a very few, but they have pushed us into some pretty fine shapes. I think you'll really get a kick out of this show. We won't hurt anyone's feelings, it's all fun and games, and it's uplifting without any kind of moral message whatsoever. Just ridiculousness. Simple hilarity. Joyous cleverness. Harmony, beauty, and one bit of smelly history that will only amuse. You know you want to be there. There won't be a repeat performance...it's just once. Twenty-some minutes, and then it will be Jell-O Show history.

And this year we get a double hit of the Slug Queen, Markalo Parkalo, Your Queen and Mine. That will likely not happen again. There is one surprise I can not even give a hint about, plus I invited the Mayor. I'm guessing she'll come, though I told her if she got the chance to take a vacation instead, she should.

It's the day after tomorrow!! I'm all full of anxiety and excitement and trying to remind myself to savor it and enjoy the heck out of every moment. You should too. On April 3rd, it will all be memories. And leftovers.




Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Shirts! And Stuff.

We will have t-shirts. It was super hard this year, because I keep forgetting how old I am and how hard screenprinting is getting. I got too ambitious. This is a three-color waterbase, and it is wide, way wide. I don't even have a squeegee wide enough anymore. Printing waterbase has to go quickly, because the ink dries in the screens, so I knocked myself out but I did make it through and turned the screens upside down for a few tote bags too. I was worried about the black printing over the colors but I used the flash to dry them and all four platens so I got great results with that. I guess my main problem was that I had to use my poor body in ways it has not been used for several months, and it wasn't happy about it. Guess I'll go back to printing one and two color only and stop trying to make pearls to set on the table for cheap.

You can only get these shirts at the show, and they are traditionally only ten bucks because it makes no sense to have a bunch left over. I don't mind giving some away, except that I worked so hard I don't think I should. I think I'll give out some half-price coupons maybe. Really ten dollars is a ridiculous price for a shirt of any kind, much less one like this, so maybe I'll just grin when people ask about shirts for free. I thought about saying, "Do you know how insulting that is?" but that would just be mean. I'm the one who gave so many away that people got the idea that they should get one for free.

So that's done, and all the props are done too. I didn't make many this year, and had help with those. Jacque made the cool horses and Annemarie made a bunch of bright surfboards and other accessories that will look fantastic on stage. We are bringing some palm trees out of storage. Mostly we won't have many props because the stage is so full of people. That's fine with me. I still haven't gotten my taxes done, so there was no way I could have put the time in on set pieces that I did last year.


I missed that time, though, always a lot of fun for me. I love creating illusions out of cheap posterboard and markers. I thought last year's props were outstanding and really set the scenes, but they weren't exactly necessary. They just create the layers of meaning and visual richness that I love and I particularly love the funky way we get to do it for the Jell-O Show. It's supposed to look homemade. That's part of the charm.

I do kind of wish for the shirts that I had added this one more layer of detail that I left out, the warped grid that made the gravitational waves look more 3-D. It would have made the printing even harder and probably would have meant making extra screens to try to get all the detail in. I briefly thought of adding some handpainted detail like I did last year, but I won't. They're done. I have actual paid work I am supposed to do this week. Today I can't, because my days of fulltime printing are over, but tomorrow I must. At least some of it. And then more practicing, and then comes Saturday, and tra la la! See you at the Gallery!

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Week to Go!

Finally taking a break from practicing to write! Thought I'd check and see if my video is still online, and it is!
Jell-O Video Go watch it so it will stay popular enough to keep out of the internet dump.

We got good pre-show publicity yesterday, with little articles in both the Eugene Weekly and the Register Guard. These were for the call to artists, and as always I hope next week isn't too busy so they decide to feature the event too. If you're on Facebook we do have an event page, and there are lots of things posted on my own Facebook page, Gelatinaceae too. In addition, the Radar Angels have a Facebook page. So plenty of places to make your likes and comments and get the jiggle-giggles. I expect Mr. David Gibbs will continue to post lots of things as he does Instagram and who knows what, and he's just a little bit excited about his 20th year. Here's a cool photo he posted today that I had to steal.


I'm excited about it too, and it got me wondering how many others can claim longevity as Jell-O artists. I know a couple but not how many years, so if you are one of those people let me know so I can make a good list. It's worth recording these things for the archives. I actually do have a Jell-O Art Museum, and plan to donate it to the Smithsonian someday when I am finished with it. You know they'll want it. 

And I suppose there could be a book. I have a few books on my list to write someday when I give up all of my busywork. I've given up writing the story of the Radar Angels, as it isn't believable and I don't remember it accurately either. Plus I was hanging in the wings most of the time because I am not a person who loves group activities. I sure have been doing a lot of them, though.

The performers have been practicing twice a week, long, chaotic practices that are just beginning to really be enjoyable. It's always fun to sing, but trying to get everyone to do what they are supposed to when they are supposed to is pretty tough in such a wild creative group. We crack ourselves up with the wild lines and moves we throw in just to be silly, though when we get on stage in a week we will be terribly serious. As you know if you have ever watched a show.

Costumes are one of the most fun parts and I have some great ones lined up for myself. I will be wearing St. Vincent de Paul and topping my outfits off with Jell-O, as per usual. I got some great shoes which got me really thrilled. They were on sale but are actually expensive shoes marked way down, and very comfortable. I really must wear good shoes now, even for a few hours. I won't be in heels although to give you a hint about my character, she always wears heels. In fact she has to as her feet are permanently molded into the provocative heels-raised position that throws your bottom into a come-hither shape and kills your back. So yeah, mine are properly called mules. I will wear a couple of aprons and some gloves, cat-eye sunglasses, the usual Radar Angels Jell-O Show outfits. That's just a bit of what I will have to put together for my several roles. I get to be the Queen and an artist and the hostess and at least two great stage roles, and that's just me. It will be a legendary stage show. The music and dancing are the best ever! You'll love the premise, too, it's just hilarious. People will be talking about it, so you'll want to see it for yourself.

There will be t-shirts, which reminds me that making the design was supposed to be at the top of my list today. I needed some time off. It's just as important to do this, to my mind. This will be a super busy week, and I wouldn't want to miss writing about it. And now, because you read to the end, I will show you a preview of my piece. It doesn't look as good on my back porch as it will in the gallery, but I like it. Kind of simple for a change.
It's big, about 30 inches across and half as high. I don't know if I'll do anything more to it or not. I made a lot of Jell-O, so I'm a little tired of it, and I still have to make the Tacky Food at the end of next week if I have time. Guess we'll see. So if you don't hear much from me, come to the show, as you will have to see things in person for yourself. I know if you are one of my Saturday Market family and friends, you can't come, and of course my heart is broken because I can't sell on Opening Day, but we'll be together the second week of April and that will have to do. We have the whole year. Jell-O is only now, and then it's gone. Except for the museum, of course.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Wavy Waves

As exploration for my own interpretation of Jell-O Waves I decided to go with seeing what it did in liquid form. I poured out my usual recipe of aqua and green gelatin on big tub lids, the ones that are 4 ft. or even 5 ft. long. (I have a lot of plastic tubs on hand.) After I poured it on, I moved the lid around to let the gelatin flow as it cooled, seeing if I could get some permanent folds and ripples and other liquid forms in the dried form.

It has worked really well, so I made quite a few in several watery shades, and my plan is to glue them together and make a big wave, hopefully cresting or breaking in a fairly realistic way. For now I just have the shapes as they dried, but I plan to wet some of them in places to curve them or nestle them so the colors will add up to new colors as the pieces meld.

Hard to photograph, hard to imagine, but easy to do.
The one shown is about four feet long and is now an element in a different sculpture, but you can see how they look after pouring out several layers of gelatin. The thickness determines the color and that is interesting as well.

When they have dried enough for the edges to lift off, about eight hours or so, I peel them off carefully and flip the pieces over onto a series of glass jugs laid on their sides, or in other words, an undulating glass surface. That lets the wave pieces dip and swell and get out of a flat plane. The results of that part have been very satisfying. The edges curl and scallop themselves much like the leaf and flower pieces do, but on a bigger scale. A couple of the pieces will make super elegant wave hats, perhaps.

Next I have to come up with a t-shirt design concept. I found the lettering I want to use, but the graphic is still elusive. I like to let my visual mind ruminate over the course of a few weeks to see what I run into, think about, or decide works for me in the format I want to use. I prefer to make handmade art for the shirts, and do it the old-school way of taking a drawing to screens to prints with nothing more than a copy machine and my skills. It sounds hard but I've done it so many times it's more fun than work. I'm trying to hold onto that attitude as much as possible with the Jell-O Art Show. Make some fun!

Oh, and here is the poster! Big thanks to Jacque Klas for great design!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Jell-O Art Workshop

So many people have asked me to hold a workshop on Jell-O Art. While there are of course techniques that can be taught, the whole idea of making it a formal art process that is (I assume) paid for is a weird concept for me. When we started the show, the concept was that it was almost anti-art in that it did not hinge itself on the formal art world, with the earned credentials of a degree in one's medium, a critical structure for evaluation, an exclusive world of exhibition and invitations to jury, and so on. We threw all of that out. You make it, put it on a pedestal in a gallery, and it is Art. The creative process makes it so.

You go to your kitchen, put on an apron, and take a commonly found foodstuff and start to play with it, going outside the instructions on the box. Jell-O was an exciting choice because of its properties of transparency and color, unlike say, spam, which is so unappetizing. It was a bit of luck that the world of gelatin art was unexplored for the most part, and that we did have many real artists in the group who were well practiced at exploration. Over the 28 years the number of innovative techniques and projects has been terrifically satisfying.

People tried using the original recipe at first, but soon discovered that it was really hard to do anything interesting with the soupy, temperature-sensitive stuff. It took too long to put everything in the refrigerator and was confining, so someone put in some extra gelatin and discovered that the firmer substance was easier to mold, to carve, and to manipulate. It quickly came out of the containers and stood alone on the plate in glorious testaments to every possible artistic subject and concept. Opinions differ about the use of sugar in it. Some think it adds strength. For me it added ants, so I quickly went to plain, pure gelatin.

Okay, not every possible subject and concept. Each year someone comes with something that has never been tried, or never been successful, (or has been forgotten.) It has made lampshades and windows, clothing and hats, has been illuminated and embedded with everything from Barbie heads to precious jewels. Some artists just continued to push the boundaries to more and more exciting techniques. Gelatin has appeared in every state from the powder to the gas (okay, maybe not the gas.. that can be your challenge this year.)

The wet form can be jiggly or not, depending on the amount of water you add. If you are just starting and want to work with the Royal or Jell-O Brand boxes, that is probably the most accessible form as you get color, flavor, and sweetness and you can eat your mistakes if you are so inclined. Do mix it with cold water first, because there is a good reason for that...the gelatin has to absorb water and "bloom" to properly gel without lumps and graininess. If you want to make the equivalent of Jigglers, for eating purposes, use those directions, which are really just less water...you can get any thickness you like, up to a gummy-bear kind of chewiness. For the Tacky Food table I often make versions of this using candy molds for the shapes, or other plastic containers that make interesting molds. That can be step one of your exploration.

You may be getting the point that I am not going to lead a Jell-O Workshop. The whole nature of the show and the art exploration is that it is so accessible that you can do it at any age and with any so-called level of talent...anyone can make Jell-O! Be brave.

So once you try the molded versions and execute your plans, try something else. I love the dried for so many reasons. This is just thickly mixed gelatin that is air-dried. I use pure gelatin because I don't need the flavors, sugar, and other chemicals for the kind of things I make, as they are not edible (technically they are but since I don't use a certified kitchen and the dyes are toxic, they aren't). Gelatin is a food product. I buy it in bulk online as the formula I use is 3 ozs dry gelatin to one cup of water. That is probably thicker than it needs to be but I settled on that and don't really vary it much as it works well. If you are trying to use the little envelopes of Knox you will bankrupt yourself if you make much of it. I think those packets hold about one-fourth of an ounce...you'll need many packages and they have gotten expensive. I buy ten pounds online for about $10 a pound. It's heavy. If enough people wanted it maybe we could get a local wholesaler to carry it.
Tacky Food



I mix the powder in a quart-size canning jar (you don't want broken jars of hot gelatin), making two cups at a time. I let it bloom and then melt it in the microwave for a minute to three. You don't want it to boil. Let it cool a little, until it is clear, and then skim off the foam. I spread out the foam and keep it for sculptures, since it is nice and white. I then divide the melted gelatin into smaller jars and add dye (you can use anything to color it) and then pour it into pans, dishes, bowls; whatever containers you have available will work. I have a dedicated set of glass pie plates because I have found that the dried stuff is so strong it can take little chunks and shards right out of the pyrex, so the dishes will not be safe to use for food. I also use plastic containers of many kinds, and if I am working big, I use the lids of storage tubs. It's nice if the forms are flexible so you can pop the stuff out, but there are still ways to get the material off the surface if the forms are rigid. I have a demo here: KEZI video

Really tacky food. 
I pour it very thin, less than 1/8th inch. Thicker can dry, but it can get moldy, which means you have to throw it out. I let it dry for maybe eight hours, or longer, and then it is easy to pry out of the pans, or may detach itself. Sometimes the dry edges are too thin to detach but I find if I make a hole in the still-wettish parts and pry from there, I can sometimes get the whole piece to let loose. I have heard of using mold-releasing substances like oil but I don't find that to be necessary. If you really can't get it off the glass you can get it wet and start again. You will have to experiment! That is the point of art-making: the process of exploring your medium to express yourself. Get messy!

Screenprinting on flat sheet
I use the gelatin shapes and sheets much like paper to make flowers, birds, or other desired objects. I use some of the molten gelatin for glue. I either drip it onto the surfaces and set them down, or often hold them together for about a minute to 90 seconds until the gelatin firms up. If you let go too soon it will sometimes break up into chunks which are not sticky enough anymore and will need to be removed or remelted. You can clip the pieces with a clamp like a clothespin or put a weight on top, but everything you do will leave an impression in the gelatin. I leave a lot of fingerprints. Sometimes I use a wet brush to smooth the surfaces and remove the imperfections but often I enjoy the character and accidents that happen.

Accidental effects are one of the most fun aspects of the medium. You can't always make it do what you want. When it dries it tends to curl up and make shapes according to, I guess, the variances in thickness and drying time. I use that to my advantage in making petal and leaf shapes, laying the pieces over the edge of a pie plate or pulling and stretching the stuff as it dries. You have to tend it and flip it over every six to eight hours, or even more frequently, to keep it drying on both sides. You need a warm dry room for best results. My heating bills go up in Jell-O season for sure. I always have pans and bowls on top of my piano and over the TV, and on every high shelf.

Unknown brilliant artist. All the food is Jell-O. 
I've repeated these tutorials many times in this blog so if you are really interested, look at some of the older posts for more ideas and examples of what you can do. For the wearable flowers, I just attach a stretch headband to a flat part that will be comfortable on your head, using the molten gelatin as glue. I apply a few layers. If you let it cool some before you use it it gets thicker and easier to manipulate and won't just run off and make drips on your beautiful piece that you will have to remove or learn to love. If you do it at the right time it is easy to remove, and you will learn this by trying.

Big Slug
Learn to do this! It is not hard. Other people have tried lots of things as well as me. You can whip it to foam, you can layer colors and blend the dyes right in the dish for swirly effects. You can cut tiny pieces out and fill the spaces with other colors to make the intricate pieces like the fractals. You can fill a straw and make it look like maple syrup pouring out of the bottle. I've made flat sheets and printed on them, and you can write on them or paint them too. You can use props. You can do anything you want to try. You do not need me to lead you. It is supposed to be fun! Have some fun with it.





Cut and fill. Put the pattern underneath.

You can't always get what you want.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Jell-O Art Show T-Shirts

There has been a distinct lack of motivation pervading my workshop this winter, a carryover from last summer and fall when I had to force myself to work, and only because I had customers depending on me. For myself, I'd like to put screenprinting into the "if and when I feel like it" category. I've just spent too many years doing it. Once I get going, I can finish the jobs that are the most pressing, but others get set aside and intentions go astray. I guess that is why they invented retirement. My body is also worn out from it, and sooner or later it has to end for real.

But there is a grand history of t-shirt production for the Jell-O Art Show and that job will probably stay on my list for as long as the Jell-O Show does. They started with the second or third show and my ex-partner Mike did the first one, a direct take on a Jell-O box, just black on white with red lettering for the word Jell-O. The second one, I did, but it was much like the first, just adding the word "Rama" and there may have been a short gap while we restructured our partnership. I had John in 1990 so I think 1994 was the first year I really did a shirt. As part of this piece, the first incarnation of the Jell-O Art Museum in 2009, I made posters of the shirts and added a third a few years later. The items on the wall fit into that box, and lots of dried gelatin was glued to the posters. It's up in the attic waiting for that call from the Smithsonian.

So in answer to your question, yes, of course, there will be t-shirts this year. Limited edition, with a few old ones still left over for cheap. Thinking vaguely of images that will fit the theme, Jell-O Waves, or will refer to some aspect of the performance. Or maybe not refer to anything, but just be an image I feel like putting on a shirt. The beauty of the task, and the reason why I am sure I will still do it, is that I get to do anything I want. No one gives me any limits whatsoever on the shirt project, and it's all at my expense, so if they don't sell, that doesn't really bother me. I like to outfit the Angels and the Jell-O Artists and every year I say nobody will get one for free but then give most of them away. The group is really large now, though, so I hope I will ask people to at least pay the shirt cost. Sometimes people don't value what they get for free, and as you can see from this evidence, these shirts are cool and if you have one, you have cool credentials like only a few people get.
 As you can see I have often recycled pieces of the art and some years I get really fancy with the inks. The photo in the center is the 1999 one, worn as performance art as my piece was a Jell-O molded right on my head, which was very successful. I got the idea from the Supremes. The shirt just said "Are you ready for Y2J?"

1995 was probably the most beloved and the screens are ruined or I'd be tempted to reprint it. I love Jell-O Soul a lot and also the Jell-O Wranglin,' but there have been a few duds. The disco one with Donna Summer on a plate with a lettuce skirt was not so great but it did get printed on orange shirts which made it a keeper for those lucky people. Mostly they have been on white and lots of people refuse to wear white. People took the too-sexy Jell-O Fever one reluctantly but it is one of the most ambitious ones in technique, so I love it, though rarely wear it. My Planet Jell-O one is ruined with paint so if you have one you don't want anymore, I'll take it. Never give these shirts to the Goodwill, by the way. I will take them, and maybe even give you money for them, so that my collection will be complete. The cleaner the better. I collect all things Jell-O, of course, so think of me. I seriously do have a Museum of Jell-O Art, which takes up half the attic and half the project room, and someday I will retire and just live to maintain the collection and show it by appointment. Old recipe books and graphics are most welcome. I have a few, but you know how collectors are.

 Though white gets frowns, people do seem to like pink. This year I had probably better choose some watery color. There are, at present, so many interpretations of waves that I have no idea which one I will settle on. As you can see we did Airwaves in 1998 and I used an old radio graphic, so that's out. I was a big Beach Boys fan back in the day, even stood on my chair and screamed and stood by the exit to touch Denny's hair. Poor boys. I was probably thirteen or so, and that is probably the most music crazy I ever got. I bought half of Meet the Beatles (wish I had it now) but I don't think I saw the Beatles. I saw the Stones with an inch-high Mick Jagger in Philadelphia, but I truly did love the Beach Boys and they were all up in my junior high and even high school romance fantasies. So yeah, maybe them. Waving.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jell-O Studio

The studio is open.I resisted but now my kitchen and living room are committed.


Pretty simple. I use the formula of 6 dry ounces of gelatin in two cups of cold water. Let it bloom for ten to fifteen minutes and then melt it in the microwave (mine takes about 3 minutes, but go slowly as you do not want it to boil.) Skim off the foam, pour into smaller jars, add dye, spread thin and let dry.  If you are going for jiggle and not making the dried gelatin I like so much, you will not need to concentrate it so thick. The regular Knox packets are something like a quarter ounce each and seem to get smaller every time I buy them. Buying in bulk is definitely the way to go if you want to really explore the medium, but if you are just wanting to play with the actual Jell-O brand, just follow the Jigglers recipe, maybe making it a bit stiffer if you don't want to refrigerate it. I've found you can get it so you can pry it out of the molds without breaking, but it's a bit chewy if you plan to serve it. These instructions are just for the dried kind.



Every eight to twelve hours flip it over or form it into whatever pieces you are planning to use. It will stretch, fold, and do any number of magical things if you want it to, and sometimes if you don't. I have a set of dishes I reserve for non-food use, as the really dry gelatin is incredibly tough and has taken chips and shards right out of the Pyrex, making it dangerous to eat out of.

If it gets too dry, get it wet and wait a minute or two, then it will become flexible and can be manipulated like paper to make flowers or whatever you envision. You can remelt it many times, as well.

It can get moldy, so dry it as quickly as you can in a warm location such as atop the furniture in a heated room. Glue pieces together with molten gelatin.

Photographs really don't show the shapes and nuances of the floral pieces but they always look very beautiful as you turn them and view them from different angles, as the light plays through the colors and combinations.

Certainly you can make more things than flowers. I may make a bird series this year if I can get myself to stop rolling roses and lilies. I may never get tired of making magical botanicals, but have made life-size birds and many other items, including a couple of pairs of wearable wings and lots and lots of fascinators. Store it in a container if you don't want to dust it all the time.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Jell-O Waves

Yes! We have a title and theme for the 2016 Jell-O Art Show. It took us two brainstorms to get there, with a lot of discarded ideas which had their great aspects. The synergy of putting ten to twenty creative people in a room and telling them to open their minds is stunning to experience. I was trying to take notes and I could not follow the bursts of laughter, the outrageous images being described, and the wild synapses that crackled
as we all tried to connect Jell-O Art with what is trendy, what is funny, and what will foster a good art show and performance.

Jell-O Art is unique in the balance between the serious and the ridiculous. When you take such an awkward medium and try to shape it and express a concept with it, you depend on happy accidents and discover what you love about it as you go. The transparency and color is obviously what attracts me, with the way the colors can work together and create new ones in a shifting display from every angle. The performance is kind of like that...it happens and envelops spontaneity with careful planning and a desired outcome, but unknown results. Any joke can fall flat or be rendered not funny by April. Using the militia (Jellitia) and the birders fell right off the list this week and it's unlikely that we will land on anything political, especially locally, for the same reason. It would be a shame to polish a skit and learn music and moves to have it be really in bad taste on April 2nd. So the show theme has to be broad in scope in the beginning, and gradually narrow as we all choose our parts and refine our characters and actors' business.

Any sculpture can slide off the plate and become a mess on the way over the railroad tracks to MKAC. It felt almost like cheating when I settled into the dried gelatin because it is so much more stable and long-lasting, but after so many years I've gotten over that. I've been able to do so many more things with it that I don't really miss the jiggle. And as an old angel, I've gotten over the need for glamour and prefer the intellectual aspects of the performance. Not that I am a seasoned performer. Even though I am a Radar Angel and Jell-O Artist from the beginning, I only really started being part of that wing of the Angels in 2013, so I am still a newbie and somewhat in awe of the process. But I do want the jokes to be clever so I try to keep stimulating everyone to think of silly things, which they all seem quite good at and did for years without me. Okay, really I just try to keep up.

It's truly collaborative and run by consensus and that helps. Everybody gets to choose their characters, costumes, write their own lines, and find their own way to fit into the mix. That can be hard, but if you can tolerate the chaotic part in the middle, that kind of divergent thinking can certainly converge into something wonderfully together. You may not agree from the viewpoint of an audience member. You can go to the Radar Angels Facebook page and view the video of last year's performance to see for yourself what was successful and what was not. Like the page while you're there, please. Keep in mind that most of us are enthusiastic amateurs and it's rare that we have professional talent, though we generally do have some. Everyone has their strengths and as an ensemble it is both supportive and challenging. I wauv it so much.

So we settled on Waves with a list of possible interpretations and thought it would be conducive to lots of possible sculpture ideas, from the obvious water ones, through tsunamis to ripples, and of course waves travel through sound and air and other areas of science. Sine waves, ultraviolet waves, standing waves, and so on will work, not to forget permanent waves and 40's Navy women. If you want something really amusing, go read urban dictionary and see what else is in the culture. There's plenty to draw from. I have a lot of faith in the Jell-O Artists who continually delight me with the myriad ways they can bring fresh ideas and techniques each year. I know we will get some great pieces and you will want to come and see them as well.

As for the performance, for it to be the maximum fun it has to stay secret. If you read previous blogs you know I can't help giving hints and I will no doubt reward you with that this year in some form. I will tell you now that because we have the present Slug Queen, Markalo Parkalo, Your Queen and Mine, in our group, he will be appearing in lots of ways and you will want to see them for yourself. I don't feel that my position as Queen of Jell-O Art is threatened by this in any way, in fact, I am still taking lessons on Queenliness so hope to gain some skills, even if just in waving practice. You never know when you will be asked to appear in a parade (it could happen) so I need to make sure my wrists are flexible enough and my fascinators are dusted.

So you can start thinking now about your piece. I am going to order more gelatin as I'm on my last four pound bag. I'm not inspired yet, having been doing a lot of meeting stuff and thinking about really dry and political and academic topics, but this weekend I plan to sweep the papers off the table and get some pie plates filled with color. I don't really need to have a concept at this early stage. Just starting to play will stimulate me to think that way, to step into the flow and let it carry me. I'ma gonna wave, and if it doesn't feel like a wavegasm yet, I'll just wave it off as a Wavavirus and catch the next one. Surf's up!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Jell-O Art Doings


Piece I donated to the permanent collection
I've gotten over my bitterness about Eugene developments and no longer want to lance anyone in the show, which is good because we will definitely not have those emotions in those short three hours, which are all about colorful fun and sweet indulgences. The Radar Angels met for the first brainstorm session and got very close to deciding the theme and rough outline for the performance part. You'll hear it here as soon as we actually agree on something.

The trick with the theme is to choose a word or phrase broad enough to inspire lots of interpretations in Jell-O Art, but also something cute and funny and memorable and pronounceable and also something that hasn't been used before. We got some great ideas and lots of fairly good ones, and as always a few we will not choose in any year most likely. (cough cough Fifty Shades of Jell-O) There are some things that won't be funny, like Bill Cosby. Fortunately he was included in an earlier performance, back when he was still loveable, so we can ignore him now. Nobody ate pudding pops anyway.

Kesey may or may not appear. He's in the news now and in fact today's paper showed a giant mural of him as part of a projected development on what is called Kesey Plaza, which made me laugh. To those who met him and know Pranksters, he was not quite the hero that outsiders think. He's respected, but we have stories...I'd love to tell them and will someday, but the Jell-O Show is not the place for it. That battle for the space is heating up and will be fought politely at the City Council but while I oppose the development, I'm not at all sure it isn't already a done deal. Another blog in another place, though. It would still be fun to have him appear in some form and we might just do that.

I did start making Jell-O and thinking about my piece and writing down crazy ideas in preparation. I've resisted going full-on which means taking over the livingroom with art, but it will happen soon. Reminds me my sewing machine needs a tune-up too. We're having a little harmony workshop today to elevate our singing skills and learn a little about singing in a group. It's a challenge sometimes to find angels who can sing, dance, dress up, and still do art as well. I'll keep leaning on these new people to try making some Jell-O. To me it can't be separated from acting in the show...but then again, I've been making the Jell-O far longer than participating in the performance.
Prop from 2015's performance

So quickly, in case you are new to Jell-O Art, it's a three hour show, April 2, from 5-8 pm. Entering is simple, you bring your piece to MKAC earlier that day and pay a couple of bucks to register it. You put it on a pedestal, give it a title, and then hope someone takes your picture standing next to it to put in some obscure blog or newspaper article. You try to have as much fun as possible stretching your art wings while doing something silly in a serious way. I suppose you don't have to be serious at all, but the medium is a little demanding so you could probably use some pointers. I will be writing here with lots of details of my art as I go, although the performance is more-or-less secret so I'll just be giving tantalizing hints about that.

I work primarily in dried gelatin, but even if you make the jiggly kind there are a couple of things that will make your explorations easier. I just use pure gelatin, like the Knox kind although I buy it in bulk. It's not cheap but way less expensive than the boxes. If you mix it strong, with less water, it will be more firm and won't need to be refrigerated to keep its shape. Mix it in cold water first, let it bloom for at least ten minutes, and then melt it either in the microwave or on the stove top. If you mix it in hot water you get lumps which you will have to remove, and it's much harder work. That took me at least fifteen years to discover, even though that is how the package tells you to do it. I thought that was to dissolve the sugar, and I don't use any, but it's to let the gelatin absorb water, which it does slowly at first. So, start with cold.
Great piece from 2015 by Kari Berg

I use pyrex and canning jars as a burst jar is dangerous and extremely messy. Hot gelatin sticks to everything and in fact that is the glue I use to put my components together. I use dye that I have from dyeing projects but you can use many things to color your Jell-O. If you like the traditional colors you can still use part prepared Jell-O if you want. It's hard to duplicate some of those colors, like the Berry Blue, and sometimes those are important to your piece. The four little bottles of food coloring are cute but mostly a waste of your money if you plan anything substantial. I still use them sometimes but if you aren't going to eat it you don't need to use food coloring. Cake decorating and candy making supplies have lots of Jell-O Art uses, and plastic molds are the easiest way to go for shapes. You can use any kind of thing for molds but sometimes the gelatin sticks. I've heard of using vegetable oil as a release but if you make the stuff thick enough it is like rubber and you can pry it out of the mold if you do it carefully. Sometimes you will have to remelt it and start over, so be prepared to operate within the limits of the medium.

Over the years people have tried a huge number of techniques and you'd be surprised what has appeared. Every show is different and I am usually pleasantly surprised. A good theme will provide so much latitude that artists think of references that speak to them and of course it is always the case that you don't have to work to the theme at all. Many don't, especially artists like David Gibbs who do it all year round. Do what is fun. That is the first rule, that you have to amuse yourself.
David Gibbs will be entering for his 20th year

And don't forget to think about the Tacky Food Buffet. If you do like to eat it, or other related food-like substances like Cheez-Whiz and Kool-Whip, and Spam, they can be served on the Buffet table to delight everyone. There is seldom anything left over although real food appears rarely and is quickly eaten unless it is far too weird. In today's foodie world some of what we thought weird doesn't seem so now. Chocolate-covered Brussels sprouts are a good example of this...tasted fine. The sushi made with gelatin inside was pretty edible and not that far-fetched. The Buffet is a real crowd-pleaser and the kids go wild with all those things their parents cringe and try to limit consumption of. Feel free to bring your favorite junk food if you don't have a clean enough kitchen to risk preparing anything. It all has to be legally edible.

You can message me on  Facebook with your questions, and put any of your ideas there on my page too if you like. I created the Gelatinaceae page for my Jell-O Art although it is also my business page so there will be other stuff there as well.

I just created an event page on Facebook as well. If you can't post things there send them to me and I will make sure they get posted. You can still find previous events if you search and there are often many photos and interesting side articles about the art and science of our most beloved medium. Okay, like feelings about the icon Bill Cosby, we have mixed feelings about the "beloved" part, but we couldn't do it without the Jell-O product, even though kids in Eugene have never heard of it in the same sentence as food. That's okay! We don't need heroes, and we don't need purity. Everything goes in the world of Jell-O Art, everything fun and quirky and silly and colorful and shiny and resplendent and glorious, that is. No hating or trumpery allowed. Save the date!