The Amazing Benefits of Polymer Clay
Here at Firefly Art supplies, we know all about the therapeutic value that art can have. We also know that there is a similar therapeutic value in working with your hands, particularly when you work with an enjoyable medium like Papa’s Clay. As we say ourselves, we are artists and clay lovers, and our aim has been to bring you high-quality products that are hard to find elsewhere, and Papa’s Clay is a superb polymer clay that will delight everyone from artists to enterprising adults and inquisitive children.
That brings up a point - what exactly is polymer clay. To anyone that has no background in art or art history, clay might appear to be just that - clay. However, there is a world of nuance in the production of clay, the formulation of different types of clays, and even how they can be used.
What Is Polymer Clay?
The term clay gets thrown around so casually that without any descriptors it can be downright impossible to know just what it’s being used to define. Historically, clay has been used to refer to a grade of very, very fine-grained soil - soil with particles so small they are practically invisible to the naked eye.
This material has been widely used throughout history to create pottery, vessels, art, tools, and much more. It exhibits plasticity when wet, which means that it can be worked with the hands or by the aid of other tools, and when it is dried it becomes hard and brittle. Properly treated and fired, natural clay vessels can even be made waterproof.
Polymer clay is not made from the same natural materials but instead made from a variety of synthetics. Many of these types of clays are made with a mix of materials including polyvinyl chloride, which is better known by its more recognizable name, PVC.
Because of its vastly different composition from natural clay, polymer clay has a number of significant benefits that stem from its properties. Still, not all “man-made” clays are the same, or even similar with respect to their attributes.
The Difference Between Polymer and Air Dry Clay
Some polymer clays feel very similar to a substance that is commonly known as air dry clay. Air dry clay, like polymer blends, is made from manmade and synthetic materials. In this respect, neither of these clays is natural in the traditional sense - however, there is a big, key difference between air dry clay and polymer blends, regardless of the formulation.
Despite the fact that some polymer blends will feel very similar to air dry clay blends when they are fresh and being worked, air dry clay needs nothing more than time and exposure to air in order to harden. It is important to note that this term is used here only loosely - after drying, air dry clay has a springy, spongy feel.
Polymer clay will not dry out in the same fashion as air dry clay, which, among other things, offers a fairly wide range of benefits. Because of its different composition, polymer blends of clay, like ours Papa’s Clay, provide a number of significant advantages and benefits that stem from their properties.
- You don’t need to worry about it drying out!
Have you ever been working on a natural clay project and noticed that the clay became more crumbly and less responsive to tooling and manipulation as it dried out? Perhaps you’ve noticed that natural clay needs to be periodically wetted in order for it to remain properly workable.
Maybe your experience has been with a form of air dry clay, which has a given usable lifespan once it’s opened. It also becomes harder and less flexible over time, and if you aren’t expedient about working with it, it can become a little too tough to work with, a little too fast.
That won’t happen with polymer clay. Because of its unique blend of synthetic polymers, it will not dry out even when it is opened or exposed to air. That means if you’re someone who likes to work for a bit or during down periods, you can craft as you like, when you like, and then come back to your project.
When you pick it up where you left off, you can get right back to work and your clay will not have hardened in the meantime!
- Our polymer clay repels dust which keeps it brighter and cleaner for longer
Speaking of leaving your clay projects out while you take a break from working on them, being free from the concern that they’ll harden isn’t the only thing you’ll want to account for. There’s more to negotiate.
Consider the fact that you can’t always simply cover a clay project while you’re working on it. Covering it, even lightly, might deform some of the fine details you’ve labored so intently to produce. If you can cover it, fine, but if not, you’ll leave it exposed to the air where it will accumulate a thin coat of dust.
Except it won’t because our Papa’s Clay exhibits a certain degree of dust-repellency. Dust will not easily adhere to its surface, which means it’ll stay brighter and clearer for longer and you won’t need to worry about a mix that has unsightly dust and other specks buried within it.
This is a big bonus for those of you who like to work on complex projects that can’t easily be covered or protected while you’re working on them.
- You can fire it at home - no kiln required
Another great thing about polymer blend clays is that they do not require a kiln to fire it. To put things in perspective, natural clays need to be fired in a kiln at temperatures approaching 1,000 degrees before they can become pottery. They make wonderful items, but the process lacks convenience.
You can make similar, marvelous creations from these types of clay and you don’t need to fire it at anywhere near that temperature in order to cure it. In fact, you can do so easily and comfortably at home in your toaster or oven. Polymer blends of clay can be fired at temperatures of around 265 to 276 Fahrenheit. This will vary according to the clay blend in question, but it’s well within the range of domestic means.
- Bakes in less time than other forms of clay
Most pottery needs to be fired for several hours at high temperatures in order to be cured and finished. Polymer clay, which can be fired at significantly lower temperatures, also can be fired for significantly shorter periods of time - in fact, some small pieces of polymer designs can be fired in as few as fifteen minutes!
This will naturally vary according to the size, shape, and nature of the polymer project, with some sources indicating that you need to fire polymer blend clays for fifteen minutes for every quarter inch of thickness. Papa’s Clay, for example, can be baked at home in only 15 minutes and has almost no odors whatsoever! If you have any other questions about your project, you can always reach out to us for additional guidance, but rest assured, this type of clay takes less time to fire!
- Actually, it even stays flexible even after you bake it!
Polymer clay, once fired, is somewhere between air dry clay and natural clay. When it is fired correctly, it will still remain flexible even after it has hardened. When it is first removed from the oven, it will feel soft and flexible, and it will stiffen as it cools.
Finished, cooled polymer clay will be harder and sturdier than air dry clay, but it will lack the brittle nature of natural pottery, making it ideal for many different applications.
- Contains no toxic substances and is safe to use
If you’ve ever had to abstain from purchasing a blend of clay because you were unsteady about the additives or contents, here’s some more good news for you. Our polymer Papa’s Clay is made without any harmful chemicals and it is in fact even free of allergens. This means that even sensitive individuals can work with it without fear of an allergic reaction or any other adverse response.
It also means that with the proper supervision, you can use polymer blends of clay in certain situations with children and other youngsters. Of course, proper supervision should be afforded given the scenario, but if you’ve ever had concerns about synthetic materials before, a polymer blend of clay might just be the answer.
- It has a delightful texture which is thoroughly enjoyable to work with
Some people work with clay not only because they are feeding their artistic drive but because the clay itself provides therapeutic tactile or visual qualities. Vibrant colors aside, many artists and practitioners have fallen in love with our Papa’s Clay because it has a stimulating and pleasant feel in the hands. You can work it all day long just for the enjoyment of feeling the give and the texture of the clay!
That means polymer blend clays can be highly useful for their tactical properties - some occupational therapists even use some types of clay to strengthen a patient's muscles and help develop motor skills.
- When sealed, polymer clay will keep for a long time - some would say indefinitely
Another great thing about these clays is that they will basically keep forever as long as they are kept sealed in their original container. While it’s nice to know that they won’t dry out if you have to leave a project in reserve for a few hours or a few days, the best part is that you can keep your unopened Papa’s Clay for basically as long as you like, and when you open and prepare it, it’ll be as fresh as the day you bought it.
- Bonus - it’s available in a wide range of colors!
Finally, another one of the great things about our Papa’s Clay is that you can find it right here in a rainbow of vibrant, amazing colors that you can use to make your projects come to life. If you’ve ever been plagued by limited supplies of polymer clay or haven’t been able to find them in the colors you want or need, we have the solution for you. Right here on our website, we offer them in more than 35 beautiful colors.
Of course, for the more artistic among you reading this, you can combine our colors according to your inspiration to get the exact hue you’re looking for, just as you could with paint or other pigments. You have to mix them carefully and attentively, but with a little creativity, you can exactly author the tone you need to match or complete your project.
Unique Uses for Polymer Clay
Because of this unique portfolio of attributes and benefits, polymer clay is an ideal medium for the creation of so many different types of arts and crafts. Since it remains flexible and projects can be left for a while before coming back to them (without fear of the clay drying out), it is ideal for some of the following projects.
- Beads and buttons
- Homemade jewelry
- Ornaments and trinkets
- Little sculptures and miniatures
- Seasonal arts and crafts
- Classroom projects
- Functional items like coasters and ring holders
- The possibilities are bound only by your creativity!
This is only a small snapshot of so many of the different projects you can complete using polymer clay and your own pool of creativity. Also, since polymer blends remain somewhat flexible even after being fired, they’re not as prone to breaking as natural clays or other more brittle materials.
All it takes is a little bit of creativity, some inspiration, and the right materials and you can create a masterpiece!
The Firefly Art Supplies Difference
We believe in providing high-quality materials just as much as we believe in helping people through art. If you want to learn more about our unique products, or you simply want to learn more about how you can use them, how they must be prepared, or anything else that strikes your interest, please feel free to get in touch with us.
Art has changed our lives, and it can change yours too - we’re ready to answer any questions you have and we can be reached via the contact form on our website. Please let us know what you’re looking for and we’ll be happy to help as soon as we can!