First thing I've got to tell you about oven-baked polymer clay and especially the Sculpey® line of polymer clay products , THE CREATIVITY IT CAUSES IS ADDICTING - you will literally wake up at 2 a.m. with that GREAT idea that just won't wait until morning; you'll grab a coffee cup from a perfect stranger in a trendy coffeehouse to show your clay crafting buddy the design on it that is so PERFECT for millifiori; you will ask people to lay on the copier at work so you can have that color pattern on their jacket for reference. I'm serious! I've done all of the above and I'm not alone in my clay madness.
So what is this stuff that garners cult-like crafting fans? Polymer clay, which encompasses the Sculpey family of products, is a man-made material that remains pliable for long periods, but bakes or "cures" in your home oven at a fairly low temperature to a hard, often pliable surface. You can sculpt it, carve it, stamp on it, texture it, sand it, buff it, paint it, and build with it to create home décor, figurines, dolls, jewelry and to embellish tons of other surfaces.
In the 1960's, the product that we know today as "Sculpey" was originally formulated for potential use as a thermal transfer compound , to conduct heat away from the cores of electrical transformers. However, this formulation was not successful for that purpose, so the compound was temporarily shelved. A visitor to the manufacturing plant was "doodling" with a lump of the clay-like substance and created a small figure. It was then baked in a lab-testing oven , and Sculpey was "discovered" as a sculpture medium. By 1967, it was being manufactured and sold on a small scale in the United States. That scale has grown each year with each new product Sculpey develops.
Which clay is best for me?
Original Sculpey - This is the genesis of the product , the original clay. It comes in white and new Terra Cotta color. It's most often used by sculptors and in classrooms for art projects. I like to use it as the medium to embed mosaic in. The new Terra Cotta has a feel of actual terra cotta to me , without the kiln baking of course!
Sculpey - The popularity of the Original Sculpey led to the
formulation of the more durable Super Sculpey, which is beige-pink in color.
It's a favorite with the doll-makers and the movie studios. I like the more
porcelain look of this clay.
III - Now we are talking colors, ease of use, colors, matte
finish and , did I mention colors? There are 40 colors of Sculpey III and you
can mix them together to create a zillion more. This clay was designed as the
"children's modeling clay" , well, we are all children at heart
right? I know many, many clay artists that use this clay, especially for sculpting
small figures. Sculpey III is a soft clay, easy to knead and to use. I especially
like the matte finish it yields. My sons like the great dragons they can create with
it. I love to drag myself to bed and find another Sculpey treasure they've put
on my headboard- it's so much more fun than finding a wet towel on the
- This is the American clay artists' dream come true! Literally,
this clay is the product of the artists input about what we wanted, needed, wished
for a perfect polymer clay. It's easy to use, requires very little kneading,
bakes to a very durable finish, and it comes in 32 colors, including several
metallic and pearlescent colors and translucent. These colors are INTENSE, so you
can reduce those canes to little tiny proportions and maintain your vibrancy of
color. The colors are also based on the Grumbacher color line - if you know how to
mix paint, you can mix the clay just the same way. The sculptors love it since it
holds their tiny lines so well, the millifiori artists love it because it moves and
canes so well, the stampers love it because it doesn't "slump" their
designs when it bakes. The colors hold true after baking, the tensile strength is
wonderful. Can you tell which is MY favorite clay product?
Sculpey Super Flex Bake
& Bend - Those Sculpey Wizards in the laboratory
just keep giving us more and more clays to use. This product remains extremely
pliable and flexible after baking. It comes in 8 colors, which can also be mixed to
create custom colors. As with all Polymer clay products, you can even mix it with
other Sculpey or polymer clay products to add flexibility to your work.
Glow In the
Dark - This is similar to Sculpey III with one major
difference , it glows in the dark in 4 different colors. I like to make monster
eyes with this product , they continue to glow after the lights go out!
, This special clay has the appearance of stone when baked. The
fibers contained in the clay create a speckled granite effect that is a real
favorite with the stamping artists. It comes in 8 colors and you can even create
custom colors by mixing in small amounts of Sculpey III or Premo! Sculpey. I know
the figurine artists like to use the blue Granitex to simulate denim. I like to mix
a little translucent into it to create a quartz-type effect.
Liquid Sculpey - often referred to as TLS, is another dream
product from the Sculpey Wizards. The arrival of TLS to polymer clay is similar to
the arrival of the paperclip in the office , how did we get along without it?
Imagine a pourable polymer clay that bakes to a translucency that can rival glass
when sanded and buffed. This product can be used as a "gluing agent" for
clay to clay and clay to porous surfaces, such as wood or terra cotta. Once baked,
it's more durable than glue. It also can be used for creating transfers, paper
marbling techniques, enameling - the list goes on and on , and will continue to
grow. You can even add your own mediums to the TLS to tint it, such as oil paints,
powdered pastels, mica powders, embossing powders. It's a must have
on your clay work table for it's adhesive properties alone, but
wait, I just saw another terrific idea on how to use it..
Amazing Eraser Clay - The name says it all!! You can sculpt, stamp, cane, and texture this clay. Bake it for 10 minutes at 250 degrees and you have a terrific eraser to match your outfit, your notebook, your favorite TV character, or sculpt that cute kid 2 rows up. Amazing Eraser Clay comes in 8 yummy tropical colors.
Sculpey UltraLight™ is the newest and most versatile member of the Polyform® family of clays. UltraLight™ is lightweight and extremely soft but bakes so hard that it won't crack or break, even in larger pieces. However, UltraLight™ remains flexible when rolled thin, so it is ideal for paper crafts, especially for personalized embellishments.
How do I use it?
Remove the portion of clay you wish to use from the package and knead it in your hands for a moment. This will help redistribute the plasticizers and polymer fibers in the clay. This is often called "conditioning" the clay. If the clay feels flexible and can be pulled easily without breaking immediately, it is ready to go.
How do I bake it?
The baking directions are on each package. Basically, you will be baking at 275 degrees for 15 minutes for each ¼ inch of clay thickness. Sculpey Amazing Eraser Clay bakes for 10 minutes at 250 degrees. Always use an oven thermometer to accurately maintain these temperatures. A glass baking sheet or dish is recommended, however, you can use a cookie sheet, covered in foil. I work on index cards, which I can then transfer, card and all, to the cookie sheet for baking. The card will not burn. This way both sides of my clay have an even, matte surface. Always allow the clay to cool completely before handling it, you can damage your designs while they are still warm and flexible.
Will it shrink or change colors when baked?
Sculpey clay only shrinks about 2%, not even a noticeable amount! The colors will not change when baked. If you notice that the colors appear more brownish after baking, you may be overbaking the clay. Recheck your thermometer.
Do I need a special surface to work on?
You can work on waxed paper taped to the table, old file folders, index cards, tiles , any smooth surface that is not used for food.
Do I need a lot of tools?
No and yes! All you need to create with Sculpey oven-baked clays is a work surface, something to roll the clay flat and something to trim or cut the clay.
We've already discussed work surfaces, so let's talk about something to make the clay flat. I use a clay dedicated manual pasta machine for most of my work, however I also use the Sculpey clay roller and even old water glasses for lots of different purposes. They are great for embossing clay into textures and to help adhere the clay to curved surfaces, like glass vases. Now, something to cut the clay , this depends on your age and agility. Sculpey Clay Blades were created expressly for clay use, they are extremely thin and sharp for cutting through clay without distortion and they flex for cutting curves. I also use craft knives, and the plastic Sculpey clay tools for a variety of uses.
Why did I answer no and yes? You are only limited by your imagination with Sculpey clay , I've collected a variety of cool tools from my garage, my kids' tool box and my kitchen. I have a three story rolling tool box to keep all these in, but everything I REALLY need for clay, I carry in a wallet-sized plastic storage container I found at Michaels!
Why can't I use my kitchen tools?
You can, but you need to dedicate any of your tools you use for clay or ANY craft to the craft table. Don't use your kitchen items for crafting and then use for food again, unless the craft is certified for food use. Would you put a paintbrush in your mouth?
Do I need to put something in the clay to sculpt?
You may need to add support to some of your sculptures. This is called adding 'armature' to the piece. Wire or wood shapes can be covered in clay to create your design. The wire or wood will help keep your shape, support the weight of the clay and help keep your arms and legs from breaking or falling off. You can also use aluminum foil, tightly wadded up for a basic shape and then cover the foil with clay. This not only helps support the clay, it helps you to use less clay!
Can I change the color of my clay?
Of course! You can mix colors together to create your own colors. You can mix powdered mediums such as embossing powders, temperas, heat-tolerant glitters, or Pearl Ex powders into your clay to "tint" them. The surfaces of unbaked clays can be altered with heatset inks, heat tolerant glitters and powders. You can also paint the surface of baked clay with acrylic paints and oil-based or soft-lead colored pencils.
The Sculpey products are magic, if you ask me. Both children and adults find the products fun and easy to work with. It has sure changed my life in positively magical ways. Why once, I even had one of my son's teachers admit that they competed to get my kids in their classes because they knew we'd provide great clay projects and gifts all school year!
The first time you pick up polymer clay, you enter a very special family of clay artists that have created a worldwide community of sharing because we love this magical stuff and what you can do with it. The Sculpey People are a big part of this community, providing great products, encouragement and education to all the clay artists. Try all the Polyform products and enjoy your Sculpey experience!
The Magic of Sculpey®
Last Update: 08/24/2012