I was recently in one of my fave art boutiques in Philadelphia, ArtStar, when I happened upon BirdQueen Designs jewelry. I kept touching the various pieces feeling their smooth edges, trying to figure out if they were lasercut or how they were made. They seemed familiar to me, but they weren’t like other tech jewelry I had seen. Luckily a small card explained the process, and I was amazed to discover it was much like the Shrinky Dinks I had experienced as a kid. Who is this fabulous artist and where did she come up with this idea? Meet Gretchen Diehl, nature lover and shrinker of plastic!
Gretchen went to grad school for fine arts with a focus in painting and drawing. Once she graduated, she found herself in an interesting dilemma—how to make art and make a living.
I was trying to sell my original artwork after grad school and was having a hard time convincing people to find space for big paintings and drawings. Original drawings and paintings were also expensive (because they had to be—I had put a lot of time and material into them), and the people that were connecting with my work were a lot like me; artsy, passionate, and not necessarily affluent. A friend showed me how to use the shrink-film, which is usually used in scrap booking, and I started producing my own charms out of prints of my original drawings. The material was never as important to me as the ability to make my drawings affordable to people, but over time I grew to love it!
You are probably still wondering where the tech comes into play; it’s all about the printing.
I scan the drawing into the computer and re-size it and fill an 8.5 x 11 in. sheet in Photoshop and print directly onto a thin sheet of plastic ink-jet shrink film. Then I cut the pieces out with regular scissors and a 1/8″ hole punch. I line a baking pan with many layers of parchment paper and sandwich the cut pieces in between. After they come out of the oven, I put a heavy flat bottomed pot on top to keep them from curling. After they have cooled, I set them on a board with rolled masking tape on it (very high-tech!) and spray with a layer of clear acrylic. Once they are dry, I assemble them into jewelry!
As you can see, the plastic allows her to integrate multiple pieces and produce a translucent layered look which works well for insect wings. Although Gretchen’s first love was birds, she has come to really love insects and the medium works well for their intricate textures and colors. In the end, it is the drawing she really loves, and lately she’s been experimenting with printing her own cloth. Check out her creations on Redbubble. Part of the fun of being an artist is allowing the passion to take you into other forms, and I can feel the excitement as Gretchen moves into the fashion space. If you would like to try making your own jewelry, you’ll find DIY kits on her site. Also, if you like doodling and creating fun designs, you’ll get a kick out of our techy Pixel Art Card. Scratch off your own original digital card or sign for your fave friend—Valentine’s Day is coming soon!
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