New Uses for Old Things: Jello

Alternate Title: Undoubtedly the longest post about not eating jello in the history of blogging....

I am not a jello fan. There is just something not right about it.... I don't like eating anything that bounces back in my mouth.

However, thanks to a friend of mine, I discovered a new use for jello last week - no eating required! I went way out in the woods to my friend's lovely home, and we made gelatin monotype prints.

"What are gelatin monotype prints," you may ask.

Well, I'll tell you.

Or show you, rather.... (These instructions are by no means complete - if you'd like to try this, just google "gelatin monotype prints" to find instructional videos, books, websites, etc.)

You will need:
  • Plain, unflavored gelatin (google for a recipe for gelatin monotype prints)
  • Small rectangles of plexiglass
  • Large piece of glass, an enamel tray, countertop, or anything that you can work on and don't mind getting a little paint on.
  • Masking tape
  • Brayer/Roller
  • Printer's inks, fabric paint, or acrylic inks
  • Paintbrushes, Stamps, Sponges - whatever you want to apply paint with
  • Jar of water
  • Print Making Paper
  • A sharp knife
  • Ruler

Basically, you take plain, unflavored gelatin, mix it up according to the directions, and pour it into cookie sheets - ours was about 1/2" thick. When it has set, you slice it into plates. Ours were about 4"x6".

Next, carefully place your gelatin plate on top of a small piece of plexiglass, which you have taped down to a non-moving, protected surface (like a large sheet of glass). You should tape it only along one edge, so that you can "lift" the plate to add/remove your reference sketch underneath. You'll also want to create a "frame" around the jello plate by adding a few layers of tape - this will help keep it from moving, and keep your image lined up correctly. (See image above.)

Prepare your sketch, then slip it underneath the plexiglass, so that it is centered under your gelatin plate. You should be able to see the image clearly through the gelatin and plexiglass. Now you're almost ready to roll!

Prepare your paper by dampening it slightly, then taping it along one side so that it can "flip" over onto the plate. If you'd like to do a "ghost print," add another piece of paper to be flipped from another side. Make sure you have the "right" side of the paper facing down onto the gelatin when it is flipped in place. Once they are securely taped, flip them out of the way for now....

First you'll want to do your background. You can use a brayer to mix a tiny amount of your background colors, then roll them gently onto the gelatin.

The inks we used were a combination of printer's acrylic inks, fabric paint, and acrylic "calligraphy" ink.
We used brayers, our fingers, even rubber stamps to create backgrounds...
Once you get your background colors painted onto the gelatin, carefully fold your "good" paper over onto the gelatin (making sure you pull it evenly for each "lift"), and smooth it onto the face of the gelatin with your fingers, the back of a wooden spoon, a small rolling pin, or any other smooth object. Do not press too hard. Once you have lifted with your first sheet, you can try lifting any remaining paint off with your "ghost" paper that you have folded off to another side.

Use a dampened sponge to carefully remove any lingering ink from the gelatin. You'll want to do this between each layer you add. You may also need to spray your papers with a light misting of water to keep the paper from sticking to the gelatin. Just be sure to blot the paper to remove any droplets, or it will cause your inks to run on your next lift.

Once you've done your background, you can begin working on your image. You have to work quickly or do different layers, because you have to pick up the inks before they dry.

Make sure you don't make your ink/paint too thick, or it will smoosh around and smear, making your image look muddy.

Here's my completed background for my first print.

Then I added some branches and leaves in the next layer...

And finally, I painted my birdie and transferred it to my paper!
Unfortunately, things went downhill after my first print...

As your gelatin and your inks begin to dry, it gets more and more challenging. I kept having trouble getting my inks to lift after the first print, and I had trouble keeping them from smearing too - too much ink.

As you can see, it makes quite a mess.... I was lucky enough to have a kind friend who prepared the gelatin and set all of this up for us, but I'm not sure I would go to all the trouble myself... especially when it is very difficult to get good results.... But it was a fun experience, and I learned something new. I think I will try some watercolor monotypes - no jello required- you use sanded & soaped plexiglass, and you can reactivate watercolors when they begin to dry out.... But that's another project for another day...

Until then, I'll leave you with a few of my favorites:

My first (and best) attempt.... It was all downhill from here...

My nod to the season. You can see that I used rubber stamps on the background on this one. He got smeared quite a bit, so I did a little salvaging and touching-up afterwards directly on the paper. I guess the print-making police will come and get me now...

My first attempt at doing one freehand - I didn't go by any sketch on this one, which makes it very difficult to line things up and add anything to your original painting. I like it (and didn't cheat on it, but I think the skep is too large and is competing with the "B" for space.... So I re-did it.

I like the layout of this better, but it got a little muddy looking, so I cheated and touched up this one too.
Oh, and by the way, if you do anything with letters - make sure you paint them backwards on your gelatin, or you will wind up with this:

Right before I packed up to leave, I decided to do a quick "J" for Josh to go with my "B" for Beth. And of course, he had to have cowboy boots on his....

Unfortunately, I got in such a hurry that I forgot you have to reverse the letter when you paint it. Whoops! Didn't have time to do another to correct the problem, but thank goodness for Photoshop!

Overall, it was a fun experience, and I had a good time learning this new medium with my friend. If you choose to give it a try, make sure you've got plenty of time, plenty of space, and plenty of patience!

Hope you're having a lovely week....


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

I hope in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, you're remembering the real Reason for the Season...

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6-7

I am linking up at the Nester for the 2010 Christmas Tour of Homes.

In other news...

I'm excited... today is my husband's last day of PA school before his Christmas break, and tonight we're going to see "Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." I hope it's as great as the book, but it won't be. :o)

Have a lovely weekend...