There’s something about creating art that’s soothing for the soul. Be it painting or drawing, sculpting or pottery making, the simple act of creating does wonders for the human spirit. That’s something Joan Bess understands better than most. Creating works of art can, in turn, translate into a successful business.
The lifelong artist dabbled in every art form she could find: jewelry making, paper making, print making, even quilting. Then she discovered gelatin printing and unleashed what she calls a “mad passion” for the method. For the uninitiated, gelatin printing is a type of printmaking that uses a gelatin slab as a printing plate. Water-soluble printing inks are used to layer patterns, creating vivid, beautiful, unique, one-of-a-kind prints. Aficionadas call it addictive.
But much as Bess loved the medium, she found traditional gelatin printing to be frustrating. Gelatin printing requires making the plates beforehand. Once you do, they only last a couple weeks and require refrigeration.
“Along with printing on gelatin came the hassles of having a plate ready to use whenever the mood struck. I kept envisioning a non-perishable printing plate that had the same sensitive surface as gelatin; a plate that could be stored at room temperature in my studio; a plate that would always be ready for printing; and importantly, a plate made of non-toxic materials,” she said.
Bess had already operated two art-based businesses. Creating a better way to gelatin print was about to become her third – if she could just find a way to create a perfect plate. That’s when Bess turned to her long-time friend Lou Ann Gleason.
Gleason had experience developing and launching products. She’d also marketed them during her years at Procter and Gamble. After watching Bess working with gelatin printing, Gleason was convinced she could help develop a non-perishable plate and change gelatin printing for the better.
“After a lot of research and a little luck, we found a resource to work with to perfect a new printing plate – one that is non-perishable, has a sensitive surface, always ready for printing, non-toxic, easy to clean and store,” she said. “I puzzled all the pieces together to make this happen, and wound up with an innovative product we’re totally excited about.”
Bess and Gleason created the innovative Gelli Arts Gel Printing Plate, a plate that removes the hassles of traditional gel printing so budding artists everywhere can just focus on having fun.
“Printing with a Gelli Arts® printing plate provides immediate gratification – who doesn’t like that?” said Gleason. “It also makes you feel like you are an artist, even if you are a novice at printing, you get a sense that being an artist is possible.”
Since its launch, Gelli Arts has spawned a legion of followers eager for a better way to create beautiful cards, papers and artwork from the simple to the sophisticated. Fans often share their creations on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram showing off their techniques and designs. The company also sells other supplies for art lovers including stencils, acrylic paints, printing tools and card printing kits. Website visitors can watch tutorials and get lesson plan ideas.
Gleason says Gelli Arts is popular with both children and adults. Because it’s non-toxic many parents and teachers are using it as a safe way to get kids away from their phones and computers and introduce them to the joy of creating art.
“The fun thing is it doesn’t take long to enjoy the benefits of printing. Printing with Gelli® plates provides immediate gratification – which our children have come to crave. I have seen children create one print and be utterly amazed when they see the results,” said Gleason. “Once they have that sense of awe – they want to keep going. Our adults have told us they are addicted to printing with Gelli® plates and the same thing happens with children. It’s a healthy addiction!”
Even Gleason, who was the problem solver of the two, not the artsy one, says the duo’s creation has brought out her creative side.
“The Gelli Arts™ Gel Printing Plate has brought out my inner artist, and I’m now happily monoprinting in my spare moments!” she said. Both Gleason and Bess sing the praises of the artistic process, saying there are so many benefits.
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