Princess Jellyfish Laser Bento

I’m a big fan of Princess Jellyfish. It’s stuffed with features and themes near and dear to my heart: gender identity and ambiguity, discovering a world outside your nerd bubble, finding outlets for your passions through building things, how style and aesthetics are a language unto themselves, the clash of cultures between the nerdy and the stylish. It’s lovely stuff.

For Halloween, Numi and I decided to have a Princess Jellyfish themed party. This mostly involved taking an idea we’d been scheming for a long time, a bento box featuring laser cut nori illustrations, and lavishing some love and attention on it. This also meant a day spent snacking on fried things, hunting around for esoteric ingredients all across town, and watching anime on youtube. Good times all in all, especially after being cooped watching Sandy rage outside.

The process of designing the illustration to work on nori took a few tries to get right. The hardest part was setting the etch to be distinct enough to be read as a lighter shade without fully piercing the nori. Since the seaweed is simply spread out and left to dry, as opposed to being rolled like printer paper, its thickness can vary by a fair bit. I ended up erring on the cautious side and etching light. Similar results might be achieved by poking holes straight through in a halftone pattern with the laser.

What was also crucial was getting everything into manageable chunks. Since the nori is so fragile, I made sure to give the sheet enough bridges and thick lines to stay together as one solid mass without collapsing as it was transported from the laser to the rice. The first few to come off the machine were way too delicate.

In the future, I’d love to integrate the laser cutting more with the bento as a whole, instead of an isolated little illustration that fits into a bento box. Unfortunately the rice quickly soaked the nori I got, turning it into a rumpled mess. Maybe there’s another brand with some more staying power. As it stands it breaks down too quickly to do an elaborate multi layered piece.

I’m really happy with how this turned out. There will certainly be more experiments. I’ve uploaded a set on Flickr if you’d like to see more details and explanation about the whole project.

For you bento enthusiasts:

This particular box features tempura (shrimp, carrot, onion, shitake, and winter squash), grilled octopus, tamago, and steamed beef shumai. It also has a pretty little cherry blossom made from fish cake and cherry tomato pulp.