I haven’t written here in a long time, I know. Since my life has rearranged itself, there just isn’t much left for me to say about art, or even life right now. I do most of my blogging on my coaching blog these days, but I just did the most incredible thing that I’m dying to share — and this seems the most appropriate place to share it.
What did I do??? I made a gelatin printing plate. But not just any gelatin printing plate! I made one that is supposed to be permanent (much like a Gelli Arts printing plate)! Since I made it less than 24 hours ago, I can’t be sure about that, but I think it will be long lasting, at least. I used it for an hour or so, and there was no melting or degrading. It does not need to be stored in the refrigerator, although that’s where mine is right now (I’ll explain why at the end of this post).
I can’t take credit for developing this, although I wish I could! I used a recipe I got off of a YouTube video. She made hers off-camera and talks about it in the video. I thought I’d share some photos and my interpretation of the instructions with my friends. Hope you enjoy this!
The first step is to find a container. I bought an acrylic box frame at Michael’s that measures 11″ x 14″. I suggest buying a container that you will use only for this, because you need something to store it in. I wanted something bigger than the 8″ x 10″ plate that is available commercially. There is actually an 11″ x 14″ plate available on the market, but I didn’t want to wait for it to get here! I’ve got a planner to prepare for 2014, so I wanted to get started on my prints. Besides, I really like science, so I wanted to make a plate myself!
Once you have a container, you need to determine the amount of liquid it will hold; you want the liquid between 1/2″ and 3/4″ deep, depending on how big your printing plate is going to be. The larger your plate, the thicker you want it to be, for stability. I learned this the hard way. Trust me! My container seemed to hold eight cups of liquid comfortably. I wasn’t sure because my counters are not level, so it was difficult to gauge how deep the liquid really was. There are two ways to do this. One is to fill your container to the desired level, and then measure the liquid as your pour it out. The other is to measure the liquid as you fill the container. Not sure why, but I always use this method.
Now that you know how much liquid you need, it’s time to measure the gelatin. I used Knox Unflavored Gelatin that comes in a box of little packets. If you can find bulk gelatin, that would probably be more economical. You need two tablespoons of gelatin for every cup of liquid, so I needed 16 tablespoons of gelatin. That was 20 little packets, so you can see that a packet of gelatin is slightly less than a tablespoon. The easiest way for me to do this was to guestimate the number of packets I’d need, open them into a bowl, and then measure out the tablespoons from there. I thought it would be frustrating (at best) to try to measure directly from the packets!
Now, about the liquid. The liquid needs to be half boiling water, and half liquid glycerin, so that’s four cups of each for my acrylic box frame. The original permanent gelatin plate recipe calls for a mixture of rubbing alcohol and glycerin (which will make it cost significantly less), but many people reported that the alcohol smell was unbearable. Since the plate goes in the fridge to set up, I decided to leave the alcohol out. I didn’t want it to impact the taste of the food in the refrigerator.
ANYWAY … Note that when using unflavored gelatin, the instructions are slightly different than they are for making Jello. Rather than use the hot water to melt the gelatin, as you do with Jello, you actually sprinkle the gelatin over the room temperature liquid (the glycerin, in this case), and let it sit for a minute. So, I measured out four cups of glycerin into a large bowl. Then, I sprinkled the 16 tablespoons of gelatin on top and let it sit for a three or four minutes, or the time it took to get my water to the boiling point. Then, I measured out the four cups of boiling water and gradually added them to the glycerin/gelatin mixture, stirring for a few minutes until the gelatin was completely dissolved.
Once the gelatin is dissolved, it’s ready to be poured into the container you are going to store it in. After pouring all eight cups of hot, liquid, gelatin into the box frame, I decided that I wasn’t going to be able to move it to the fridge, so I dipped a little bit out. Not sure how much, just enough so that I (err, Hubby, actually) could safely move it from the counter top to the fridge. There were some small bubbles on the top of my plate, so I used one of the empty gelatin envelopes to smooth it out. Once it’s in the fridge, it needs to set for five or six hours. When you put it in the fridge, be sure to check how level it is! My refrigerator is apparently terribly un-level, so I had to put something under one end to kind of help level it out. I didn’t choose something thick enough, so my plate was much thinner at one end than it was at the other. This caused problems later on (more on that at toward the end).
While my gelatin plate was setting up, I prepared a glass plate to sit it on when I used the plate and to use as a kind of cover for it when it wasn’t in use. To this, I simply used the glass out of a picture frame. Because my plate is 11″ x 14″, I bought a picture frame that is 12″ x 16″. Even though the label for the frame said it has safe, ground, edges, I taped them up anyway. I just used some decorative packing tape to cover the sides so no one would get hurt.
When the plate was ready, I took it out of the refrigerator. It was very firm, but yielding, to the touch. I used a butter knife to go around the edges of the gelatin to loosen it up a bit.
Then, I covered the acrylic box frame full of set gelatin with the taped up glass, and turned it over. I used the butter knife to gently pull one corner of the gelatin away from the container. After I’d pulled a couple of inches away from the acrylic, it pulled away by itself and plopped down onto the plexi-glass. I picked the gelatin plate up and centered it, then I was ready to go!
I didn’t take any shots of actually using the plate — I was having too much fun! The homemade permanent gelatin plate works just like a Gelli Arts printing plate, and there are tons of videos on YouTube and probably hundreds of blog posts to inspire you. I’ve heard the paint stays moister, longer, on the homemade plate. I’m not sure why that would be, but I didn’t have any trouble with my paint drying out before I could get a good primary print and a good ghost print.
There was one not-so-minor problem with my homemade gelatin plate. Remember when I said that my fridge isn’t level? Well, one end of my plate ended up being much thinner than the other. When I was washing it in the kitchen sink (from now on, I’ll just spray it with water and clean it with a paper towel), it slithered out of my hands and plopped down into the sink. When it did, it cracked. In two places.
Actually, after my initial panic, I realized it wasn’t that big a deal. I simply chopped the plate up, microwaved it for a few minutes (in 30-second intervals), and poured it back into the acrylic box frame. Now, I’ve got it in the refrigerator setting up again (which it seems to be doing with no problem). This time I think I leveled it better, too!
I love my plate; I really do! I pulled nine double-sided 11″ x 14″ prints and one single-sided print; actually, all of them were overprints — so a lot of printing was happening. There was no degradation or melting. It was still in great condition.
Oh — I forgot to talk about storage. To store, just ease the plate back into the container that you made it in, and sit the plexi-glass on top to keep dust out. That’s it! No refrigeration required! The only problem I saw (besides the cracking, as explained above) was that when I went to put it back inside the box frame, it seemed that it had spread out a bit. It didn’t fit back into the acrylic box frame! I’m not sure how I’ll handle that. Probably just cut off a bit so that it fits and throw that extra away.
Here’s the basic recipe: Use 2 Tablespoons unflavored gelatin for every cup of liquid you need to fill your container. Each cup of liquid should be half liquid glycerin and have boiling water.
Let me know if you try this, or if you have any questions. It was a lot of fun to do, and I really enjoyed working on the bigger surface. I think I may make a round one, since I have gelatin and glycerin left over!