Materials

Choose a metal bowl that's about the size you want your jellyfish to end up. It's helpful to prop it up on top of something to give yourself more working space.

We'll place our iridescent vinyl on top of this bowl and use a heat gun to form its shape.

Measure up and over the back of your bowl to figure out the size to make your pattern. Add a couple inches to this measurement if you want more of a domed shape to your jellyfish.

My jellyfish are roughly between 16-24 inches across. I like having a variety of sizes since that makes it feel more like a swarm.

Cutting

Resize the pattern so the diameter matches up with your measurement, and trace it out on a big piece of paper to make your pattern. 

Cut out two copies of the pattern in iridescent vinyl for each jellyfish. Cut a little slit at the point of the pattern to help the pieces lay flatter when we put them together.

Melting vinyl will release fumes! It's best to do these next few steps outside, or in a very well ventilated area.

Lay out the pattern pieces on top of some cardboard or another heat-resistant surface with the straight edges overlapping by about 1/4".  Use a heat gun to gently melt the overlap and make a seam. The vinyl will fuse together. Press it down carefully with a cloth or tool. Be careful! The vinyl gets hot.

Turn the pieces around and match up the remaining straight edge, overlapping the slits you cut in the center to get it to lay as flat as possible. We're creating a dome shape here so the other side will be up in the air. It's helpful to prop this up on something, or have someone hold the other side while you make the second seam.

Place the vinyl on top of your metal bowl and get it as centered as possible. It may help to prop your bowl up on something if your jellyfish shape is deeper than the curve of your bowl. Let the sides dangle down.

Now it's time to sculpt your jellyfish using your heat gun. This vinyl is pretty thick, but it still acts like shrink-wrap if you're patient. Start in the center and work your way out to the sides. The idea is to get the vinyl to shrink and mold itself to the bowl.

This is very satisfying. 

I spent about 15-20 minutes heat-sculpting each jellyfish. I kept my heat gun on high, and got the most interesting results when I was brave enough to get the vinyl hot enough that it got very close to the melting point. The hot vinyl shrinks and crinkles and the colors melt into each other, letting the rainbows out. 

The vinyl will thicken up and hold its shape to a certain extent. For smaller jellies, heat-forming the vinyl was sufficient to get them to keep their shape. The larger ones need a little more structure to keep from collapsing and turning into jellyfish tacos under the weight of the vinyl. 

To keep the jellyfish round, I added a circle of 18g steel wire to the top side of the jelly. Since these will be hanging from a high ceiling, the wire will not be visible or obvious if it's on the top side. If your jellies will be hanging at eye-level, you can put the wire on the underside.

I used clear packing tape to fix the wire to the smooth section of the jellyfish body. 

Balance the jellyfish on the tip of your finger to find the exact center by weight, so it'll hang straight. Poke a hole in this spot with an awl for your hanging wire.

Tentacles

I'm using iridescent sequin fabric torn into strips of varying lengths, as well as silver tubular crin ribbon for my tentacles. The iridescent sequins catch the light beautifully and match very well with the iridescent vinyl tops. 

Cut your tentacles to the desired length and set them aside. We'll add them during final assembly.

This guide was first published on Sep 28, 2022. It was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

This page (Jellyfish Build) was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

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