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Polymer Clay 101

Fri Aug 12, 2016, 6:03 PM


                                                   Polymer Clay 101


            Hi everyone! I am ClayfrommyHeart and am a polymer clay artist. I got started with tiny miniatures and jewelry and slowly moved up to what I make now, large sculptures. I'm going to walk you through what I think, are the basics are to getting started with polymer clay! Enjoy! If you have any questions, feel free to ask!



    Want to work with clay but don't have a kiln? Polymer clay is the perfect clay to use if you don't have a kiln and you don't want to wait for air dry clay! It bakes at only 250 - 275 degrees F º. Polymer clay comes in many different colors, textures and brands. Here are some of the more popular brands of clay! 


Supersculpey by ClayfrommyHeart  Sculpeyultralight by ClayfrommyHeart  Fimoclassic by ClayfrommyHeart  Katopolyclay by ClayfrommyHeart   Premo by ClayfrommyHeart  Sculpeyiii by ClayfrommyHeart  
    Those are just a few brands of polymer clay! There are quite a few more out there to experiment with as well! Though they all seem to be different, they are all polymer clay! The first 2 are made to be painted and work well for base layers of sculptures! The others, all come in different colors and textures! Premo is well known for it's metallic and glitter clays and very unique colors! Now, the very interesting thing about the last 4 clays is that they can all be mixed together! It doesn't matter if the brands are the same. Now this is not always the case for all polymer clays. Some just don't mix properly so be sure to check the packaging before mixing!




So what is polymer clay exactly?

Polymer clay is actually not a true clay at all! It is a man-made clay made of a polyvinyl chloride compound with plasticizers for flexibility. It may sound scary but it's 100% safe! So is polymer clay more like pottery clay or is it more like air dry clay? Well, Polymer clay is kind of in the middle in that, like pottery clay, polymer clay needs to be heated to cure/harden but you don't need a kiln for this! At the same time, it's a lot like air dry clay where it can be painted with regular paints, is a bit more durable, and is a bit more affordable. In fact, polymer clay is actually marketed towards children! Though in reality, polymer clay is much more suited towards older children and adults since it needs to be thoroughly conditioned before using! 



What you need to get started

First off, you'll need some polymer clay! Aside from that, you'll need an oven (depending on what clay you use, you'll need to adjust your oven temperature) and aluminum foil for tenting and working on! There are many other tools you can get or even make but they are not necessary. Now depending on what you are making, you may need a few extra things. If you plan on making jewelry, make sure you have jewelry pliers, headpins or eyepins and any jewelry attachments. For sculptures, the only other thing you really need is a lot more foil and some wire for an armature! Polymer clay, like pottery clay, cannot be baked all the way through (it would take so long that your piece would eventually burn) if it's thick so it needs to have an armature or a core that's made of something that isn't clay. An oven thermometer is a good thing to have to make sure that your oven won't accidentally burn your piece! Now that you know the absolute necessities, here are some great tools to have with you when working on any type of project with polymer clay!

Sculpting Tools by ClayfrommyHeart   Rollee by ClayfrommyHeart        Glaze by ClayfrommyHeart            Extruder by ClayfrommyHeart                    Slicers by ClayfrommyHeart
These are a trio of               This is an                    This is Sculpey's               This is an extruder                      These are a series of
ball tipped sculpting              acrylic rolling               glaze specifically             set with multiple shaped                cutting tools referred 
tools great for holes,            pin. Great for              made for polymer            disks. This is great for piping          to as slicers and are 
texture and smoothing.        making even pieces.     clay.                             out long strands of shaped clay.      great for cutting clay.




What you can and can't do with polymer clay?

 There are almost infinite possibilities for using polymer clay! Some of the most popular things to make with it are sculptures, filigree, miniatures, canes, decor and many many more things! There's almost nothing you can't do with it! It can also be painted, glazed, etched on, drawn on, and it even makes great image transfers and awesome paintings! That being said, there are a few restrictions on what you do with what you make. First and foremost, you cannot make anything that will come in direct contact with food. Now there is the exception in that you can cover wine glass stems with it as well as eating utensil handles but be sure to hand wash after use as dishwashers can be a tad harsh on the clay. Second is that if you are covering something with clay, make sure it can go in the oven! Surprisingly things like paper, cardboard, glass, paper mache, foil, and metal can be baked at the low temperature required to bake polymer clay. Polymer clay also cannot be baked in the microwave or be boiled so please don't try this! Things like plastic and rubber are a big no no unless you are planning on starting a fire!:AHH: Here are a few examples of the amazing works of art using polymer clay:

First Polymer Dolphin By Zoehildebrand-r by ClayfrommyHeart            Talty's piece by ClayfrommyHeart                  Topo Gigio  Fanart  By Maga 01 by ClayfrommyHeart         Keira The White Husky Commission By Sculptedpups by ClayfrommyHeart
This dolphin sculpture is made     This miniature kitty planter   This adorable sculpture is made        This dog sculpture is made by
          by :iconzoehildebrand-r:                       made 
by :icontalty:               by  :iconmaga-01:                                           by :iconsculptedpups:
                                                        




Getting started!

Now that you know the basics, it's time to pick your project and get started! I always recommend starting small and working your way up! So that may mean starting with little charms or simple canes or even some small 2 or 3 inch miniature figures! Once you've picked out you project, lay a big piece of aluminum foil out where you plan on working (this will keep your clay from ever getting food in it and vice versus!) and if you'd like, tape it down. Next you'll need to pick which clay you will work with first! If you plan on using red clay at all, I recommend using this last! It will tint your hands red and will contaminate your other colors. If using Super Sculpey, Sculpey Ultralight or you plan on painting it, you can skip this. Now you need to condition your clay! No that does not mean you need to put hair conditioner on it! Lol This just means you need to work with or knead your clay for a few minutes. If you skip this step, your piece will be at risks for cracks, breaking and being too brittle. I like to run my clay through a clay machine (which is basically a pasta roller but is designated for clay only) 5 or 6 times rather than condition by hand. Once you have conditioned all the clay you plan on using, you can start creating! Once you are finished, preheat your oven for the recommended temperature and bake according to package! Hope you have fun! Happy Claying!





Some tips and tricks!

To wrap this up, I'm going to leave you all with some tips and tricks for working with polymer clay!
  • Always read the packaging to make sure you have your oven preheated to the right temperature. Too hot can burn your piece!
  • Use foil for a work surface and also to tent your work while baking! Especially if you are using your home oven and not a designated oven for clay!
  • If making a sculpture, be sure to push or even pound the air out of the foil! If it's too loose, it can cause your piece to bubble underneath the clay and sometimes cause the clay to crack.
  • Start small and work your way up! I started making miniatures, then moved to canes, jewelry, small-ish sculptures and eventually to large-ish sculptures. Starting small will help you learn the basics of clay without wasting too much time or energy.
  • Work with your red clays last! They can temporarily stain your hands and get into your other colors!
  • When making any kind of sculpture, big or small, make sure you have something you can use for stabilizing your piece! I've used toothpicks, thin and thick wire, and even head pins for stabilizing pieces!
  • Do some research! You never know what you will learn about all the things you can do with polymer clay! Also, feel free to contact me if you need help too!
  • Last but not least, learn things your own way! Just because something works for 1 person, does not mean it'll work for another! So Experiment, test things out, try something new! And most importantly, Have fun!






The photos and products featured in this article do not belong to me.
Credit for the photos of clays and tools goes to Joann Fabrics
A big Thank you to   :iconzoehildebrand-r:  :icontalty:  :iconmaga-01:   and :iconsculptedpups: for allowing me to borrow their photos for this article! Don't forget to stop by each of their pages if you liked their work!




Wanna start working with polymer clay but don't know where to start? Well here's a tutorial on how to get started and what you need to know!
Add a Comment:
 
:iconjssvoboda:
Jssvoboda Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2016
this is very helpful, thank you 
Reply
:iconclayfrommyheart:
ClayfrommyHeart Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
Glad it helped!
Reply
:iconlillyhope:
LillyHope Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2016
Ahh thanks so much for the tips/tricks and info!! :D
Reply
:iconclayfrommyheart:
ClayfrommyHeart Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
Glad that this helped you!
Reply
:icondorenna:
dorenna Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2016
Thank-you for the data.:happybounce: 
Reply
:iconclayfrommyheart:
ClayfrommyHeart Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
Of course!
Reply
:iconlintu47:
Lintu47 Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
Lovely article :clap:
Reply
:iconclayfrommyheart:
ClayfrommyHeart Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
Thank you!!
Reply
:iconlintu47:
Lintu47 Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
:hug:
Reply
:iconclayfrommyheart:
ClayfrommyHeart Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
Love 
Reply
:iconlemgras330:
lemgras330 Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Nice article Maddi! :dance:
Reply
:iconclayfrommyheart:
ClayfrommyHeart Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
Thank you!:D (Big Grin) 
Reply
:iconlemgras330:
lemgras330 Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:iconyourewelcomesignplz:     :aww:
Reply
:iconclayfrommyheart:
ClayfrommyHeart Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
Love 
Reply
:iconmaga-01:
maga-01 Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2016  Professional Artisan Crafter
You are most welcome and I'm honored! ^-^ :hug:
Very complete and well written article! Nice work! :dummy: :heart:
Certainly it will help anyone who wishes to start working with polymer clay.. and I wish I could have read it when I started. >.<  
  
Reply
:iconclayfrommyheart:
ClayfrommyHeart Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
Thank you!  Same! I can't tell you all the meg fails I've had because I didn't know half of this stuff.:D (Big Grin) ;) (Wink) 
Reply
:iconmaga-01:
maga-01 Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2016  Professional Artisan Crafter
Me too! XD
No problem.. It's very helpful! Nicely done ;)
:hug:
Reply
:iconclayfrommyheart:
ClayfrommyHeart Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks!Love  I needed to hear that! Glad you enjoyed it!
Reply
:iconmaga-01:
maga-01 Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2016  Professional Artisan Crafter
;D :tighthug:
Reply
:iconsinistrosephosphate:
SinistrosePhosphate Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Hey!
I love the article! And I've learned a lot more about polymer clay with your work. So thank you very much! It's a nice way to one's foot wet, that's for sure. And the examples you've chosen are quite nice, too. Sure, there are many things one can do with polymer clay, but nice broad categories are perfect for illustration purposes. 

As far as tutorials and articles go, however, there are a few what I would call "stylistic" things that you might want to take into consideration in the future (I am waiting for Polymer Clay 102 to come out!) The first thing is the layout. There are big chunks of open space in your article. This is usually caused by copy and pasting blocks of text from one source to another (Microsoft Word is notorious for doing this.) And when free-text software is transferred to web-based format, the "paragraph break" built into each system tend to result in huge empty spaces. It makes reading more difficult and makes the text look smaller in comparison. 

The second thing is picture alignment. Think of it as an article you read on a newspaper - if alignment is off, things become harder to read. So it makes a difference to the readers when the photographs are laid out nicely and lined up with equal spacing between them. This is especially true if you are lining up a series of photos on one "line". Not leaving empty, extra space towards the end of the line also help to make the whole thing look more professional. 

Finally, DA articles is a mix between essay writing and free-style journal writing. The style and tone of your voice when you write will affect how people read the article and how seriously it takes. That's why an exclamation mark is a precious resource that's not commonly used. It gets hard to read when people seem to be excited and scream at you from one line to another when you are reading a body of text. And that was probably one of the thing that stick out the most with me with this article. I know you are enthusiastic about the topic, but sometimes it helps to rein yourself in to get the message across. (I have used... 3 exclamation marks so far in this reply. You wouldn't think I am being cold and distant with you now, would you?

Overall, I think this is a good article for not only starting out on Polymer clay, but also in writing articles. You did a pretty good job on both accounts. Then again, of course there's room to grow. But that's what practice is for, isn't it? 
Reply
:iconclayfrommyheart:
ClayfrommyHeart Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks! Glad this helped. Yea, I tried to have a mix of different pieces of what can be done with polymer clay because well, there are sooo many different things that can be done with it.

Yes. This was my first time working with Stash Writer and I had a very hard time with lining stuff up. I actually didn't use copy and paste or Microsoft Word at all! Which is actually a bit ironic for me because I am much more comfortable with Microsoft Word than I am with Stash Writer. Stash Writer glitched on me a few times while writing and I wasn't able to fix the font sizing issue.


Yea.... This one had me stumped. While using Stash Writer, I had everything lined up PERFECTLY. Then after saving and viewing it, all the pictures were off center and jumbled up despite trying to fix it, it seemed like my trying only worsened it. It didn't help that for most of the pictures, had I made them any smaller, you wouldn't be able to tell what they are. I think that was one of the main reasons why (for example the first set of pictures) were so mismatched in how they came out on the finished piece.

I did get a little over enthusiastic.. Lol I was trying to make it up beat and exciting but I did use a few too many exclamation points.

Lol Thanks! This was really hard for me having to go back and try and relearn HTML coding, writing and learning the ins and outs of Stash Writer. I am sure it could use some polishing but for my first, I think this was pretty great! 

Thanks! I never considered making a Polymer Clay 102 but who knows! Maybe I will.
Reply
:iconsinistrosephosphate:
SinistrosePhosphate Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
I have to agree with you - for a first-time outing, you did pretty good! And nevermind the stylistics... the information in the article is pretty darned good, especially for folks who don't work with clay at all. So that's definitely a good thing. It's not just one step in the right direction. I'd call it a leap towards the right direction. 

I've tried to work with Stash writer in both Rich text form and html form. And most of the time it's the rich text that wins out. However, I have also learned that writing with the correct skin already put in place can be helpful (instead of writing the whole thing out then applying the skin. And speaking of skins... perhaps you are not using the right one. I find one of them to be more glitchy and harder to use when it comes to paragraphs and alignments. The new one seems to be better. (The new one looks like this: PE: How to customize cross-stitch patterns and this Intro to Wirework ) You'll notice that the header looks somewhat different in the two versions. Maybe using a slightly different version of the skin will help with the alignment better. 

Also, I noticed that your article hasn't show up on the "Project Educate" listing. Did you submit it as a journal or a piece of literature? Only journals will show up in the Project Educate listing. That way they can include it in the week's list of articles. You may need to look into that so people can actually read what you have to say!

... all in a day's work when it comes to working out the kinks, I am afraid... ^^;
Reply
:iconclayfrommyheart:
ClayfrommyHeart Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks! Yea I may have used an older skin so that may explain all the glitches I went through.

I fixed that! Turns out I was never given the permission to submit it there so I got that all fixed!


Yea..........
Reply
:iconsinistrosephosphate:
SinistrosePhosphate Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
That just might be the problem this time. But that's OK. It's a part of a learning curve, isn't it? My first tutorial wasn't the greatest one, either. But with practice, you'll get better, too! 

Oh, is that right? Ah, it's just a glitch, then. Glad to know it got fixed! :D

At the end of the day, you did a great job. And like what I said, looking forward to see a new one from you in the future! :w00t:
Reply
:iconclayfrommyheart:
ClayfrommyHeart Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
True. Thanks.

Yea, I never realized that there were different ones til way after submitting.

Thanks! I have a few plans but no clue when I'll start these.
Reply
:iconsinistrosephosphate:
SinistrosePhosphate Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Sometimes it's just nice to have the ideas and write them down. 
:iconprojecteducate: is having a tutorial contest right now, so if you have enough left over in the after-burners, you can consider joining in this one, too. Be A Guiding Light: Tutorial Contest!

Otherwise, there are recurrent "Artisan Week" on Project Educate a few times a year. And never forget that you can just write and post tutorials on your own, too. A lot of people do that! 
Reply
:iconclayfrommyheart:
ClayfrommyHeart Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
I saw that but I don't think I'll be doing that one as I don't have the spare time at the moment. I do plan on trying to do the next artisan craft week if possible though!
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