Learning Through Transient Jello Sculpting

I was in London two weeks ago for my friend Amber and Jon’s wedding! I had time to explore the city’s vibrant culture and rich history. It was a wonderful experience and I am grateful.

jello sculpture paula

When I returned though, I sensed a big shift. I felt unmoored. All of a sudden, it was Fall and things had changed. But you know what Fall means… jello season. With the intensity of the summer behind me, I have time to focus on jello again. I started my jello journey last March…

“My interest in jello was triggered when I saw a vintage photo of a beautiful tower in “Better Homes and Gardens, New Cookbook, 1981.” Bold hues, structural shapes vs. organic forms, and the endless foods you can suspend within jello were so inspiring. I immediately saw jello as an art form. My mind was overwhelmed by possibilities.” (For the full story, click here.)

Since then, I’ve learned through practice so much about the craft of jello art. I’ve figured out the correct recipe to keep my sculptures firmly intact. Time and temperature also play a big role – it’s a science. I’ve learned how to successfully suspend foods and flowers in vegan jello. I’m experimenting with color and pushing the boundaries of shape.

I’ve gifted my jello creations to friends. For Kaori’s birthday, I created a tri-color, layered cake. The room was quiet as I unmolded the structure. At first release, all seemed well. But then – the sound of gasping suspense – seconds later, the top layer of jello slid off in a dramatic slow-motion fashion. Then loud laughter. I learned that night – jello brings joy!

Just last week I gifted another jello sculpture to my friend Frith. This time I had the keen idea to make it an interactive experience, letting Frith participate in the unmolding drama. She was a little nervous, but game. With a bit of jiggle, she successfully removed the mold and her jello gift stayed in form! Presenting jello sculptures into the world creates intrigue, suspense, and confusion and opens up a channel to engage people. For me as the creator, I relish in reading the room, observing people’s reactions, and listening to what they say under their breath.

jello sculpture 2
Frith on her birthday after unmolding her interactive jello sculpture gift!

The supportive response from my friends has been an unexpected reward. People are curious and they enjoy watching the unveiling of my works on social media. Jello sculpture is performative. I’m eager to continue my exploration of that part of the process through video.

My goal for this jello season is to make my structures taste good. The packaged vegan jello flavor is as you would expect – sugary cough syrup. Through my research, I’ve learned there are other gelling agents such as Agar-agar (made from red algae) that are tasteless. Instead of using water, you hydrate the powder with fruit juices.

jello sculpture 1
Dandelions are edible and make for a beautiful jello sculpture embellishment.

Aside from learning my craft, Jello sculpting continues to teach me skills like patience. Jello is organic and unstable, unlike the thousand-year-old sculptures I saw in the London museums. Jello is impermanent, a reminder that moments and mountains are in a constant state of change. And that the journey is most valuable.

Jello Sculpture

To follow my jello journey, find her on Instagram: @theglorifiedtomato.


tagged in art, jello