The Grand Master of Slime

Chase Kellebrew was in demo mode in the basement laboratory of SoHo’s Sloomoo Institute, which bills itself as a “multi-sensory slime experience.” The institute was founded in 2019, to take advantage of the slime craze popularized by tweens on TikTok. (During the pandemic, adults joined in, drawn by slime’s apparent ability to alleviate anxiety through sensory play.) Kellebrew is barely twenty. As with many a wunderkind, he is modest about his talent: creating new slime products to appease the voracious appetites of fans—some famous, such as Jessica Alba, Drew Barrymore, and Christina Aguilera—who regard him as a master.

That morning, he was unveiling some new prototypes for his bosses, Sara Schiller and Karen Robinovitz. Schiller, who has an M.B.A. and a background in hospitality, said, of Kellebrew’s work, “It’s just so smooth.” Her eyes shone with a faraway look that called to mind the patrons of Walter White, the dispenser of Blue Sky meth, in “Breaking Bad.” “The feel, the sound, the smells. It’s art.”

Schiller and Robinovitz first encountered Kellebrew when they bought slime from him on Etsy. “We then met him in person at a convention down in Maryland,” Schiller said. “His stuff was just different, a better quality. He can do slime for kids that is just silly, or slime for adults that might have a more mature theme. I think he’s a savant. ” (Examples of “mature” slime include Slime for Your Mind—a version created for a mental-health organization—and slime scented with lychee or tuberose.)

“He’s a rock star,” Robinovitz, who used to run a talent agency for influencers, said. “It’s like when you have a good chocolate-chip cookie compared with an average chocolate-chip cookie. A good chocolate-chip cookie is melty in the middle without being messy. Chase makes slime like a good cookie.”

Kellebrew, who wore a blue hoodie with the words “SLIME TIME” on the back, started making slime when he was thirteen. He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 2022 and said that he earns “a very comfortable salary” as a full-time employee of the institute, which is within walking distance of Stuyvesant Town, where he lives with his mother.

“It’s easy to create a prototype,” he said. “But it can sometimes be a long, hard process to figure out how to make all this in bulk. We make about thirty-five thousand gallons a year. Each time I create a new slime recipe, I write down everything I’m using.” He has his co-workers test it out. “On any given day, there are one to two running the mixers and anywhere from five to fifteen packing the slime,” he said.

“He has a youthful perspective, but he’s not afraid to offer his opinion to adults who are a lot older,” Robinovitz said.

That day’s prototype was geared toward the spring holidays. Kellebrew removed some yellow cellophane from a plate that had six circular indentations, each filled with a different slime. He explained that it was a Seder plate, with the six traditional Passover foods translated into slime: haroseth (“peach clear slime with small foam cubes, apple scent”), horseradish (“dark-red snow-fizz slime, with a lemon-ginger scent”), parsley (“light-green clear slime”), an egg (“clear slime with one yellow felt pompom to represent the yolk, unscented”), bitter herbs (“light-green butter slime”), and, not to be forgotten, a shank bone (“made out of clay”).

“Now that you are older, I want you to have this to-do list that was given to me by my mom, which she got from her mom, still full of little tasks we all need you to do.”

Cartoon by Sarah Kempa

“Everything about this is just so cute!” Robinovitz said. “It’s triggering all of my senses. And my heritage.”

“And we’ll put a ‘K’ on it because it is kosher,” Schiller said. “The popularity of slime is very diverse, even with the Orthodox community.”

A few weeks earlier, Kellebrew had created some honey-baked-ham slime. “It smells exactly like ham,” he said. “It’s good for Easter, but we created it for April Fools’ Day.”

About eighty per cent of the prototypes make their way upstairs, to be sold in plastic tubs in the gift shop and online, or as part of monthly “surprise” slime subscription boxes (thirty-four dollars and ninety-nine cents). “Typically, vegetable-themed slimes aren’t that popular,” Kellebrew said. “But this Passover plate is, hopefully, an exception.”

Composed of three basic ingredients—glue, borax, and pigment—slime is a far cry from the tan synthetic-rubber sphere once found inside colored plastic eggs and sold as Silly Putty. Different brands of glue make different textures, and, in addition to scents, beads and tiny plastic charms can be added—the slime possibilities are endless. Kellebrew is an expert at giving his slime sound effects, “gorgeous pops” being the most requested, with “fart sounds” a close second.

Later, a sample of another prototype, which Kellebrew called Crushed Peacock Ore, was bagged and sent out for a thirteen-year-old expert to test at home. (Unsullied specimens are known as “freshies.”)

“It’s really . . .” began this fussy judge, eyes closed, nostrils taking in top notes of cotton candy. Her hands kneaded the purplish goo, whose texture she likened to a “slushy avalanche.” At last, a judgment. “I don’t know how to describe it. . . . It’s just . . . yeah, it’s just perfect.” ♦

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