What is Polymer Clay?

Polymer clay is a wonderful medium to create sculptures, jewelry, acessories, artwork, you name it!  It can be a bit intimidating to anyone who is new to it, though.  Hopefully this post will give you a better idea of what polymer clay is all about, and encourage you to try it for yourself!

Polymer clay is popular in the arts and crafts field, but to those who are new to crafting or clay moulding in general, it may be an unknown term.  Polymer clay is a modelling clay made from PVC (polymer polyvinyl chloride).  It actually doesn’t contain clay minerals, but a liquid is added to the particles to make it workable, and then the clay is fired to remove this liquid and solidify the clay (just like the earthen traditional clays).

The difference, however, is that polymer clay requires a much lower temperature to cure. So low, in fact, that we can cure polymer clay in our own ovens at home!!  This is why polymer clay is so popular…we don’t need any expensive equipment to cure it, just our own ovens!

 

Polymer clay remains workable right up until it is cured in the oven, meaning that it won’t dry out on you while you’re working with it.  It becomes pliable when you head it up in your hands, and more stiff as it cools down.  If you want really soft clay you’ll have to work it between your hands, kneading it back and forth for a while, and if you want crumbly, harder clay you can even stick it in the fridge or freezer for a bit to cool it off.

Polymer clay comes in a wide variety of colours, in addition to the traditional off-white colour.  It can be painted with acrylic paint (either artist quality or simply craft paint) after it cures, so buying a multitude of clay colours isn’t entirely necessary, but it can provide nice short-cuts to colour (plus the wide varieties of colours and effects the clay comes in is fun to play around with!)

Brands of clay include Sculpey, Premo, Fimo, and Kato.  They vary in temperature curing times (although the general recommendation is 275 F for 30 min per 1/4″ thickness).

[box type=”info”] One thing to keep in mind, however, is that whatever your clay touches should not be used for food use as well. So if you cure your clay in a glass baking dish, make sure that dish is for polymer clay only. I like to take it a step farther and have a toaster over for the single purpose of curing polymer clay. You can’t be too careful! polymer clay can give off some potentially dangerous fumes when it’s transforming from soft clay to permanently hard clay, so a separate oven is a good idea to make sure those fumes never accidentally find their way into your cooking food![/box]

One problem most newcomers to polymer clay encounter is scorching: this is the darkening (or even burning) of the clay while it is curing.  Some colours of clay are more prone to this than others (colours like transleucent and any really light colours).  some brands are also known to be more susceptible to scorching (the Sculpey colours, in my observations, tend to need more babysitting than the other brands when it comes to preventing colour darkening).

             Stay tuned to this blog…on Monday I’ll make a separate post dedicated to methods to prevent scorching (including the method that I use all the time, and have never had a problem with clay darkening since I started using it!).  It’s a secret until Monday!!  See you then!!  🙂

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