What the heck is polymer clay?
Polymer Clay is a magic substance! Don’t scoff at the word magic. What else would you call a substance that can be formed, twisted, pushed, pulled and forced to change colors but magical.
Push clay into molds to create extremely detailed decorations to embellish an almost endless array of items. Make molds from objects you want to replicate. Form the clay into canes with designs that are the same from one end to the other. Create figurines and sculptures using clay. The list of things you can make with polymer clay is a bit like what Buzz Lightyear of Toy Story says “to infinity and beyond.”
The majority of customers who come by my booth have no idea what polymer clay is or they only know it by a brand name like
Sculpey or Fimo. Those who have never heard of it have no idea of how wonderful polymer clay is. When I try to explain the process of building a cane I use in my products, customer’s eyes tend to glaze over. I now carry an old package of Sculpey and a page from a Marie Segal book of techniques with me to all my shows. These visual aids do great job of graphically showing what it is and how it is used and do it so much better than I ever could.
On The Technical Side
Now on to the technical of what polymer clay is. Polymer clay is a type of modeling clay based on the polymer, polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It remains workable until cured. Curing occurs at temperatures from between 230°F to 325°F dependent on the manufacturer. The length of time for curing is also dependent on the brand of clay being use and the thickness of the item. Since the curing temperature is so low, many people will use their home oven or a toaster oven. There is really no need for expensive or high temperature kilns.
Polymer clay is available in a wonderfully wide array of colors from bold to pastel. These colors can be used straight from the package or combined to create even more colors or blended into gradients. Additionally, there are specialty clays including translucent, fluorescent, phosphorescent, pearls and metallics. And if all of that is not enough, all sorts things can be mixed in or added on the surface. Mix glitter right into the clay for a special sparkle or apply mica powder, acrylic paint, and alcohol inks on the surface of the clay before baking.
Different Manufacturers – Different Instructions
There are quite a few major manufacturers of polymer clay and each has their own special characteristic and avid followers. Manufacturers may have various types of clay they produce. Each one of the clays have particular characteristic aimed at particular customers and the items they are making.
There are soft, firm, extra firm, glow in the dark, bendable and more unique clays. Your choice is based on your preference, what you are making and to some extent where you are located. I have a brand I prefer and tend not to purchase other brands. I might be limiting myself, but right now, I am happy with the clay I am using. I do read reviews of other clays and try to keep informed of new developments so if something new pops-up. I can consider trying it.
Besides all of the major brands, there are store brands and economy off brands. These are not usually in the same category as the major brands. The store brands would probably be fine for doing a rainy day project with the kids. But many people report that they don’t measure up to the standards set by the major brands. My personal recommendation is to stick to the major brands. If they seem expensive, shop around or wait for a sale. Always remember the adage:
“Never go to a craft store without a coupon.”
Coupons are plentiful and easy to get hold of with smart phones. Usually the store personnel will help you find their coupon and add their app to your phone.
So that is the basics
Now you have the most very basic information about polymer clay. Believe me, this really just skims the surface of working with polymer clay. If you decide to try working with it, please make sure to read and follow the particular manufacturer’s instructions. They are the experts.
Also, take advantage of the many knowledgeable bloggers and the information that they freely share. A favorite of mine is Ginger DavisAllman at The Blue Bottle Tree (https://thebluebottletree.com/). But there are so many, many more and I encourage you to check them all out.
Just one last thing
I cannot stress enough what a great medium polymer clay is. People of any age can have fun using polymer clay to create object from fanciful to useful. Even young children, with supervision, can create items they can be proud of. I do tend to get excited about polymer clay. But then, what is not to be excited about this wonderful, magical stuff.
To learn how I started with polymer clay check out this post.