Polymer Clay Baking, Working and Tips
I hope you’re enjoying Maive’s blog series here, so far. We’ve been taking a look at what Polymer Clay is all about. Then, the tools and materials you’ll need. So, now, how about we move on to some tips for actually working with Polymer. In this post, Maive is going to be sharing loads of great advice, from Polymer Clay baking guidelines, to tips for fixing mistakes and using up leftovers. So, let me hand over to Maive (oh, and if you’re after some finished creations, don’t forget to check out her amazing Etsy store!)…
Now that I have all the tools and materials, what do I do?
Find a comfortable and well-lit place to work, it can be by a window like I do, on a desk or your kitchen table. As long as you’re comfortable and you can see what you’re doing.
Clean your work surface and tools before you start, and then wash your hands. I recommend drying your hands with paper towels, especially when using light colours as the clay is sticky and will collect lint. Keep the paper towels at hand so that you can wipe your tools every now and then while you work.
Before you start using the clay, it’s very important to condition it or knead it until it’s pliable. Some clays are harder than others so it may take a little longer. You can do this with your hands, with a rolling pin or a pasta machine. You’ll know when it’s ready. But if you can easily squeeze it or fold it without it breaking or tearing, then it’s definitely ready!
Polymer Clay Baking Tips
Boy, do I get questions about polymer clay baking! This seems to be the most daunting step a lot of people face, but there is nothing to worry about.
You can bake Polymer clay in a conventional kitchen oven. Now, the recommended temperatures may vary from brand to brand. So, if you mix brands, I think it’s a sensible choice to bake it at the lowest of the two recommended temperatures.
Sculpey Recommended temperature: 130°C/ 275°F
FIMO Recommended temperature: 110°C/ 230°F
I personally think that 130°C is a little too hot. So, I like to bake my polymer clay between 110°C and 120°C. But I always like to encourage people to vary the temperatures and find out what works best for them.
Whatever temperature you bake your clay at, do not exceed 130°C or your polymer clay will burn.
If you can’t digitally control the temperature of your oven, I suggest investing in an oven thermometer to make sure you’re not overheating your clay.
What I like to do is to put my pieces in the oven first, when the oven is cool. Then, turn the oven on, so that the oven, clay and whatever the clay is sitting on warm up together. That way, none of them suffers a thermal shock.
When the oven has reached the desired temperature, I set my timer. Times vary depending on the size of my piece, but baking polymer clay for longer, independently from the size, makes it stronger. You only compromise the quality of your piece if you exceed 130°C and burn it, or if you under bake it.
Part-baking polymer clay
This is a technique you will use when you need to set a piece so that you can carry on sculpting or adding decorations on it without damaging it. I’d recommend baking the piece for at least 10 minutes. Keep in mind that the entire piece will have to be baked again to be cured through.
Polymer Clay Baking at the end
Bake for at least 30 minutes. Bigger pieces will require longer times.
You can bake your clay on the same tile (or dish) you finished your piece on. This is especially helpful if it’s a thin or delicate piece and you don’t want to risk moving it. For this reason, I have several ceramic coasters and tiles that I like to work on and that I can pop in the oven easily.
You can have a baking tray dedicated especially to polymer clay. I wouldn’t place my pieces directly on the tray. Instead, I’d have my pieces sitting on a piece of regular paper or one of my tiles or coasters.
To protect your pieces, you can cover them with a tinfoil tray or oven proof dish.
Adding Finishing Touches
Once your polymer clay is out of the oven and cool, you can paint or varnish it.
Just let the clay cool down completely before you do any of this. When it’s warm, it’s still fragile and the paint and/or varnish may dry on you before you get a chance to spread them.
Disposing of Polymer Clay & Residue
It’s great when you’ve finished a project and there’s no clay left over. But sometimes you’ll be left with bits, both baked and unbaked, and you won’t be sure what to do with them.
You can mix unbaked clay with other colours or use it as a filler in beads or cakes, where it won’t be seen.
Use baked polymer clay for ‘sprinkles’ if you chop it up and if the colours resemble some sort of food, like chocolate or almonds.
In the case of left-over frosting for example, after you put it all back in the pot where you store it, you’ll have some left on your tools and maybe the dish where you mixed it. In this case, wipe everything clean with paper towels and dispose of it in the general rubbish bin. The same goes for any bits of baked or unbaked clay you no longer need or want.
More Polymer Clay Baking and Working Tips
- Do not touch hot polymer clay that has just come out of the oven. It will be very hot and at this stage and will still be soft and fragile. Let it cool down completely before handling it.
- If you’re baking a large piece, let it cool down in the oven before taking it out.
- If burned, polymer clay may release potentially toxic fumes that may cause irritation. So, if that happens, ventilate the area well and clean your oven before using it for food again.
- Keep your polymer clay tools separate from any that you might use in the kitchen. If you used a cookie cutter, for example, don’t use it to make real cookies anymore.
The last tip I have is to be yourself and have fun…a lot of fun! Don’t take this too seriously. In the end it’s just clay and if something happens, so what? Those so-called “mistakes” are just stepping-stones to honing your skills.
I hope you’ll grow to love polymer clay and enjoy your creative journey,
Just a reminder, you can find Maive’s website here and get beautiful finished work, or tutorials to make your own projects.