Beginning Polymer Clay

by theraggededge

Having recently discovered how much fun playing with polymer clay can be, I thought I'd share some of my creations with you and the resources I used to get started.

Polymer clay is made from PVC (polymer polyvinyl chloride) and contains no actual clay at all. However, it has similar properties to clay in that it can be manipulated and sculpted. Most polymer clay needs curing in an oven at a constant temperature but there are air-drying varieties available. Oven-hardened polymer clay is generally more durable than air-dried.

There are several manufacturers of polymer clay and each product has a slightly different feel to the others. Common makes are: Fimo, Premo Sculpey and Kato. All can be used together.

Polymer clay comes in many colors, including metalics, and colors can be mixed to produce interesting effects and new colors.

Note: All text and images except Flickr and Amazon are copyright TheRaggedEdge 2011

Polymer Steampunk Hearts

Steampunk Hearts
Steampunk Hearts

Materials Required for Polymer Clay Modeling

Inspired by a wonderful collection of pages at Squidoo, written by Noadi, I decided to look at polymer clay sculpting in more detail. I used to make a lot of salt dough many years ago and made quite a bit of money selling my models so I was pretty sure I'd like polymer clay.

The first thing I bought was a book. Okay, four books. Christi Friesen is the queen of polymer clay sculpting and her books have great reviews.

Using Christi's recommendations I assembled my materials:

  • Premo Sculpey: 12 colors
  • A pasta machine: For working and conditioning the clay to make it pliable
  • Modeling tools: I bought a stainless steel set but wood or plastic work fine. Also look around your home to see what other things can be used - toothpicks, forks, old ballpoint pens and the like.
  • A toaster oven: Polymer clay can leave a residue on the surfaces of your oven, so it may be a good idea to buy a cheap toaster oven especially for polymer clay baking. However, I always cover my models with foil and, so far, have seen no residue on the toaster oven.
  • An oven thermometer: Essential to ensure models reach the correct curing temperature.
  • Gold acrylic paint: for adding 'burnish'.
  • Embellishments: Beads, watch parts, jewelery findings, copper wire, old screws and interesting bits of metal. Never use plastic, as it will melt in the oven.

As you go along you'll discover other bits and pieces you will want to add to your supplies.


Polymer Dragon

Premo Sculpey Dragon
Premo Sculpey Dragon

Begin With a Simple Project

My first attempt at polymer clay sculpting was the largest 'heart' in the group of four. Hearts are great models to start with as they are so straightforward. My second model was the little green dragon above. He took me hours! Both models are inspired by Cristi Friesen's books - "Steampunkery" and "Dragons".

Sculpey Dragon

Polymer Clay Dragon
Polymer Clay Dragon

Polymer Clay Tips

Cut your finger nails! I kept accidentally stabbing my models until I cut my nails short.

Assemble your model on waxed (greaseproof) paper that can go straight onto a baking tray.

To add beads, cut a piece of copper wire, thread through the bead. Twist the ends together and trim to about one half inch. Use this wire 'tail' to secure the bead in position.

Bake models for 20 minutes more than the calculated time. It won't hurt them to be slightly overdone. The average temperature for most polymer clays is 135C/275F, though some are lower. If you are mixing brands, bake at the highest temperature required.

Tools used for polymer clay should not be used for cooking or food preparation.

Polymer Clay Collection

Sculpey Collection
Sculpey Collection

Polymer Clay Modeling is Addictive!

I have given so many models away as gifts - I have learned my lesson and will photograph them before they go! I love making dragons and they seem to be popular with many friends. I wish I had the time to make more models but I have too many other projects on the go!

Next up is - rock painting!

Essential Items for Polymer Clay Modeling

Clay Rolling Machine
$50.0  $59.95
Pro Art 14-Piece Clay Tool Set With Case
Pro Art
Only $19.62
Proctor Silex Extra-Large Toaster Ove...
Proctor Silex
Only $84.54
Updated: 06/09/2011, theraggededge
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Steampunk and Polymer Go Together, Don't You Think?

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BrendaReeves on 05/05/2012

Thanks for the article. I have been wanting to give this a try but didn't know where to start. I'm going to bookmark this, and I'll going through your Amazon links to buy the materials.

BrendaReeves on 03/07/2012

I have been wanting to do this. Thanks for the article. I've got to check and see if I've spent all of my fun money for the month.

emeraldmile on 12/07/2011

The pothole steampunk necklace is eye catcing. I love the use of color in this piece.

kevinw1 on 07/01/2011

Polymer clay is great fun, though it is too hard on my hands. My favorite technique was mokume gane - there is a page topic for somebody :)

Guest on 06/30/2011

Polymer clay is so versatile and fun to work with!

dustytoes on 06/30/2011

I have fooled around a bit with this clay (thanks also to Noadi), but your items are so cute! I love the steampunk turtle. So many great photos too. Thanks for sharing your art here.

sandralynnsparks on 06/28/2011

Yes it does! ;) I'm working on articles about my own polymer work, now...

Jimmie on 06/28/2011

My daughter is crazy about Sculpey clay. She will use no other polymer clay. Lately she has been making these part dragon, part lizard animals that she created. They are adorable.

tandemonimom on 06/27/2011

Oh, SO cute! I love the first dragon, the green one all curled up. WISH I could give that one to my daughter, she would FLIP!

WordCustard on 06/11/2011

Oh, got to love those Welsh sheep and dragons! Polymer clays are so versatile, you are right they look great in a steam punk theme with a metallic finish.

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