Vintage Make-A-Plate kits: The melamine plates you could make with a child’s drawing

Vintage Make-A-Plate kits from the 1970s

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Back in the late sixties, a small company started selling these vintage Make-A-Plate kits, and they were a huge hit with kids, parents and teachers.

What better gift for mom or grandma than a one-of-a-kind custom melamine plate featuring a child’s artwork?

The company once known as Small Fry Originals (at some point, a division of Texas Ware), was the brainchild of Bob Hodges. He was a man with a background in plastics and dinnerware manufacturing who got the initial idea from a neighbor who was a teacher: What if you could create a way to permanently save kids’ artwork?

In 1998, Hodges explained the manufacturing process to the Miami Herald, describing how the art was actually embedded into the plate itself. 

He said that the plastic dishes — at least up to that point — were created by sandwiching the drawings between two pieces of melamine plastic. They were then molded for three minutes at 300 degrees, and with 1000 pounds of pressure per square inch (psi).

Jokingly, he added, “We tell our customers our products are biodegradable, because nobody throws them away.”

PS: Yes, you can still order these custom plates today! According to their company history page, they’re the same business, but now are called Makit Products. (The production process has also been updated for the modern era.) See what may be available on Amazon here.

Makit Products Make A Plate craft kit
The 21st century version: Makit Products Make a Plate and More – Easy Craft Project Kit
How to make your kid’s favorite dish: Offer from McArthur Dairy (1972)

If your kids can draw, they can decorate their own plates. It’s fun. It’s easy. They draw anything they want, and we’ll make a plate out of it. In full color.

Send for your McArthur Small Fry Original Dinner Plate Kit today. (The full details are on a half gallon carton of McArthur milk.)

Each Kit contains an instruction sheet, a set of colored markers plus 10 special mats to draw on. Your kids can draw anything they like, using one side of our special mats. Then when their designs are completed, simply mail them back to us.

In approximately two weeks we’ll send you a break-resistant, dishwasher-safe plate with your child’s drawing baked in forever. Want to make a set? Fine. Each Kit contains enough materials to make up to 10 plates.

McArthur Small Fry Dinner Plates are fun to make. Fun to give as gifts. Fun to keep as mementos of your budding artist.

So head for your nearest store and get a half gallon carton of McArthur — the rich milk. And find out how to make your kid’s favorite dish.

ALSO SEE: Easy-Bake Ovens: The vintage kitchen toys that let kids bake their own mini cakes

How to make your kid's favorite dish Offer from McArthur Dairy (1972)

Make your own plate – Melamine craft kit from the 1960s & 1970s

The Miami News (Florida) July 18, 1969

Children designed plates: Turn kids’ doodles into plastic plates

Small Fry Originals, a special signature design program for everyone from doodlers to “serious artists” of all ages, has been announced by Plastics Manufacturing Co. Designs are molded into dinner size plates of stain resistant and dishwasher-proof plastic.

Initially, kits containing 50 sheets of special paper cut to the size of the dinnerplate, and special felt tip water colors, will be sold to schools and organizations for under $2.

ALSO SEE: Candy Land, the vintage board game that made millions of kids dream of an ice cream & lollipop world

These kits contain a self-mailer to return the designs to Plastics where the plates will be molded and returned for a cost of $1 plus postage. Delivery on individual plates is 6 to 8 weeks.

The program was tested with an elementary school in Richardson, Texas, with 600 students participating. Several of the lower grade classes used the kits in an art project to develop a Mother’s Day gift to take home.

Kids making plate drawings - Irving Daily News (Texas) December 22, 1971
Kids making plate drawings – Irving Daily News (Texas) December 22, 1971

“Look, Mom! I painted it myself! And, I’m going to give it to you for Christmas!”

Ideal for children of all ages… their budding creativity captured forever on fine 10-inch melamine plates, each design created and signed by the artist.

These gift-quality plates are break- and stain-resistant, in the best Texas-Ware tradition. Each makes a lasting gift cherished by parents and grandparents alike. A truly worthwhile project for any school or club group.

Each kit contains 50 paper mats for drawing, a box of special color inks and simple instructions. Each child draws his own original design on a paper mat, complete with his signature, if desired.

Make your own plate - Melamine craft gift 1970

For teachers: Preserve your kids’ art in a 10-inch melamine picture plate (1976)

Order either a plate or a tile kit. Distribute the markers and special paper (enough tor up to 50 drawings) to your class and watch their creative impulses take over.

Then send the completed designs to its, using the enclosed return mailer. We mold them into 10″ plates or 4″ square tiles of durable melamine.

There’s nothing that quite matches the kick that children get the first time they see their drawings permanently molded into something useful they can keep forever.

The plates and tiles are stain-resistant, break-resistant and dishwasher safe. So kids can use their plates at mealtime. Tiles can be used as a trivet or to decorate a wall. Or give them as unbeatable gifts.

So let the fun begin. Give your kids an original project which pleases you, please them, and pleases parents. Small Fry Originals.

Preserve your kids' art in a 10-inch melamine picture plate (1976)

Vintage Make-A-Plate kits

A child’s imagination… expressed in vivid color

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Vintage Make-A-Plate kits from Small Fry Originals (1976)

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. I was so excited to find this article. I made a Small Fry Original in 1978 as a gift for my grandmother. She’s long gone, but I take the plate out every year.

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