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.