versatile polymer clay

Mokume Gane beads with silver

Versatile polymer clay

One of the easiest and best ways to add interest to your jewellery is with wonderful, versatile polymer clay. A medium that is vastly under-rated and very under used. Most of you will have experienced it purely as a wet weekend activity with the kids. However, this is not the only use for this magical material. Our versatile polymer clay is something that can be used in many different ways. If you’ve only ever used it to occupy the kids then read on.

Firstly, what is polymer clay?

Polymer clay is a type of harden-able modelling clay based on the polymer PVC – which stands for poly vinyl Chloride

It is available in a multitude of different colours, making it a great medium for jewellery and craft purposes. It can be formed and manipulated in many different ways. Our versatile polymer clay is soft and malleable. It remains workable until cured in an oven.

Versatile polymer clay

Mokume Gane stones set in silver

Brands of polymer clay

There are many different brands to choose from: FimoSculpey, Premo, Cernit, Formello, Modello, and Kato Polyclay. The most popular and easily available brands being Fimo and Sculpey.

Fimo is the brand name for a polymer clay made by the German company Staedtler. The material comes in many different colours with many finishes to choose from, and a softener to use with it because it can be hard to work.

Fimo Soft is a softer version of standard Fimo and is easier to work.

Sculpey is a brand of polymer clay made by Polyform Products in the United States. Sculpey was first created in the early 1960s. It was originally created to conduct heat away from the cores of electrical transformers. However, the compound was not successful for this use so it was pushed to the side for a while.

In the late 1960s it was then discovered that this compound could be moulded, baked, sanded, drilled, carved and painted. This was a perfect medium for the craft industry. The clay was marketed directly to people at craft shows, street fairs and demonstrations in small art stores.

Which one to use?

The answer to this question depends on what you want to make. Sculpey has a less rigid composition which better suits modelling. Fimo is better suited for twisting into cane and bead making because the colours do not blend together as readily. The plasticity is controlled by the amount of oil suspending the polymers in the “clay”. Once shaped, both the clays are baked in a standard or toaster oven for about 30 minutes to harden. Once baked, the polymer clay can be cut, drilled, painted, sanded, and sliced thinly.

I’m not recommending, but;

Versatile polymer clay

Extruded pendant with earrings

I use Fimo and Sculpey. Purely because I can buy them both locally. I prefer Sculpey, just because it seems easier to use and the colours seem to stay more true once baked. But honestly – there’s not much difference. I’ve also mixed them together without any problems. 

Tools

The tools needed to form and manipulate the clay are fairly basic, often it is possible to put together a simple texturing kit just by rummaging around your kitchen drawers. The basic kit used for baking and cake decorating is an ideal place to start. But dedicate a set purely for polymer work!

I had a dabble with polymer clay a couple of decades ago. (Yes I’m that old) Back then I have to say the information and ideas available were very primitive. Since then, thanks to the internet, there has been a mass sharing of ideas. One of the best ‘new’ techniques that has emerged is the use of a pasta machine. A home pasta-making machine is a popular multi-purpose tool for polymer clay artists. It is used to create sheets of uniform thickness, to mix colours or created variegated sheets, and to condition (soften) the clay. I have to say it has transformed the working of polymer clay. There is a marked difference in my own work between my earlier pieces made without a machine. So – if you do have a go with clays then this may be an essential purchase at some point.  

Our versatile polymer clay is good for;

Beads

In jewellery making the obvious use for polymer clay is for making beads. And these can range from the very basic one colour shape, to mini multi-coloured sculptures. Making beads is an ancient tradition. Be warned – it is addictive. Polymer clay beads can be made quickly, easily and in a huge array of shapes and sizes. It is also great fun.

Versatile polymer clay

Alice in Wonderland Charm Bracelet with polymer mushroom, cake and clock charms.

Charms

It is quite easy to make mini sculptures. With a bit of practice you will find you can make almost anything. Once you have honed your skills you will be able to make your own charms. These will make quirky, unique additions to your jewellery.

Jewellery in its’ own right

However, our versatile polymer clay can be used for making many other jewellery items. Formers are available ‘off the shelf’ for making bangles and rings. If you are a metal-smith you can make these yourself. It is easy to cover sheet metals with sheets of polymer clay. And because it is just baked in a conventional oven the temperatures don’t affect the metal.

Stones

You will see many ‘faux’ turquoise, malachite and even abalone stones made from versatile polymer clay. This takes a bit of practice. Experimental colour work is needed to achieve good results.

Obviously it is also possible to just make your own stones that don’t try to replicate real ones. I find this is much more fun. Extruded and ‘Mokume Gane’ techniques are great for this. Silverpetal offers a one day class doing just this. Our workshop shows you how to do both of these wonderful techniques. These can then be used for stones, beads or any of the above!

Not just child’s play

As you probably gather, I love working with clay. Our versatile polymer clay is far more than a child’s toy. If you’ve never tried working with it then you are missing out! It is a great way to add colour and interest to your work. The clay is a relatively cheap material. It uses a very basic tool kit. Because it stays workable until it is baked it is very easy to work with. Above all it is great fun. What more can I say?

Hope you feel inspired to give it a go.

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Chesterfield
Derbyshire S43 2PE
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info@silverpetal.org.uk

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