Polymer Clay

What is polymer clay?

Polymer clay is a hugely popular and versatile type of modelling clay. It comes in a wide range of beautiful colours, and can also be hardened in the oven to produce a long-lasting and durable piece of art. Because it is basically made of vinyl plastic, once it is set, it is strong, waterproof and washable. Similar in texture to normal plasticine modelling clay, polymer clay can be shaped and molded into a variety of forms and doesn’t stick to fingers in the same way that natural clay does, meaning it’s less messy to work with. And good news – it’s non-toxic too! The clay remains workable until heat-set in the oven, so you can take your time with a project, and store leftover clay to be used again later. We’ve put together a few tips to get you started…

Tools for getting started

At The Deckle Edge we stock two brands of polymer clay – FIMO and Cernit. Both are high-quality clays but have slightly different baking times so it’s best not to mix the two together. It’s always a good idea to set up your work station before you get started. Make sure that you are working in a clean environment free of dust, dirt and pet hair – you don’t want bits getting stuck into your clay! There are various surfaces that work well for sculpting on – such as a sheet of glass or a cutting mat. Ideally you want something smooth and non-porous to work on.

You should also gather a few tools to use for sculpting –  these can be proper clay sculpting tools or bits and bobs that you find around the home; cutlery, toothpicks etc. Just note that any items you use for sculpting should be kept in your sculpting kit and not returned to the kitchen, just for health and safety. Objects with interesting textures can make for fun debossing techniques. Polymer clay can be baked in a regular oven; following the baking instructions provided by the clay manufacturer. It is advised that sculptures should be baked in aluminium foil pans (the kind you get takeaways in) or something similar to protect both your project and your oven – sometimes ovens can brown or burn the top layer of the clay, so covering it will prevent this.

Working with the clay

Polymer clay can start off quite firm or hard – to condition or soften it you will need to work it with your hands or roll it through a clay roller (similar to a pasta machine). Gently warming the clay in your hands can help soften it too. If your clay is particularly dry or hard, clay softener can be added to get it to a more manageable consistency, although care should be taken that you don’t add too much as this can make the clay sticky and difficult to work with. If your clay does get too oily and soft you can put a rolled-out layer of the clay between two plain sheets of white paper. Place a heavy book on top and leave for a few hours until the paper has absorbed the extra plasticizers and the clay has reached a firmed consistency. Colours can be mixed to create unique, custom shades as well as interesting marbled effects.

Finishing your project

The clay holds shape and texture well and won’t shrink during baking, but you might notice a slight shift in colour – this ultimately depends on the colour and brand of clay. Translucent colours will become more translucent after baking. Once the clay has been fired, it becomes stronger and resistant to scratches and breakage, but it’s important to make sure the clay has been baked for long enough to ensure that it is fully cured.

Even after you’ve baked your clay there is still plenty that you can do with it – sand it, carve it, varnish it, file it, paint it, drill holes in it – the list goes on. If you are planning to paint anything over your baked clay, make sure that it has cooled down completely first and then clean off your sculpture with alcohol – this will help your varnish or paint stick.

In terms of varnish, polymer clay varnish is recommended and it has been made specifically to suit the clay. These varnishes are usually water-based and come in a satin, matt or gloss finish. While it is not necessary to varnish polymer clay, it can be helpful in changing the finish of your work and adding extra protection. Both acrylic and oil paints have been recommended for painting onto polymer clay, but it is important to test out your paints and experiment first to see what works! Not all polymer clays are the same and some might react differently to paints and become sticky over time.

Inspiration

There are so many wonderful artists out there doing exciting and varied things with polymer clay. Here are just a few examples we’ve found.

 

26 comments

  1. NuriyahReply

    Hi Deckle Edge.

    Do you guys also stock the varnish and the Sculpey glaze that you mix with the clay to make a smooth glaze for polymer donuts for example.

    Kind regards,
    Nuri

  2. wilma groblerReply

    hi

    i want to do polymer figurines on mugs.

    wich paint can i use to paint after the figurine is done?

    • EmilyReply

      Hi Wilma,

      We would recommend that you paint the figurine after you have baked it, as most paints cannot withstand the heat of an oven. You can use either oil or acrylic paints on polymer clay, but it is important to test out your paints and experiment first to see what works! Not all polymer clays are the same and some might react differently to paints and become sticky over time. Remember that polymer clay and most paints are not food safe so it is best to place the figurines in a spot that will not come into contact with food or drink. They will also need to be washed by hand rather than in a dishwasher.

      Good luck with your project!
      The Deckle Edge Team

  3. adeleReply

    Hi

    I want to be a facilitator on polymer clay.
    Can you please help me?
    I live in Pretoria in South Africa Gauteng.

    Regards
    Adele

    • EmilyReply

      Hi Adele,

      Can you clarify for us if you’re interested in going to a polymer clay class, or becoming a teacher?

      Kind regards,
      The Deckle Edge Team

  4. Magda BadenhorstReply

    Hi, where do you live and where can I buy the polymer clay? I live in Bloemfontein, SA. I Worked with air dry clay, but it dries to quickly and cracks, can’t sculpt like I want to. Thank you
    Magda

    • AdamReply

      Hi Magda

      We are based in Salt River, Cape Town with one satellite store in leafy Knysna. 🙂

      We have an online store from where you can place orders and we would be happy to help you with Courier or Pargo delivery anywhere in South Africa.

      Most orders over R750 are awarded free shipping and shipping to Bloemfontein is normally 2-3 days.

      You can order clay from our online store here: FIMO Cernit

      Or you can order via email on hello@deckleedge.co.za

      I hope this information helps. If you need anything else you can send us a mail on hello@deckleedge.co.za and we will be happy to help.

      Warm regards,
      Adam

  5. istell potgieterReply

    Hi!

    Which type of polymer clay is best for beginners? I would like to try making colourful beads, also, just playing. Just love all the colours and smooth textures. But what do i buy: cernit or fimo?

    Istell

    • AdamReply

      Hi Istell

      Thank you so much for asking , I’m happy to help.

      They both work very similar. I love Fimo myself but many people prefer Cernit as well.

      If you are starting out I would recommend Fimo simply because they are better value for money as the come in larger packets of 85 grams where the Cernit only comes in a 56 grams.

      You can use both Fimo and Cernit together if you like certain colours in the different brands. Although it’s generally not recommended I have seen many people have success when mixing and would always recommend a test before making your final piece 🙂

      I hope this information helps.

      Best,
      Adam

    • AdamReply

      Hi Hellen

      Thank you for asking, I am happy to help.

      Unfortunately we are not able to ship outside of South Africa. However we have many people outside of SA buy from us and send their own couriers to collect. 🙂

  6. Mumtaz Noor MahomedReply

    Hi, I want to know if u have polymer clay in black and rose pink with glitter, I want to make a minnie mouse hat n bow, will really appreciate if u can help

    • Jo-AnneReply

      Hi Mumtaz,

      Thank you for your message, I am happy to help.🌸
      We have the Cernit Glamour Polymer clay (a shiny fine glitter finish) in Black and Fuschia (sadly not in the rose pink).
      Their prices and sizes are:

      Cernit 56g Glamour Black R62.90
      Cernit 56g Glamour Fuchsia R62.90

  7. Mumtaz Noor MahomedReply

    Thanks for your reply, do you keep translucent liquid clay, n clay softener, n how do I go about ordering, thanks waiting for your reply

    • AdamReply

      Hi Mumtaz

      Thank you for the update. We currently do not keep any liquid clays, but we do have Clay Softener in the Cernit range. They are priced as below:
      Fimo Accessories – Clay Softener 100g R102.30

      You can place an order through our online store. Alternatively, you can send us your order on hello@deckleedge.co.za and we will be happy to help you with a quote for EFT payment. Send us your shipping details with your order and we will be happy to quote you on delivery options as well. 🙂

    • AdamReply

      Hi Linda

      Thank you for you message. I am not sure of any polymer clubs in Pretoria, but maybe you can ask around at your local arts and crafts stores if their is a community up there you can join 🙂

      We are based in Cape Town and ship clay to a few customers in the PTA area. So there should be some polymer artists in your area.

  8. eugenie gernekeReply

    Good day

    I am looking for someone who can make polymer clay figures for hair bow and other hair accessories.

    Can you recommend someone please?

    • AdamReply

      Hi Eugenie

      I had a quick look in our contacts list and on our notice board and can’t find any contacts that do Polymer Clay sculpting as a service locally.
      We stock all the polymer supplies, but unfortunately do not know of any Capetonian artists that work in polymer clay exclusively.

      Perhaps you can contact some of the art and design schools and see if there are any students willing to assist you 🙂

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