Whoa, Those Are Shrinky Dinks?

That’s what I said at the last Bazaar Bizarre when I saw these earrings by Heidi of Passionflower. She uses a mix of found printed materials and original artwork to make these.  One of the things that makes her work so unique (and not resemble shrink plastic in the slightest) is her sparing use of color and the way she mixes various materials into one piece.

Then I started noticing shrink plastic everywhere.  Apparently lots of crafters are making really useful, grown-up things out of one of our favorite childhood toys.  For example, I think these stitch markers from Karrie at Girl On the Rocks are ingenious.  I especially love the ones that remind you how to do the kitchener stitch as you go.

I also really like the way Erin of Broken Fingers uses shrink film to turn her graphic designs into wearable art.  She draws these by hand.  Yeesh.

Some crafters make really compelling jewelry just by creatively cutting and punching solid-colored sheets like these pieces by Crafic.

Other ingenious projects? You can make custom buttons with shrink film, perfect for when you can’t find the right button you need to finish a project.  Susan Beal at Craft Stylish has a nice tutorial on this. She also has another useful tutorial for making pet ID tags.

“Okay,” you say, “I’m convinced.”  How do I get started with shrink film myself?  Well, first you have to know that your options have greatly increased since we were kids.  Regular shrink film now comes in clear, white, brown and black, which you can draw on with colored pencils or Sharpie-type markers.  If you go the Sharpie route, I recommend protecting your pieces with a spray or brush-on sealant because it tends to scratch off.

BUT, there’s also inkjet-printable shrink film now, which means you can create complex pieces really fast and in multiples.  This is what I use to make the little meat charms and jewelry I sell at fairs and on Etsy, but you can scan, print and shrink virtually any image.  I use the sheets made by Grafix, which you can get online (Blick is the most consistently inexpensive) or at Pearl art stores, among others.  It comes in white and clear.  You can even call up Grafix for a free sample to try it out.  Occasionally I get a wonky pack that doesn’t shrink correctly but they always replace it right away.  Shrinky Dinks brand also sells all the varieties.

No matter which film you use, remember to use colors at about half strength, as they tend to saturate and darken when your piece shrinks.  Expect your finished piece to measure about 40-50% of the original in each dimension.  I set my oven to between 275-300°F so everything shrinks evenly.  For about ten seconds after they come out you can flatten (or bend) your pieces, but use gloves because they will be extemely hot.

I also read recently that you can use plastic from your recycling bin marked #6 as shrink film.  Apparently the clear plastic kind (think clamshell take-out containers) and the opaque styrofoam kind (think supemarket meat trays) both work.  I have also heard that the fumes are not the healthiest stuff to be breathing so I can’t really recommend this.  I assume given the recent CPSIA brouhaha that store-bought shrink sheets are non-toxic because they are designed for kids, but PLEASE correct me if you have info to the contrary.

Finally, Some Validation

I was delighted to read this article/interview by Jenny Hart about how important it is to keep accurate, current books.  She’s a super-savvy Biz Miss with a veritable empire of embroidery products.  Her emphasis on bookkeeping makes me feel a little more validated and a little less geeky for having taken all those Quickbooks classes.

Also, somebody (Gary Taxali) finally gave a huge company (Google) the finger (literally) for soliciting original creative work in exchange for “exposure.”  It has always floored me how ready companies are to try to take advantage of creative professionals, especially those companies who can afford to pay them fairly.  I have personally been asked for free products or services in exchange for “exposure” on many occasions and I don’t understand why I’m not supposed to be insulted by this.  I mean, you wouldn’t suggest that a lawyer work for you for free because you’re providing them with “exposure” to the dozens of “potential future clients” watching them work in the courtroom, would you? (NY Times via The Present Group)

Maker Faire Madness

It’s been a crazy week.  After getting back from New York late Monday night it was a mad dash to finish two days worth of contract work and everything I needed to do for the Bazaar Bizarre and When Creativity Knocks (both at this past weekend’s Maker Faire).  I only slept 5 hours each night, during which time I had several stress dreams, including having to perform a trapeze act in front of thousands of people with only ten minutes training by a hairy, naked French woman.  I ditched the circus as soon as I realized my face wasn’t on the poster and the audience wasn’t expecting me anyway.

There were a few snags, like having to leave Eleanor on her own to finish the last hour of mock-ups, and not being able to find the catnip, bells and beans I needed for the WCF steak cat toy demo, but everything got done in the end and the results were fair to good.  The Bazaar Bizarre raffle looked fantastic (thank you volunteers and friends/family of Jamie!), the demo went smoothly (though I had to omit the filling step), and the Sweet Meats sold really well.  In fact, all the vendors did really well.  Everyone kept remarking on how the recession didn’t seem to exist inside the Maker Faire.  Maybe the attendees save so much money by growing their own food and building their own vehicles that they have plenty left over to spend on plush meats and robot soap dispensers.

I love that the Maker Faire Bazaar Bizarre helps me pay my June rent, but I get a little sad that I can’t attend it anymore.  I got to go the first year, which was awesome, but it’s so much bigger than it used to be and all of the new stuff is so tempting.  I want so badly to ride the two-person ferris wheel, but my short lunch break doesn’t allow time to wait on the long line.  This year many of the exhibits were open on load-in day (Friday), so I got to see a few things after setting up that night, but I had to work all that day, so my participation there was limited to about half an hour.  Next year I’m going to load-in first thing on Friday so I can spend the rest of the day exploring the exhibits.  Not everything will be up, but I’m sure it will still fill the day.  One highlight of the Faire was getting an Editor’s Choice ribbon from Becky Stern at Craftzine.  I’ve been secretly coveting one of these for years (I’m a HUGE fan of Craft) and it gave me a nice “mission accomplished” feeling at the end of an insane week.

maker faire editors choice

The day after the Maker Faire was my birthday, so I did a little shopping for myself on Sunday.  I got an awesome tool apron from Polly Danger (I made her assistant take off the one he was wearing and hand it over), a sweet little wrist wallet from eleen, and the most awesome snail mail stationery set from Jill K. in L.A.  My friend Lydia moved across the country to Pittsburgh so I am currently writing her real letters on ugly stationery I bought in high school with lots of cross outs.  She types on lovely onion skin paper using an antique typewriter.  I think the snails will help bring me a step up.  When I first saw the stationery in L.A. I was determined to buy a set even though it seemed expensive to spend $5 for one letter’s worth of paper and envelopes.  Then I heard a man at another booth explain to his wife that of course he was going to buy this $6 card, because he couldn’t think of anything better to spend his money on than a way to meaningfully communicate with his friends.  I couldn’t agree more.

tool apronwrist walletsnail mail stationery set