Before I get into the science of polymer clay — its chemical composition, why it requires baking in an oven, etc. — I’d like to make a brief introduction of what polymer clay is (and what it is not) and how it came to be such a popular craft medium.
First off, what is polymer clay, and what is it not?
Surely, you must have seen it at any department store with a crafts aisle. It’s not traditional clay in the sense that it’s from the earth. It’s entirely synthetic, but still retains some of the properties of earthen clay (i.e. it’s soft, easy to mold, etc.). I’ll be talking about the chemical composition of polymer clay in a future post!
Common brands of polymer clay here in the U.S. include FIMO, Sculpey, and Premo. (From my experiences, I like FIMO the best.)
So how did polymer clay become so popular? Here’s a bit of history.
Polymer clay originated from Germany, by a doll-maker known as Kaethe Kruse. However, she couldn’t use it for her dolls, so she gave it to her daughter, Sophie. Sophie eventually started experimenting with it, and came up with her own formulation known as today’s FIMO polymer clay. (FIMO got its name from Sophie’s nickname, “Fifi” and the German word “Mosaik.”) Eberhard Faber bought the rights to the formula and tweaked it a little bit before putting it in stores all over Europe. (It eventually came to the U.S., and American companies like Sculpey and Premo soon jumped on the polymer clay bandwagon.)
Here’s a useful beginner’s video to using polymer clay (specifically, the Sculpey brand, but this information can be generally applied to all polymer clays):