For those who like the idea of sculpting but have difficulty working with real clay, polymer clay can bring real joy. Polymer clay is not actually earthen clay. It’s made from PVC and is only called clay because of its texture-similar to modeling clay.
One of the things that makes it so fun is that it’s available in a variety of rich colors. Metallic and iridescent hues are made by adding mica to the mixture. Kids and adults alike find the clay easy to work with.
The clay is cured by baking at low temperatures, around 230 to 250 degrees. Once cured, it is hard and durable. Layers of uncured clay can be added to the cured product and re-baked with no damage to the cured piece. It should be noted that curing the clay at too high of a temperature can create harmful fumes, but curing at the right temperature will only produce a mild odor. There are also air dry versions of polymer clay.
This clay was developed in the early 1930s as a doll maker’s response to the lack of plastic available. Unfortunately the compound did not suit the purpose and the formula was passed on to a friend for the creation of Fimo. Around the mid 1960s polymer clay became popular among artists and other brands, such as Sculpey and Modello, emerged. Polymer clay is often referred to as “Sculpey” clay, although Sculpey is a specific brand.
Because this substance is relatively new to the art world, many artists are still exploring new ways to work with the compound. Polymer clay tools or molds are often improvised. Traditional sculpting tools can be used, but many artists find it a fun challenge to use common household items.
Polymer clay can be used to sculpt many things, including figurines, picture frames, casing for ball point pens, vessels and much more. Bead and jewelry making is also a popular use for the clay. Sculpting with the clay doesn’t require very many tools and costs very little to get started so many find this hobby affordable and fun for all.
To get started all that is really needed are a few packages of clay. There are a few items that will make working with the clay easier such as a rolling pin, a craft knife, and wax paper. Kitchen items like the rolling pin, a cutting board, and a cookie sheet to bake the pieces on should not be used again with food, so buy cheap versions to use with the clay. Serious artists may also have a pasta machine and or a clay gun. Those making beads will want to have skewers or needles to create the holes. Craft glue is also needed to bond clay to other materials, such as metal or wood.
Polymer clay is a lot of fun and its possibilities are endless. It is a great alternative to natural clay, less messy and enjoyable for all.