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Are There Different Types of Oven Baked Clay?

A term like “oven baked clay” might be considered a little bit misleading, as there are many different types of clay media, both natural and artificial, that can be used in artistic applications. Some of these clays can be fired in an oven (or in the case of polymer clay, baked at home) whereas others will never dry, and should not be baked.

This should serve as a quick breakdown of some of the different types of clay, offering a little insight into the differences between them.

Polymer Clay

One type of clay that you may hear referred to as “oven baked clay” is polymer clay, which is a type of special medium made from polyvinyl chloride (more frequently known as PVC) which will not dry until it is baked in an oven.

Our Papa’s Clay is a polymer clay; like other polymer clays, it contains a PVC resin and a plasticizer, which is an agent that causes the clay to harden when a certain amount of heat is applied. Papa’s Clay contains the most natural ingredients possible and less plastic than most other polymer clay. Like other polymer clays, our Papa’s Clay will not harden on exposure to air, requiring heat to stabilize and harden.

This makes polymer clays suitable for extended projects that you may want to come back to time and time again before finalizing and baking. Because it won’t air dry, it will stay soft until you have finished with your project and are ready to bake it. Since it also does not allow dust to readily adhere to it, it can be left out in between crafting sessions.

Our Papa’s Clay is available in a large variety of colors and can be worked by hand and mixed to create whatever your imagination can conjure, but it also will not make a mess or create a dirty surface in the way that some other clays will. This makes it suitable for some clay alternatives that are also available in bright colors, as our polymer clay will not leave stains or residue.

Like natural clays, polymer clay is an oven baked clay in the sense that it must be heated in order to harden. However, natural clays require a kiln that reaches very high temperatures in order to fire them; polymer clay can be baked at home in a conventional oven. Additionally, naturally, clays are very hard and brittle once fired. Polymer clay stays relatively flexible by comparison and are shatter-resistant once baked properly.

A Note on Natural Clay - Another Type of “Oven Baked Clay”

With that in mind, some artists or crafters may have an impression in their minds of natural clays when they hear the term oven baked clay. Natural clay is a type of sediment that contains very, very fine particles of minerals and other materials. Because it is so finely-grained, it can even hold water when it is cured and fired.

Like polymer clay, natural clay can be used to create arts and crafts, with your hands or by the use of other tools. However, unlike polymer clay, natural clay is messy, leaves marks and stains, and requires water to keep it workable. It will harden on contact with air as it dries out, leaving it brittle and unmanageable.

Natural clay also requires a clean, waterproof workstation since water is required to lubricate it and keep it in a workable state. Because of this, it can leave marks and stains behind. In contrast to polymer clay, it is much messier.

Natural clay also requires a kiln to fire and cure, but it must be heated to much higher temperatures than polymer clay and the process cannot be completed at home in a conventional oven. Special kilns are required to fire or glaze natural clay pottery, and these can reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit or even hotter.

Once fired, natural clay pottery tends to be remarkably brittle and must be handled with care and poise to prevent breaking it. Since it is much more fragile than polymer clay once it has been baked, it is generally not suitable for creating very finely detailed, small ornaments - although this can be done.

One more difference between polymer clay and natural clay is that natural clay tends to be gray or earth toned, and is rarely colored. Instead, natural clay pottery can be glazed or painted to add color.

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As you can see, the blanket term “oven baked clay” does not include some necessary information about the differences between clays that must be heat-cured but are not the same. If you still have questions about our Papa’s Clay or about the differences between polymer and natural clay media, please feel free to contact us at 314-762-1434 and we will assist however we can.

Otherwise, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube so you can be the first to learn about news and developments, or just to get ideas for inspiration.

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