On Oct. 19, 1973, two Wisconsin homemakers armed with toaster ovens made pop culture history. Betty Morris and her friend Katie Bloomberg premiered Shrinky Dinks: sheets of plastic that could be colored and heated, making jewelry, key chains, money clips, zipper pulls and tags for family cats and dogs.
Morris and Bloomberg met through their children; both had sons who were Cub Scouts. "When we became co-leaders of the pack," says Morris, "we were always looking for unusual crafts the boys could make."
Bloomberg read that charms could be made by coloring, then baking "liver lids" - throwaway plastic tops which came with delicatessen purchases. Morris was afraid cooking liver lids would burn the house down. "But I was wrong! It worked really well! So I thought, `with a bigger piece of plastic, they could make something interesting.' I was just a housewife; I thought it would be easy to find."
Despite rude rebuffs from several manufacturers, the mothers persisted, eventually calling a plastics consultant. He told them the smallest possible order would be 1,000 pounds. But Morris wrangled 12 8-by-10-inch sample sheets out of him, which she triumphantly took home to her Scout troop. "To our surprise, they just went crazy over it! Those boys fought over every scrap! Katie and I knew right then we ought to form a company."
Calling themselves K&B Innovations and deciding their product would be known as Shrinky Dinks, the moms cut a deal for a sales site in the local mall. Within five months, they became part of a national toy chain; within a year, Shrinky Dink-ing swept the nation.
Although Bloomberg ceased active work with K&B 14 years ago, Morris still champions all things Shrinky Dink. Right now, with Klutz Books, she's launched a new, 40-page "Shrinky Dink Book" and an "adult craft initiative" she has called Fantastic Fusibles.
"Now, I have this really great Seattle artist thing - I love it!" Morris laughs and leans in closer to the phone. "I'm telling you, the Shrinky Dink has never gone away. Because of all creative mediums in existence, Shrinky Dinks allow you to express the broadest range of ideas!"
K&B Innovations can be reached at www.shrinkydinks.com