Once upon a time, before I learned to sew, and before I started knitting, this was a polymer clay blog. Ok, it still is to some extent, but there have been enough detours into other crafty territory, that I’ve picked up plenty of followers who know very little about the clay. And on those days where I do have a polymer clay show and tell, I am likely to be asked one of two questions:
- How can I get started in polymer clay and make things like yours?
- How can my child get started in polymer clay and make things like yours?
To some extent, I think the answer to both questions is the same. I started my illustrious career 13 years ago, after receiving a Klutz Press polymer clay book. So, you can imagine I’d be a huge proponent of getting your feet wet via books aimed at children.
In a Nutshell
Get thee to the craft store (or your junk drawer) and find these five items:
That’s it. You’re good to go. Or you could read on for more details…
Before I go any further, let me make it clear that you will not be making things like mine right out of the gate. I’ve had some time to hone my craft, and find my niche as it were. You need to play around a bit, try different techniques, see what you are good at, and what you enjoy. It’s one of the reasons kids’ books are perfect. There’s a little bit of everything presented, and it’s done so in a way that is easy to understand. And fun!
And even once you are comfortable and experienced with the medium, your creations are going to look like yours, not like mine. And that’s the way it should be, don’t you think?
Sculpey III is marketed towards children, mainly because of its ease of use straight from the package. It’s a great choice for getting started, but you must remember one very important thing: it is the weakest of all of the clays once baked. Protruding parts, and thin sheets will snap right off. If your projects are not going to be round or chunky in nature, if they’re going to need some of their own strength, then you’ll want to try one of the more professional grade clays like Premo! Sculpey, Fimo, or Kato Polyclay. My own preference where strength is required is for Premo. It’s relatively soft, and I like that in a clay. Many people prefer stiffer clays. It’s a personal preference that comes with experience.
- Something for rolling out sheets – for most, the ideal tool is a good pasta machine, dedicated to craft use, however I made do for a few years with just a small plastic roller. The side of a sturdy straight-sided drinking glass would also work. Whatever you use, make sure it is no longer being used for food, and that it has no texture on it, as texture will transfer to the clay.
- Something for cutting slices – here, the ideal tool would be a tissue blade, or a blade specifically designed for working with clay. But, again, you can substitute a less sharp, less precise tool (like an old kitchen knife, an x-acto knife, or a wallpaper scraper) in the beginning.
- Something for poking holes – I started with a toothpick, but this can be anything pointy, like a knitting needle, or a dental tool.
- Your hands!
Books & DVDs
The book that got me hooked on clay was The Incredible Clay Book by Sherri Haab.
In terms of a more grown-up approach, I’d recommend Judy Belcher’s Polymer Clay Creative Traditions book and Donna Kato’s Introduction to Polymer Clay DVD.
These and the two above give a good sampling of the techniques available for you to try.
There are many, many more excellent books and videos available out there that focus on more specific skills, such as millefiori (my own area of interest). If you’re looking to try your hand at millefiori (aka caning) I highly recommend Millefiori Story DVD with Judy Belcher and The Art of Polymer Clay: Millefiori Techniques book by Donna Kato.
- I have several free tutorials available at Polka Dot Creations
- Sculpey.com has a large library of free projects, plus more information about the clays they manufacture
- You can buy books, videos & magazines on the subject from me at Polka Dot Creations
- You can buy clay and supplies online at Polymer Clay Express
- You can get involved in an active online community at Polymer Clay Central
This should be enough to get you started. Remember, you don’t need a lot of fancy tools – just grab some clay, raid the junk drawer, and jump right in! After you’ve played around for a while, you’ll get a feel for where you want to go, and what additional resources you may need to get there.
Don’t be discouraged if your first items don’t look “professional.” (This candy cane with the embedded safety pin back, fingerprints all over it, and slightly sticky lint-magnet finish was my first creation – durable enough to last all these years, but not exactly drool-worthy.)
Yes, polymer clay is often marketed towards children, and yes, polymer clay is easy to pick up and just start creating with – the instant gratification factor is way up there! But don’t underestimate the importance of honing your skills and taking the time to master a technique. I wasn’t born making buttons to perfectly match my scarves, and neither will you (or your child) be.
Have fun! 🙂