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.
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.|
|Screenprinting on flat sheet|
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.|
|Cut and fill. Put the pattern underneath.|
|You can't always get what you want.|