You might have seen the packages in a craft store, or perhaps you’ve seen a booth at a craft show with colorful creations lining the tables. Maybe a friend has sent you to this page to learn more about their beloved hobby. So, what is polymer clay? Let me tell you all about it!
What is Polymer Clay?
Polymer clay is a synthetic modeling putty that never dries out and hardens when you cure it in a home oven. It comes in a vast range of colors that can be mixed together as you do with paint. You can mold it, sculpt with it, and shape it in infinite ways. After curing, polymer clay can be carved, sanded, painted, polished, or enjoyed as-is. It’s durable, strong, lightweight, comfortable to wear as jewelry, and incredibly versatile. It’s used by children and fine artists alike to make a dizzying array of creations from simple figures to complex art installations. You might also know this material as Fimo, Sculpey, sculpty, or polyclay.
What is Polymer Clay Made Of?
Polymer clay is vinyl, similar to what makes a baby doll, beach ball, or aquarium tubing. All flexible vinyl, whether it’s a doll or the insulation on electrical wires, starts the same. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is mixed with plasticizer, stabilizer, lubricant, and pigments. It’s then shaped and heated to form a solid material. Uncured polymer clay is just this uncured vinyl mixture with some filler, similar to talc or chalk, to make it into a dough. Once we shape it and cure it in the oven, polymer clay becomes solid vinyl.
Because polymer clay is a craft material, the specific ingredients are chosen to be non-toxic. It is perfectly safe when used as a crafting, modeling, and artistic medium. It’s even safe for children to use, once they’re old enough to stop putting things in their mouths. (While polymer clay is not toxic, it’s also not food!)
What Can You Make with Polymer Clay?
In short, you can make just about everything with polymer clay. But rather than tell you, let me show you. Here are several slideshows that tell the story far better than I can!
Polymer clay is widely used to make jewelry, beads, and buttons. You can make things it colors or styles to match fashions or in the theme of something special to the wearer. Here you’ll see delicate and ethereal necklaces, bold and modern bracelets, and colorful and fun brooches. Your imagination is truly the only limitation.
Creatures and People
From cute little figurines to complex lifelike sculptures of humans (and humanoids), polymer clay can create a fantastical array of imaginary creatures. You can even make realistic sculptural portraits of people you know or beloved pets. Cake toppers for weddings are a favorite subject, too.
Decorations and Things
You can make wall art, plant pots, decorated wine glasses, vases, bowls, boxes, and so much more with polymer clay. Here’s just a small sampling.
Advantages over Other Media
While all art and craft media have their good and bad points, polymer clay has some distinct advantages over other media that you might have used.
- Polymer clay is inexpensive, and the start-up cost is low
- It’s great for teaching color theory as it’s essentially 3-D color
- No kiln or special equipment is required. Bake at home in your oven.
- All skill levels can have success with the same materials. From kids to fine artists, the medium can be as easy or as complex as you need it to be.
- You can leave your works-in-progress indefinitely, meaning it’s perfect for a busy life with little creative time.
- Little space is needed to work, making it perfect for apartment dwellers, RV’ers, and anyone who is short of space.
- You can work alongside kids, each of you working on different levels of projects.
So, now that you know what polymer clay is, you’re ready for the next step, which is creating with polymer clay. But how to get started? Read on for the next article, How to Get Started with Polymer Clay.
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Photo Credits: All artwork photos are copyright to the respective artists and are used with permission.