Have you ever heard of “Friendly Plastic”? Or seen it anywhere? I had a love affair with this stuff when I first discovered it in the early 90s. A family-owned craft store used to carry it…and there went my allowance for the week, hahaha. Fifty cents a stick. Sad day when that store went out of business in 1995 and I had to look for those sparkly strips elsewhere! But I digress.
Friendly Plastic is a substance that is, yep…made of plastic…that you could melt in hot water and mold it into a desired shape. Or use it alongside a pre-cut mold, which was a better approach. I came across all of my art things trying to organize them, and I just happened to come across my old stash. It sure brought back memories of happy hours blissfully melting and molding.
I don’t know how old these strips are, but I can tell you that these strips are have gotten kind of brittle as I was handling them, so that should give you an idea that I’ve had them for awhile. They may go back to the 90s as far as I’m concerned. I wonder if they will still work as well as they might have when they were new? We shall see!
Anyway, the part you’re wanting to know more about…You melt the strips and shape them. he water has to be a certain level of hot…I found that out right away when the temp was close to 135 or so and they didn’t even budge. It has to be close to boiling to melt effectively.
You can cut your strips too, into the desired shape, and it’s a good idea to do so, as this material is not very forgiving if you mess up. If one corner overlaps onto another and you didn’t intend for it to, well you’ll have to make the best of it. It will not unfold back. It’s easier to use it with a precut mold -things like small human profile molds, such as those used for lapel pins, etc., were very popular. It’s a lot easier to wrap the melted plastic around the mold’s contours than to start from scratch.
Here’s an example of a lapel pin I made years ago representing a floral bouquet. It’s held up OK…although I did have to glue back one of the flowers as it had come loose.
Some of my old jewelry was not so lucky, and became brittle with age. This stuff is very delicate. And not always “friendly”…you also needed a knife (preferably heatproof) to work with it.
Also you don’t want to overwork it, as the metallic look starts to “crackle” (if you’re working with metallic strips.) I loved the metallic colors the most, but they problem is they were black on the other side and if the metallic color in the front started to crackle, the black would show through. Nevertheless, this stuff was fun to play around with, I would make earrings, and sometimes supplement a few clay projects with it,
One thing now that’s different from today is that Friendly Plastic also comes in pellets as ell as strips. Which I think, will give you a little leeway as you work, as you won’t be hampered by corners or contours when working. You could pour the pellets into a mold, like, say a cookie cutter, melt them and let them set up.
Now I got the itch to experiment with those old sticks and see how they held up. So, recalling what I did (probably 20 years ago- but you’d be surprised what you can remember) I set out the water on the stove, gathered up my supplies, and proceeded to melt it.
The water doesn’t have to be boiling. At least 180 degrees will be sufficient. So far, so good.
I did have sort of a plan, but nothing too ambitious. Remember I just wanted to see how it would perform after aging. I had a bracelet form that I wanted to wrap it around to embellish it as well as a pendant cabochon. As I dropped the sticks in the glass dish and watched them soften I went for it with one flat edged tool and proceeded to mold it around the form.
But that didn’t prepare me for what happened….It started to break on me! What a bummer! Have you ever had something plastic end up “dry rotting” due to prolonged exposure to sunlight, heat or something else…well it was like that.
I guess the lesson here is….Plastic is plastic and it’s got a shelf life.
So if you want to try it, best bet is to get a few molds, too, to make it easier. Just don’t store it for 20 years and expect it to work as magically as it did when it was fresh…LOL! And this, my friends, is why I call Friendly Plastic the sculpting material for non sculptors!