I got involved in our library system’s “Maketober” program and have been taking gelatin printing classes on a rolling cart to different libraries all month, teaching up to 12 students per class. I am making barely enough to cover supplies but wanted a chance to offer classes to folks who can’t always afford them.
In case it’s useful, here’s my setup:
Go to a dollar store and buy 10 square metal brownie pans for a buck each, and 10 square glass cutting boards, also a buck each. In the hardware aisle you will find little paint roller touch up kits for a buck, a black plastic tray and a foam roller and brush.
Then, in the storage and tupperware aisle, get 10 plastic boxes that are at least as wide as the rollers (stackable). Mine are for silverware and have a grey textured rubber floor. Get a stack of one dollar plastic tablecloths in the birthday party department, and a stack of kids scribble pads in the craft/journals area. Throw in some dollar refill packs of diaper wipes for students to wipe gloved hands and gelli plates.
I order glycerine in big bottles from Amazon, buy gelatin at the grocery store, and make several batches of gelli plate recipe with the recipe on the frugal crafter website. (I also print it out to give students.) I also get a box of non latex rubber gloves.
I pour the hot mix into the brownie pans – use a junk mail credit card or the edge of a postcard to drag any bubbles to the edge – and let them harden overnight. Not too thick – maybe 1/4 inch?
The next day I loosen the edges by pressing gently and pull each plate out, centering it on a glass cutting board and trimming the ragged edges square with an exacto blade. (I sometimes cut the corners off, because the cutting boards have little rubber feet and I intend to stack these for transport and storage.)
I leave these out for another day to cure.
I get the cheapest acrylics I can find, apple barrel or craft (something) at Walmart or on sale with a coupon at craft stores, or look for bargains on sets of paints on line.
I open all the paint roller kits and take out the foam rollers – toss the brushes in a drawer for some other project. Foam rollers actually work better than expensive brayers for beginners, who tend to use too much paint and pull just the top layer when they print. Let them hear the sticky-sticky noise and see the textured surface of a thin enough layer.
The kids’ drawing pad paper has a lot of “tooth” and makes good prints, as it grabs onto the paint and absorbs better than printer paper. I always throw in a couple of pads of construction paper just for experimentation.
A couple times a year when the gelli plates start looking a little ragged – (newbies press hard with stencils and foam stamps) – I cut them in cubes, put them in a big pyrex measuring cup, nuke them in the microwave and then repour through a (dollar tree) strainer (catches paint chips) to make new plates.
When I “set the table” for class, everybody gets a plate and a stack of papers. I put a row of the plastic boxes down the center of the table with a generous blob of paint in each one, each color with its own foam roller. Students face each other across a narrow table to better reach, and we say “please pass” for colors. I sprinkle assorted small stencils, textured foam sheets and fat foam stamps down the table.
Teaching tips: It’s hard to get non-arty beginners to relax and stop overthinking the process. I have them pencil their initials on a stack of papers and I string a clothesline for wet prints, telling them “more is more – learn as you go – ugly prints can be a background for something you discover later – it’s just a piece of paper, and nobody is going to make gallery quality work today, it’s all about discovery and happy accident and play”.
I don’t talk too long up front, just do a quick demo on two plates: a row of red dots UNDER a full surface coating of yellow, and then a row of red dots on TOP of a full surface coating of yellow. I can show them through the glass base that painting on top of paint is a waste of time – then I pull the prints to show them.
They like to start with stencils – removing paint with one paper to roll new color into the shapes – remove the stencil, add a second color – and then get more adventurous as they go.
I’m from the Midwest where people ask “what’s it FOR?” so I bring my print-modpodged journal, and my clear phone case with the print cut to fit.
I bring a set of blank greeting cards and envelopes and pull them out toward the end of class once students have discovered a stencil or effect they like best. They slip a sheet of paper inside the card to print it without smudging up the back, and then we do just the flap of a matching envelope.
At the end of class I put all the wet paint rollers in a giant ziploc bag, stack the painty stencils between diaper wipes in another bag, stack the paint trays, and take the whole mess back to the studio to drop in a sink full of soapy water.
Student prints are usually dry enough to stack and take home, though I advise students to unstack them once home so they can cure without sticking together.
Hope any of this is useful for teachers. I usually teach adults, but cub scouts and girl scouts get a kick out of this class as well. All the supplies stack neatly into a storage tub with the brownie pans and glycerine/gelatin bottles for later batches. Remind everybody to dress for mess, or provide aprons – acrylic will ruin clothes.
A rising tide lifts all boats, folks, and people who make art learn to appreciate what they are seeing when they shop for art! Get out there and share the joy!