The Art of Polymer Clay
Polymer Clay has been around for decades, and was first introduced to a German doll manufacturer looking for a mouldable compound to make heads for toy dolls. It was later realised that it would be a good craft basic, and was launched as a non coloured compound that hardened when cooked. It has since been adapted to its current multi coloured and malleable formulae, and there are now many different brands of polymer clay available to artists of all ages.
In the late 1970’s main stream artists began to experiment with polymer clay as additions to their works and it slowly began to grow in popularity as artists realised what raw potential the clay had for creative minds. Increasing techniques for manipulating the clay began to be published and shared between clay artists and the manufacturers began augmenting their range of polymer clays to better suit their clients’ requirements. It is no longer a simple crafting medium but a recognised art form with a growing band of collectors, and in 2011 an exhibition solely of polymer art is to be held at one of the major American museums.
One of the main joys of working with polymer is how easy it is to manipulate. It is useful in so many art forms, from making sculptural pieces, miniature models, vases, picture frames, boxes etc, to the many jewellery formats, from small individual beads to large focal pieces.
In its raw state you can sculpt it, mould it, stamp it, paint it, ink it, grate it, stitch it, add glitters, mica or embossing powders, metal leaf, herbs, or coloured sand. When it is baked (or cured) you can sand it, carve it, drill it, polish it, paint it, use a lathe to cut into it and basically just do whatever your imagination thinks of.
You can buy polymer clay pieces of various shapes and sizes, from a pair of earrings to large sculptural pieces but your first reason for purchasing, as with any art form, should always be your love of the piece. The main American artists now charge thousands of dollars for polymer works, but you can still find individual pieces from up coming artists at reasonable prices. If you want to buy a good collector’s piece, look out for items that have an artist’s monogram or are individually identified with some form of certification to identify the polymer artist.
Well known artists will normally be members of polymer clay associations such as the British Polymer Clay Guild or the International Polymer Clay Association and as the polymer clay community is still relatively small, most artists will also be teaching their techniques to increase people’s awareness of the medium.
Author : Fiona Abel-Smith