Polymer clay has been known to some extent as a clay for artists and adults in general. That may be because the kind of clay that is used in preschool classrooms is usually a water based clay or a standard modeling clay like crayola modeling magic. Polymer clay is a man-made, oil-based clay with unique properties. It is sometime likened to plasticine but, in reality is much softer. It is very easy to work and doesn’t dry out easily.
The polymer clays on the market are actually made in many colors and even have special effect colors that are translucent and fluorescent. They can be made to look like other substances such as metal or stone and many of the colors can be mixed to form other colors. The clay can be colored with other media like paint, ink, chalk, foil, glitter and embossing powders.
Polymer clay is great for making prints and stamps as they pick up fine detail and kids LOVE to make prints and stamps.
The clay hardens baking at temperatures akin to typical home oven. It also can be baked at temperatures lower than a home oven which is why there are specialty ovens created just for this clay.
Since polymer clay is not only for adults, here are some of things you can do with kids with the clay.
How to help kids sculpt with polymer clay:
In my post clay modelling for kids I explained what the basic process is for teaching children how to wedge clay and then sculpting with it.
Sculpting with polymer clay is different. Polymer clay is not as dense as the self hardening or kiln firing clay so it needs a different technique. It cannot be smoothed with water and you need a special softener to be used to smooth it out something like a liquid clay softener.
Once you finish working with the clay it needs to be left overnight to dry before curing. Curing is just another word used to describe the hardening of the clay. Most people bake it. Some of the polymer clays do not allow any more molding or forming once its baked while other have more flexibility after its cured.
When sculpting small figurines you can mold them out of the piece of clay itself. If the sculpture you’re making is larger, then you may be best off using wire under the clay to prevent its sagging or breaking. Florists wire is probably the best to use for this. You twist the wire into the shape you want and them put the clay around the wire frame. You may also want to double twist the wire to make it stronger.
The best thing to do after making the wire sculpture, is fill it in with aluminum foil which gives it better support for the clay and gives it a textured surface for the clay to stick to.
When the tin foil structure is all filled out it’s time to start adding the clay. You do that by flattening the chunks of clay into sheets and then press it onto the tinfoil and smooth it all together. (a pasta machine or a Professional Clay Machine does the flattening of the clay. Details can be added to the sculptures after lumps are smoothed and moved around.
So which of the polymer clays are the best to use. I am only going to discuss two of the most popular ones that you can use for polymer clay crafts, sculpy and fimo.
Sculpy polymer clay does not have one product. They have many clay products and many times people knead two or more of the clays together to get the consistency they are looking for.
Premo! Sculpeyis firm with a smooth texture. It doesn’t crumble, is easy to knead and is very similar to thee Sculpey III.They will also not dry out when exposed to air. After its baked and cool it can be sanded, worked on more and painted with water based acrylics.
You can buy the clay in white and it comes as well in many other colors. It tends to get dirty while working on which is why its best to use white and then color it after.
If you want to save on softener later one then when you buy the clay, put it right away into a plastic air tight container. This way the oil that is absorbed by the cardboard and sometimes causes it to harden and crack won’t happen in the plastic container.
For simple projects the Sculpey Original Polymer Clay is great if you don’t want the projects long term. Its easy to work with but, its not that durable and will dry out if you don’t bake it. If you don’t want to take the time to bake your pieces you can use Super Sculpey Ceramic-Like Sculpturing Compound – 1 lb.
Another cool product of sculpy is eraser clay. This Sculpey Amazing Eraser Clay actually can be used as an eraser after it’s baked in an oven for 10 minutes.It’s a modelling clay that becomes an eraser. You can do everything to it that you do with the other scupley clays and then after its baked, it erases.
Fimo Soft Clay is almost identical to the scuply with a few minor differences. It is a bit harder than the sculpey to manipulate, does not have as many different products as sculpy but, may be a little cheaper than the sculpy varieties. It can be sculpted the same way as the sculpy and any directions you see above about sculpting and projects can be used to make fimo clay projects as well. The clay comes in many different colored as well and after baked can still be cut,drilled, painted, sanded and even sliced.
One of the most common uses for polymer clay is the making of jewelry. This is really a hobby of many adults, and children cannot create the same kinds of jewelry that adults can. There are also many techniques the children will not be ready for. It is a wonderful craft and even though most of the ideas in books on polymer clay jewelry making will not be for children, it is good for you to become familiar with the techniques. The book below is one of many that you may want to try to see how much it helps you to learn about all these techniques.
This book gives you a very thorough understanding of how to make polymer jewelry. It teaches you to make different beads for the jewelry, textures to use, designs, baking and everything else. The photos are beautiful and you will get ideas how to help kids make gorgeous jewelry.
Another interesting type of polymer clay is liquid polymer clay
This book will give you lots of information on how to use the liquid clay. Once you become familiar with how to use regular polymer clay then you may want to explore liquid polymer clay. It is highly recommended if you have no experience with regular polymer clay use thatthat first before learning about the liquid clay.
Polymer clay beads are the beginning of jewelry making with polymer clay. There are many techniques that are covered. Included are Caning, Colour Mixing, Stacking, Applique, Inlay, Transfers, Rubber Stamping. Mokume Gane and Mica shift. You also learn how to make the beads look like real coral, amber, Abalone and Veined Marble. The book focuses on the diversity of beads and the the examples of bead jewelry are awesome.
Again, even though this book is not for kids, little girls love making beads and jewelry and it will help you help them make beautiful jewelry.
There are many that believe that you cannot make polymer clay by yourself and can only buy it. Personally I would not be interested in messing with making it but ,there are those that would love to find a recipe and I did find one for you on a website called The artful crafter.
Here is the recipe from that website
Eva Stosic’s Home Made Polymer Clay Recipe
• 3 T. water
• 1 t. citric acid (not lemon juice or vinegar)
• 1 cup corn starch
• 1 T. tapioca starch
• 1 T. potato starch
• 1 T. arrowroot flour
• 3 T. rice flour
• 1 T. stearic acid (used in candle making)
• 1 t. glycerin
• 1 T. Vaseline
• 1 cup PVA glue like Elmer’s Glue-All
Make sure to dissolve the citric acid in the water leaving no granules.
The dry ingredients then need to be blended in a a closed container. Mix with the water that’s been dissolved in the acid and the next 3 ingredients. This should make mushy paste.
Once its all in the plastic container add the PVA glue and mix until smooth.
Microwave 6 to 10 seconds at a time, after covering loosely. Mix in between, until the clay starts to gel. Do not over microwave as the clay can over-harden.
When it’s all done, cover with plastic wrap, allow it to cool; knead for about 10 minutes.
Double wrap in plastic and store in a tightly fitting container.
There are many different types of tools and supplies you can use for your polymer clay. The simplest way to start is of course, is with your hands. There come times however, that certain tools become a necessity. Many tools can substituted with tools from home like sewing tools, cooking utensils and woodworking tools.There are many commercially made tools that may be good to add to your arsenal if you don’t mind paying for them. (Even though at times, the lowly tooth pick is a great tool)
A good set of store bought tools will help you along in your clay modelling ans sculpting. You may not need the professional set on the left but, the inexpensive set of tools on your right is a wonderful addition to your modeling.
A clay roller is another simple item that you may have in your home but, if not, here are two to consider.
One of the most frequent uses of polymer clay is jewelry making and mold casting so below are some option for those for you to look at.
Another item that is used in jewelry making is a clay gun.
Of the last to supplies I have listed below one of them is not a must. That is the toaster oven below that you use to bake your clay projects. It says its a clay and craft oven which it is, but you may not want to go for the extra expense unless you are doing this very often and don’t want to end up eating your polymer clay creations by mistake. As mentioned previously it can bake at a lower temperature than many ovens at home can.
The last item I have here is by no means the last of the items that are sold for this craft. This item is also something that is used in the kitchen but, is not as common as a toaster oven. A pasta machine. A clay machine which doubles as a pasta machine is a wonderful addition to polymer clay work as it helps you make the clay into thin sheets that you can use for so many different uses and projects.
Professional Clay Machine
Though this post is only scratching the surface of polymer clay and its uses hope you were able to glean some useful information about it and start using it with your children.