what is polymer clay, anyway?
One of my most frequently asked questions as a clay artist/maker is:
"what is polymer clay, anyway?"
Polymer clay is a type of modeling clay that contains a basis of PVC resin and a liquid plasticizer. It also contains fillers and colouring agents. After modeling, polymer clay can be baked in a regular household oven to cure. It's also non-toxic, but should ALWAYS be kept away from children and pets!
It's a super popular material for making jewelry because it's easy to work with, doesn't dry out, can be purchased in almost every craft store, isn't overly expensive, and doesn't require any specialized tools to get started.
types of polymer clay
Polymer clay comes in MANY different brands and types, including the most well-known Sculpey and Fimo. Cernit is also another popular one among makers. Every maker has their preference of brand, as they all have slightly different textures/features. I work with quite a few different types, including Fimo Soft, Fimo Professional, and Sculpey Premo - but my absolute favourite is the coveted Sculpey Souffle.
Throughout 2020 and 2021, there was a worldwide polymer clay shortage due to COVID-19 production delays and also a massive boom of new clay makers. It was very challenging to consistently find products, especially with everyone needing to move to online shopping.
The one really cool thing about polymer clay is that all of the brands can be mixed together - so you can make your own shades using whatever you have on hand, and the possibilities of colour combos are really endless!
working with polymer clay
It has some really interesting properties, which means you can replicate a lot of finishes and textures using just polymer clay. There are also specialty types that include glitter or metallic finishes. A lot of makers also work with additives like alcohol inks and mica powders, which can add colour and shine.
finishing polymer clay
Properly cured polymer clay should be flexible, not hard or brittle, and fairly durable - but it can still break if dropped or treated roughly. If you would like more information about how to care for your handmade jewelry, visit our care instructions page.
Part of my process of making beautiful jewelry from polymer clay is final finishing. After the clay is modeled or cut, it will need to be baked and then cooled. After this, each piece is sanded - first using a rotary tool to take off any edges, and then finished by hand-sanding with a series of very fine files or sandpaper. The piece is then wiped down with a soft damp cloth, and then buffed out with a scrap of sturdy fabric (I use a rigid terry towel, as I prefer a satin finish to a high shine/gloss).
Pro tip: the top tool in my arsenal is 100% acetone on a cotton swab. It is incredible for removing any lint, hair, fingerprints, and smoothing out any any small imperfections.
The process is to get a high quality, handmade polymer clay piece is time consuming and messy, but the finished product is something that is absolutely worth the effort!
Every maker's techniques are unique to their own style and designs, so if you're looking to start making your own work - start exploring and see what you like!
I'm working on another blog post about polymer clay tools that have made my life SO much easier - stay tuned for more!