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Polymer Clay

Polymer Clay

The Basics

Polymer clay is a type of hard-enable modeling clay that is versatile and pliable. This medium can be used to create jewelry, sculptures, vessels or anything you can imagine. It typically contains no clay minerals, but like mineral clay a liquid is added to dry particles until it achieves gel-like working properties, and similarly, the piece is put into an oven to harden, hence its designation as clay. Polymer clay has a very long shelf life that can be measured in years. Different brands of clay have different attributes. Some clays are softer than others, containing more plasticizer, and will last longer uncured. Old clay, as well as some firmer clays, may be harder to condition. However, if the clay you are trying to condition stays crumbly, it may be that it was accidentally heat-set at some point or it’s just too old. In either case, we suggest tossing it out and purchasing some new, fresher clay to work with. Most clay brands have a liquid form, which can be added to the clay to make it more malleable and easier to condition. If your clay is pliable right out of the package, you may think that you can just start working with it right away. However, this is not the case. Every brand of clay needs to be conditioned, no matter how pliable it is right out of the package. This is very important. Conditioning your clay makes the particles align themselves into long chains, which give the baked clay its tensile strength. Most clays are relatively easy to condition by hand or using a pasta machine. Curing the clay can be completed in an conventional oven or toaster oven.

History

Bakelite, an early plastic, was popular with designers and was an early form of polymer clay, but the phenol base of uncured Bakelite was flammable and was eventually discontinued. Polymer clays were first formulated as a possible replacement for Bakelite. One of these formulations was brought to the attention of German doll maker Käthe Kruse in 1939. While it was not suitable for use in her factory, Kruse gave some to her daughter Sophie, who was known in the family as "Fifi," who successfully used it as modeling clay. The formulation was later sold to Eberhardt Faber and marketed under the name "FIMO" Most of all polymer clay is used to create jewelry, pendants, beads, charms, earrings and brooches. Some create buttons, miniature sculptures and figurines. Once cured, polymer clay is hard and surprisingly durable. It can be scratched, cracked or broken, but if treated with moderate care, cured polymer clay can last for years without deterioration

Getting Started

It is easy to start creating with polymer clay with a few essentials. You will need clay, your hands and/or a pasta machine, a work surface, needle tool, tissue blade, acrylic roller and an oven are the essentials.

Storage

Polymer Clay should be stored in a cool, dry place with limited exposure to light. Some clay will begin to cure at approximately 90°F (32°C), once curing begins, it will never return to its original state. Store colors and canes in separate containers to keep them clean. Store polymer clay in plastic containers or resealable bags to keep fresh. Polymer Clay is compatible with most plastics, except for PVC plastics; these are plastics with a number “3” recycling number. Avoid any hard plastic similar to CD case material.

Brands & Types of Polymer Clay We Carry

Sculpey III

Sculpey III is soft and easy to work with. It is the easiest one to push through an extruder. This clay is available in over 40 vibrant colors. This product blends easily, which is good for color mixing, but is not recommended for cane-work (millefiori). This product is more brittle than others after baking.

Premo! Sculpey and Premo! Accents

Both Premo! Sculpey and Premo! Accents are stiffer than Sculpey. Premo clays retain flexibility after baking, making small details less vulnerable to breakage. These brands have a wider variety of colors. Premo is a top choice for a wide variety of techniques.

Sculpey Souffle

Souffle is one of the most flexible and strong polymer clays on the market and is soft and easy to handle. Souffle colors are more subdued and finishes to a more matte finish. This clay works well for mokume gane because it slices cleanly with little distortion.

Kato Polyclay

This brand of polymer clay developed and marketed by polymer clay artist Donna Kato. Kato Polyclay has a minimal color shift when cured. The color of the raw clay is the same as the color you get after curing. Because of its firmness, this clay is an excellent choice for creating canes. When sliced, it will maintain its shape and minimize distortion, unlike softer clays. The colors remain crisp and well defined.