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Belly Flops: Art from Failure

September 5, 2011
Off to adventure…and a complimentary bag of Jelly Bellies!

Last weekend, I went with a couple of friends to the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, CA. I may not be a huge jelly bean fan, but Jelly Bellies are where I make an exception because they are the most delicious jelly beans out there. They come in about eighty million flavors (I exaggerate only slightly), so even picky eaters can find flavors to enjoy.

John Wayne—in jelly beans

In spite of the factory being so close to where I live, I had only been there once before, and I remembered it mostly for being one of the few places where I’ve been able to find my name among the “personalized” souvenirs (Anita is apparently not a popular enough name to grace many magnets, pins, or patches). So I donned my paper hat and took the factory tour with a mostly blank slate.

What fascinated me the most on the tour, aside from the robot that paused in its duties to wave at the tour-goers, was the artwork that lined the walls and hung from the ceilings; you can see a few examples in the background of the photo above. These mosaics were everywhere we turned, and they were all made entirely of Jelly Bellies. One of these p0rtraits can take thousands of Jelly Bellies to create.

Belly Flops

At one point during the tour, I was informed—by either the tour guide or my friend who has taken the tour so many times she may as well be a tour guide, I can’t remember which—that many of these mosaics are made from Belly Flops. Belly Flops are the beans that don’t quite meet the exacting standards for Jelly Bellies. Most of the time, they’re too big, too small, an odd shape, or multiple beans stuck together. Rarely, you’ll find one where the taste isn’t quite right or the shell and center have been mismatched, but those situations are so unusual that they’re hardly worth mentioning. The Belly Flops are the failures of the Jelly Belly world, the beans that aren’t considered good enough to be sold at full price or bear the Jelly Belly logo.

More mosaics in the lobby

But these failures are still tasty, even if they don’t quite pass muster. And even those that don’t get eaten can serve a purpose by being turned into eye-candy—literally. I find the idea of these little beans going from candy failures to works of art reassuring. Maybe the failures in my own creative endeavors also have a chance of taking that step up if I’m willing to take risks, think creatively, and find ways to re-purpose those bits and pieces that don’t turn out quite the way I originally intend.


How have you found new purposes for projects and ideas that didn’t work out the first time?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2011 11:09 pm

    The one time I went there it was a holiday, memorial day I think, so they robots weren’t actually working. They danced for us instead.

    • Anita M. King permalink*
      October 4, 2011 5:42 pm

      Ooh, I would have loved to see that!

      For some reason, the robots made me think of dinosaurs. Adorable, mechanical dinosaurs.

      • October 6, 2011 5:23 pm

        So, not the t-Rex from Jurassic park? one of the nice ones?

      • Anita M. King permalink*
        October 6, 2011 7:09 pm

        The J.P. T-Rex traumatized me as a child. No, these were friendly dinos!

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