Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Home Is Where The Heart Is

This is a little late, but better late than never, right? So, a whole week into the new year, I'll take a step back to christmas and the ornaments I made from shrink plastic for my family. We decided not to give gifts this year, due to the poor economy AND because our family of six grown to a whopping fifteen! It gets expensive trying to buy gifts for that many people! We all bought gifts for the little ones and since I had signed a pledge to buy handmade gifts this year, I decided to go ahead and take it to the next level by using up the shrink plastic I had left over and make the rest of the family ornaments. And not just any old ornaments. A homage to Wisconsin and the places we all have spread out to and made our homes in: Madison, Milwaukee and Kenosha. My brother just married Keely, who's from Illinois, so I had to make an extra state for theirs, but luckily it was just illinois and was easy to piece together.

So, here is exactly what I did!

Step One:
Once you draw on shrink plastic, it's hard erase your marks, so you want to make a template or pattern to trace. Since shrink plastic shrinks to 1/3 it's original size, you want to make sure your template is big enough to shrink. I didn't get any measurements for my templates, sorry. It never crossed my mind! I did, however, use up almost an entire sheet of plastic from the RoseArt shrink plastic kit. I put the state of Wisconsin towards the top and there was just enough room to fit the heart.

Step 2:
Once you've got your pattern all drawn out (I started with pencil, then re-traced it with marker, so it was easier to see.), but put your shrink plastic sheet down shiny side DOWN. You need to draw on the rough side and ONLY WITH PENCIL. No markers or crayons on this one. Carefully trace your image working hard not to smear the lead all around. It smears really easily. As a lefty I always fail big time on that.

Step 3:
Carefully cut your image out. My initial vision for these ornaments was that I would use a razor pen to cut them out perfectly, but shrink plastic tears easily and is hard to cut. I had to abandon my original plan in favor of just slowly cutting away at it with regular scissors until i most of the surrounding plastic was gone. I couldn't get a perfect cut, but considering all the times I nearly cut a finger off with the razor, I was happy. Then, using the razor, cut holes into the images. Wisconsin gets two: one at the top to hang it with, one at the bottom to tie the heart on. The heart gets the one while the Illinois gets two as well. Then you color everything. I colored the states first, Wisconsin was sky blue, Illinois grass green, the hearts read. From there you re-trace the outline of the states and heart, making sure the border has a nice dark, defined edge. Then you color in the hearts and write "HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS" in the actual heart.

Step 4:
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Now, i'm going to go out on a limb and say it needs to be an OVEN oven, not a toaster oven. My toaster oven, when heated to 350 degrees on the bake setting, didn't get hot at all. I could put my hands in the oven and touch all the metal and not get burned. I tried several different settings, positions and temperatures and got the same results: a)nothing at all, or b) everything curled up and got all melty. SO, maybe my toaster oven is just cheap and an asshole, but I'm going to say it was just the nature of it being a toaster oven. USE A REAL OVEN. As soon as that oven is pre-heated to 350, put your cut outs on a non-greased cookie sheet and put THAT into the oven for THREE MINUTES!!! No more is needed, they'll shrink in that short time. Take them out, they look cute and little, but let them cool!

Step 5:
Whip out your ribbon and tie those lil fuckers together! I used ribbon that had wire ... not such a great idea. I just thought the iridescent glitter went better with the sky blue and grass green colors better than traditional christmas colors. In hindsight, regular ribbon sans a wire would have been much better.

Step 6:

this one is without Illinois ...

... and WITH Illinois

So, there are my ornaments. Between cutting my fingers to hell, then the first ones burning up in the toaster oven they sort of drove me crazy ... and took forever. I was a little bashful when giving them since they look like a 4-yr-old made them, because I'm not so good with my hands. But, everyone loved them and I personally just really love Wisconsin and my family. It made me happy to make them for everyone.

We'll have to see what I think up for next year, huh? Hopefully they look a little nicer!


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