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Shrinky Dinks

Gather ye ‘round, gather ye ‘round! Shoulder yourself in amongst the crowd that’s growing around the oven and take a gander through that glass…magic baked goods are transforming before your very eyes! We’re not talking about Toll House cookies or soufflés either. We’re talking Shrinky Dinks. No, you can’t eat them—they’re plastic. But you wouldn’t want to—they’re also art.

Shrinky Dinks entered the toy and craft scene in 1973. Inside the boxes were sheets of plastic—they came with either outlined drawings that you could color in yourself, or blank pages, upon which practically any tracing, drawing or rubber stamp picture could be imposed. After the artwork was colored in, you cut them out, laid them out on a cookie sheet (or looked over mom’s shoulder as she did), and then slid them into an oven or toaster oven for a few minutes. The plastic sheets shrunk to nearly a third of their original size, and became many times thicker. When you plucked the cut-outs from the oven, they had become hardened little masterpieces—their colors were brighter and more intense, and get this, if you accidentally colored outside of the lines when your creation was in its plastic sheet stage, your mistakes were miraculously baked away!

There were TV and movie tie-in Shrinky Dinks, as well as arcade and toy store salutes. To name just a few: Star Wars, Pac-Man, Smurfs, Cabbage Patch Kids, Barbie, Power Rangers, and Mr. T (it’s a delirious power trip to actually be able to shrink Mr. T, by the way).

If having a little two-dimensional Smurf friend in your clutches didn’t light your fire, don’t worry. There was a whole realm of other more practical possibilities. You could make jewelry, game pieces, gift or pet tags, magnets, ornaments, zipper pulls, tie tacks, bike plates, traced photos and key chains. And besides the colored pencils or markers or paint, all you needed for products like these was a paper hole punch and some good glue.

Shrinky Dinks were a staple at summer camp craft tables. They were the perfect rainy day activity when you were looking for something a little more interactive than your coloring book. Surely some of the more ambitious Shrinkers graduated to the big time, moving into kiln-fired pottery, all kinds of sculpture, and possibly even the lost (but occasionally re-found) art of glass blowing. Well why not? If your artistic medium involves substances that are placed in high heat, chances are you Shrunk from time to time. That magic plastic had a way of seducing a person.

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Vaporman87 Posted on Sep 13, 2015 at 10:14 PM

I know for a fact that my sister and I had created Shrinky Dinks a couple of times in our youth (with help from mom), but I recall thinking that, although cool, they weren't that practical. I think the novelty of it wore off quickly with me, and I never really asked for any more after that.

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