The Gummy Crack’d From Side To Side

My entry for the 2012 Austin Cake Show was a gummy stained glass piece based on J.W.Waterhouse’s painting of the Lady of Shalott. It was an experimental piece which won great acclaim but, alas, no actual prizes at the show.

The Lady of Shalott in Flexible, Edible Stained Glass

The piece when first completed, backlit by my kitchen window. At this point, it was more flexible than its plexiglass support: I could easily bend the whole thing with no cracking whatsoever.

Part of the experiment was to determine how long the medium would last, so I’ve had it hung on my wall most of the time since the show back in February. It’s come down to attend a few events along the way, including a long drive up to Fort Worth in significant heat, so it has been exposed to severe temperatures and a lot of touching hands.

Since mid-summer, it’s been noticeably cracking in a few places instead of flexing as easily as it once did. Then a few weeks ago the plexiglass came loose from the backboard and fell, causing some damage.

Tonight as I went to move it, more pieces flaked off and I could hear an awful lot of cracking.

Thus at this point I’d say it’s no longer flexible. I’m calling this the absolute end-point of its life for experimental purposes. Therefore, if you are making anything using this medium, expect its flexibility to diminish substantially after about five months, and be rendered too delicate to flex at all after seven months. This holds true for my other sample pieces, which recently became too brittle to flex as well and are starting to show cracks. Also keep in mind that depending on relative humidity fluctuations in your environment, the gummy will begin to fog over and lose its clarity after several weeks unless kept away from dust, fingers, and kept sealed in plastic.

Here are some photos of the cracks. You can see that not only have chunks come out, but there are other visible cracks in both the coloured gummy and the opaque black lines:

Gummy Crack 1

This is the upper right corner, which was bent early on to separate it from the plexiglass so folks could see and touch the smooth back of the piece, plus see how flexible it was when it was still fairly fresh. It remained bent off of the plexiglass after that point, and has now popped out a chunk where the bend formed.

Gummy Crack 2

This is the lower left corner. It broke off when the piece fell from the wall, probably because it landed on this corner. At that point, the whole thing was brittle enough that what broke off crumbled into small shards that scattered all over.

Gummy Crack 3

This is the middle lower edge. This also cracked off a bit when it fell, although it’s lost even more in moving it around since. The crack in the plexiglass has been there for a very long time and I don’t think specifically contributed to the cracking of the piece. I think it’s just that the whole thing is a stress point in the middle there.

Gummy Crack 4

This is the top edge, near the left side. This bit was clearly cracked after the fall although the pieces were all still there. When I tried to move the entire piece just now, more of this area popped out, which is why I decided it was time to blog it.

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