What is Polymer Clay?

What is Polymer clay? It's a clay that essentially never air dries. Sounds impossible?

This clay has a very similar consistency to plasticine, and is probably made from similar components. It's more closely related to plastic than clay in it's makeup due to the fact it's made up of a sculptable material called polymer polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

There are a lot of people who still don't know what polymer clay is.

When I tell people that I make figure sculptures, the first image they get in their head is a terracotta sculpture. When I tell them that I use Polymer clay their reaction is...

"What is polymer clay?"

My lazy answer is "it's special clay that can appear like real skin when finished." They nod and smile but I'm pretty sure they still don't know what polymer clay is.

It Doesn't Dry?

That's pretty much correct. Polymer clay doesn't dry out in the air like conventional clay does. Conventional clay you have to open the packet and sculpt very quickly before the air dries your sculpture to the point that it's unworkable. The only way you can slow the process is by spraying it with water or covering it with wet toweling.

However, with polymer clay, it with keep staying sculptable relatively indefinitely.  An opened packet of clay will stay usable for months, sometimes years.

Polymer clay has only 3 enemies:

1. Heat. Storing the clay in a hot environment can cause the clay to partially bake an render the clay crumbly and unusable.

2. Leaching. The clay has oils in it which keep it moist but storing the clay against a porous surface can cause the surface to absorb the oils out of the clay leaving the clay void of the oils and drying it out.

3. Dust. Keeping the clay clean can be really difficult but when it hasn't been covered, dusts and dirt can settle on the clay leaving black marks and smudges that are almost impossible to remove without cutting the whole top layer of clay away.

So if you are the sort of person who likes to take your time with projects, polymer clay might be the craft for you!

Do I Need A Special Oven?

No, all you need is your home kitchen oven to get started! A convection oven is the ideal choice simply because it has an even heat but any kitchen oven will work.

Keep in mind that some ovens are more tempermental than others and you may need to experiement with the temperatures in order to get it not to burn and cook accurately.

I do recommend ultimately buying an oven dedicated to cooking only your dolls in, purely as a precaution. Please read the article Polymer Clay Safety.

A cheap solution to a second oven would be a small Turbo Cooker. Please see this article:

Polymer Clay Turbo Cooker

So Is That All I Need?

Polymer clay will go soft before curing hard in the oven, so most things you sculpt will need to be supported by a wire skeleton called an "Armature". This armature can be made from galvanized steel wire at any gauge that is just small enough to fit inside of your doll.

The trick is you want the wire to be thin enough so that you can't see it through the clay but thick enough so that it provides enough support for your doll to keep it strong and sturdy during it's softest state.

So what is a good shopping list to start when you are starting out sculpting dolls? Not sure what you'll need? The following is a fairly comprehensive list of items I recommend:

* FIMO : Puppen

* Johnsons 3 in 1 sculpting tool

* Toothpicks

* Xacto Knife / scalpel

* Needle Nose Pliers

* Wire

* Masking Tape

* Aluminum Foil

* Jo Sonja's Acrylic Paints

* Tibetan Lamb Hair / Mohair

* Silk Gauze

* Fantasy Film / Angelina Film

* Liquid Fimo

* Magic Sculpt

* Turbo Cooker

Where can you buy these items? I don't sell them personally but I have tried to link to places that do on THIS PAGE.

Polymer Clay in the 21st Century

There are many different kinds of polymer clay and it takes a lot of trial and error to learn which brand is best for you. There are brands of clay such as Fimo, Sculpey, Artists Ozzle, Living Doll, Prosculpt, and Kato, to name a few.

Each have their own attributes and all have been used by professional artists. Some artists even combine different brands of clay to make the most of the positive attributes of each. I've already recommended my favourite above, but ultimately it's your choice.

There are of course many different ways to utilize polymer clay than just making dolls; but creating figure sculptures is truly one of the most rewarding ways to use polymer clay.

Venture through this website, and you may never have to ask "what is polymer clay?"

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