Thing in a Jar

7 inches by 4 inches, mason jar

This is the Thing in a Jar.

It’s usually sitting in my office at work.

The coolest thing about the Thing is that everyone responds to seeing it by asking questions. Where did I find it? Is it an internal organ? Is it some sort of fetus? Would it go well with pasta?

The Thing in a Jar is made out of Sculpey, acryllic paint and rubber cement. The liquid inside the jar is diluted Coke.

This is the third Thing in a Jar I’ve made. For some reason I’m always compelled to give them away as gifts.

I drew a concept sketch of the Thing before a sculpted it to get a rough idea of how I wanted it to look.

Usually when I make a Thing in a Jar, I try to keep the shape ambiguous enough so that the viewer cannot really pin down exactly what they’re looking at.

The glass jar acts as a physical barrier, preventing the viewer from directly accessing its contents. The murky fluid acts as a visual barrier, making the exact details of the form indistinct. The viewer is forced to fill in the gaps with their own imagination.

I think this is much cooler than, for example, a painting, which basically has a big implicit sign hanging off of it that says, “I am just a painting of an object, not the object itself. Obviously you are not looking at a real alien fetus.”

Viewers of The Thing in a Jar do not have this preconception. When they first see it, it is not entirely clear whether the Thing is real or not.

It’s fun to leave the Thing in a Jar in someone’s refrigerator and watch their reaction.

Make Your Own Thing in a Jar

I’ve gotten a lot of requests for instructions on how to make your own ”thing,“ so here you go.

  First, you’ll need some Sculpey.
You will also need a jar. This one might be a little large, so get a smaller one if you can find it somewhere else.
Also, you’ll need some Coca Cola
To increase the creepiness factor, you’ll need rubber cement
Lastly, you will need some acryllic paint I recommend some sort of creepy flesh tone, but choose whatever makes you happy or what you think would bother your friends the most.

Here’s what you do. Make a funny shape out of the Sculpy. Make absolutely sure it will fit in the jar. A good start for the design would be to hunt around the web for some funny monster picture somebody else made, and then do something loosely inspired by that. If you feel that you have no artistic talent at all, just make a weird blob shape and claim that it’s an internal organ.

Follow the instructions on the Sculpy box about how to bake it in the oven.

After it cools, paint it with the acryllic paints however you want. A clever way to do this is to paint the whole thing with a light natural color like pink or something, and then when that dries, heavily dilute some black paint and use it to fill in all the creases, to make them stand out more. Then wipe any remaining black paint off the exterior surfaces.

Once the paint dries, brush a layer of rubber cement all over the thing. Let this dry. Repeat about three or four times, sometimes rubbing the rubber cement off in certain areas, to make it look like it’s skin that’s sort of rotting away.

After everything is dry, put the thing in your jar. Fill it 3/4 of the way with water, and try putting in a little Coke to darken it up so it’s not perfectly clear. Add some more water. The idea is you just want the water to look a little yellowish or dirty. Food coloring might work here too.

To make it easy to carry the jar around without it leaking everywhere, you could also glue the top permanently shut with epoxy, although this can be kinda tricky.

That’s it!

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