GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Arts and Crafts with Authors: Jenn Bennett (Bitter Spirits-book 1 Roaring Twenties series) + giveaway | I Smell Sheep

Monday, January 6, 2014

Arts and Crafts with Authors: Jenn Bennett (Bitter Spirits-book 1 Roaring Twenties series) + giveaway

by Jenn Bennett

Many of you might know that I write the Roaring Twenties series (1920s paranormal romance) and the Arcadia Bell series (urban fantasy). And some of you might even know I'm an artist. But you probably don't know that before I started writing, I worked in product development for a national arts and crafts company, dreaming up new ways to use decoupage glue, wood, and paint. So I guess that makes me not only artsy but also craftsy, which is why melting plastic in my oven to make a necklace seems like an amusing way to spend an afternoon.

If you were a kid in the 1980s, chances are you knew what Shrinky Dinks were: flexible sheets of polystyrene plastic that could be decorated with colored pencils or felt-tip pens and, when baked in the over, shrank to 1/3 their size and hardened into thick plastic shapes. I don't have exact figures, but I think 99% of all early Shrinky Dinks were warped Christmas ornaments, hideous key chain charms, or off-brand cartoon character suncatchers made by kids (raises hand) who were tired of baking brownies in their Easy-Bake ovens.

But, hey! We were doing it all wrong. You can actually make some rather charming jewelry pieces out of shrink plastic. And to prove it, I decided to make a necklace inspired by my new book, BITTER SPIRITS. The hero of my book, Winter, is a bootlegger who falls in love with a spirit medium named Aida in 1920s San Francisco. In one scene, Winter takes her to a garment maker in Chinatown who sews Aida a stunning dress embellished with peacock feathers. The following is my riff on that motif and how I did it:

1) I sketched a peacock feather and increased the size in Photoshop (like I said, these things shrink to about 1/3 of their original size) then printed it out and taped it to the back of a sheet polystyrene plastic—which is rough on one side and about the size of a thick sheet of paper. [You can find these sheets online or in craft stores under the Polyshrink or Shrinky Dink brands.] Then I used colored pencils to draw the feather onto the plastic. 

2) I cut out the feather and used a hole punch on the top.
3) I baked the drawing in my oven following the package directions—at a super low temperature for a couple of minutes. When it bakes, the plastic curls up on itself as it shrinks and then magically straightens out.

4) and 5) When the time is up, you've got yourself a miniature drawing on a thick piece of hard plastic. Amazing! 6) Last think you need to do is spray a clear varnish on the piece to keep the colored pencil from rubbing off. I sprayed mine after midnight on my deck, which probably made my nosey neighbors wonder if I was starting up some sort of Breaking Bad meth lab.

7) I sketched a second batch of shrinks—this time, two smaller peacock feather "eyes." 
8) Baked them. 
9) And here they are out of the oven.

10) After all that shrinking, it was time to string up my new pieces with some beads. 
11) I even burned myself with a soldering iron while securing the jump rings and connectors. 
12) And voilà! Here is the finished piece. I think it turned out rather well, and I do believe my character Aida would happily wear this during one of her séances!

About the Author:
Jenn Bennett is the author of the Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series from Pocket Books and the Roaring Twenties historical paranormal romance series from Berkley. Born in Germany, she’s lived and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the U.S., and the Far East. She currently lives near Atlanta with one husband and two very bad pugs.

one winner will get the necklace and a print book!
Leave a comment with a way to contact you. 
Contest ends: Jan 20, 2014


  1. WOW, who knew. I am finding out all these dandy ideas, although rather than burning myself with the soldering iron, I would likely burn the house down. I have even been forbidden to sit at a sewing machine as they tend to evacuate the entire block each time I do. LOL I so admire this talent. Thank you for sharing with us with not only your writing skills, but also this dandy craft-work - truly lovely outcome indeed.

  2. So a great idea! I never would have even thought of doing something like this. Really creative!

  3. so creative!!! LOL... makes me wish I was proficient in crafting and/or cooking... alas... not my lot in life. But I so admire anyone who is! Especially one who can create such fun jewelry and write a book! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Awesome! So...I refreshed the page a few times and don't see how to enter the giveaway, just that there is one. If there is anything else we need to do to enter, could you let us know? Thanks!

  5. Looks creative. Not sure how to enter either.

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  6. very pretty. I remember shrink dinks. made lovely ornaments lol.
    scrtsbpal at yahoo dot com

  7. I remember making some shrinky dink type pictures that I drew of my dad. I used a gorilla as my dad was not amused. lol That is so cool that you thought to use that medium. I've made necklaces before and never thought o use something like that.

  8. Oh wow, very beautiful and fitting necklace for the book. I would of never thought to use the shrinky dinks for such beautiful jewelry. My kids used to play around with them but I've never seen them used in this way. This will definitely be my next craft project with my daughter.
    The Arcadia Bell series is one of my all time favorites and I can't wait to read this one, it's so unique and original.
    Thank you for the wonderful project idea and giveaway.


  9. Really creative! I love how the peacock feathers came out. Jenn, you did a wonderful job on the necklace. I can't wait to read your stories, since you are a new author to me.

  10. pretty
    I have Arcadia Bell in massive TBR pile
    would love to win & read

  11. I remember shrinky dinks! Lots of horrific "art" was created in my home during the early to mid 80s >.<


  12. Wow, what a great job. I shall have to try that but I would never be bale to make anything as nice as that.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  13. Very creative. Thanks for the awesome giveaway.

  14. Wonderful! I never would have thought of using the shrinky dinks for something like this. And I never even though of covering them in a varnish.

  15. Looks very interesting!
    Dmwigand73 at

  16. Awesome job! Looks fabulous.
    @lary1971 on twitter

  17. Love the idea of taking something from childhood and making it all growed up! It's like truffle mac and cheese!

  18. Shrinky-dink (autocorrect does NOT like that word) art is fun. I haven't done any in years. I admit I never tried feathers. Looks like the results turned out well.

  19. Loving that necklace! Very creative.


  20. NOT ENTERING! Lovely post Jenn, and although I was a kid in the 80's, I've never seen or done this. It looks gorgeous. You certainly are an artsy and crafty author! I hope the winner will love to wear it.

  21. I bought ALL the shrinky dinks as a kid. Smurfs, My Little Pony.. whatever. The necklace is gorgeous Jenn. :D (Already have the book - it's wonderful!)

    Readsalot81 at hotmail dot com

  22. OMG I haven't done these in yeeears! This is way prettier than anything I remember making in the 80's. lol Love it Jenn!

    always.and.never AT gmail DOT com

  23. I love shrinky dinks! I even had fun with the black sheets (try it with iridescent inks). The necklace turned out beautiful!

    books (dot) things (at) yahoo (dot) com

  24. Wow that looks amazing!!! Great Job!!

  25. Wow, you're so talented Jenn, that's awesome. I've been looking forward to reading Bitter Spirits since I first heard about it, so I'm happy it's time to be released. :D

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com

  26. So cool and creative! Thanks for the giveaway, love the necklace. :)


  27. Wow! I knew you were an amazing writer and also have seen some of your incredible drawings but this is such a beautiful necklace and so creative too! Just beautiful. There are no limits to what you can do are there? ;)

  28. That looks awesome!
    Thanks for the chance to win!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

  29. WOW I AM SOOOO IMPRESSED RIGHT NOW!!! Jenn - you are so brilliant!

    bookedandloaded at gmail dot com

  30. That necklace is gorgeous and I'd love to wear it. I'm a big fan of Jenn's books (which she is most definitely aware of) and would really love to win that book for my collection.


  31. Great book and gorgeous necklace!!

  32. Wow! That's so cool!

    tkhalliday at gmail dot com

  33. Given my recent crafting experiences, I think I'll pass on trying this...but I am so impressed that you're capable of it, Jenn! :)

    info at lindapoitevin dot com

  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

  35. I was a Shrinky Dink kid. I loved them! My sister sent my children the new Shrinky Dinks for Christmas this year and they failed miserably. My kids loved them anyway. I didn't know I could buy the products myself. I am not artistic my any stretch of the imagination, but my daughter is and I know she'd enjoy adding your ideas (though her ability certainly doesn't yet match yours) to her jewelry making fun. I, of course, would love adding your work of art, to MY jewelry collection. :)

    michelle_willms at yahoo dot com

  36. contest is now closed and the winner is: Patricia Obrien January 9, 2014 at 10:11 AM
    I have sent you an email. Thanks to everyone who stopped by! Now go make some shrinky dink fun!