Polymer Clay 101: Essential Supplies for Working With Polymer Clay
Some of you may recall me writing about how my first attempts at polymer clay bead making were, well, less than successful. In fact, I was so discouraged at my results that I decided to take up something easier for making my own handmade beads — lampwork glass. (You know, because melting glass in a flame at 3,000 degrees fahrenheit is just way easier than baking polymer clay in a toaster oven. Right?)
But fast forward a few years later, and apparently my skills at making Play-Doh sculptures with my son have translated into some successes with making polymer clay beads and cabochons. Who knew? Maybe I should have had my son years earlier, and I could have saved all that money on gas, glass, and a kiln!
Essential Supplies for Getting Started with Polymer Clay
Before you get started with your polymer clay, there are only a few things that you absolutely must have, and the good news is that they're relatively easy to find and affordable to boot.
1. Work surface. A dedicated work surface for your polymer clay will help keep your clay clean and free from cross-contamination, particularly if you do other types of jewelry-making like metal work or seed bead work. You can use a plain ceramic tile (sometimes available as remnants or samples from home improvement stores), a special acrylic tile, or even just a piece of waxed paper taped to a sturdy table.
2. An oven. Because polymer clay contains particles of inorganic materials, you want to make sure that you never bake it in the same oven that you use for your dinner! To get started, you can invest a few dollars in a new dedicated toaster oven to make sure that you don't contaminate your food with fumes and chemicals from baking your polymer clay beads.
3. Cleaning supplies. Regular rubbing alcohol works very well for cleaning your tools and work surfaces, or get a pack of (unscented) hand wipes.
Tools for Shaping Polymer Clay
Next, you'll want to get a few tools to help you create your polymer clay beads. These are all readily available at your local craft store.
1. For cutting: tissue blade and craft knife. Whether you use an Exacto knife or a fancy blade with a corrugated pattern for adding shape and texture to your polymer clay beads, an assortment of cutting tools are handy for creating precise shapes that you can layer into your overall designs.
2. Rolling tools. You can find small acrylic rollers made just for working with polymer clay at your local craft store, or try looking for a regular rolling pin at your favorite thrift shop! (Just like the oven, make sure this rolling pin doesn't get mixed in with your regular kitchen tools.) A deck of playing cards is also another helpful tool for evenly rolling your polymer clay. Or if you prefer, you can use a dedicated pasta machine, available at most kitchen supply stores, to roll and blend your polymer clay.
3. Piercing tools. If you're making beads and pendants out of polymer clay, you'll need to put a hole in them. Some people prefer to drill their bead holes after the beads have cured in the oven, but I find it easier to use a sharp awl or even a toothpick for creating a hole in my polymer clay beads. Metal skewers, knitting needles, and even drinking straws are also useful for piercing polymer clay pieces before they go in the oven to cure.
Sculptural Polymer Clay Tools
Other tools that are nice (but not necessary) for getting started with polymer clay include things like molds, an extruding press (like the kind we used to use to make cookies when I was a kid!), and even a Dremel tool for sanding and buffing your finished polymer clay beads. For adding texture, you can either buy specially made texture sheets, or look for things around the house: a crumpled piece of aluminum foil, a comb, broken jewelry, or even an old toothbrush can be used to add texture and dimension to you handmade polymer clay beads. Get creative with what you find in your junk drawer!
Get Started With Polymer Clay Today!
Want to find out for yourself just how easy it is to make beautiful handmade polymer clay beads? Check out our Featured Artist Kit, including Fabulous Facets by Erin Prais-Hintz and a complete polymer clay bead making kit! (All you need to supply are a work surface and a dedicated oven for curing.) Choose from Mermaid (teal) or Wild Plum (purple) — each kit includes a copy of Fabulous Facets with Erin Prais-Hintz, a package of polymer clay, coordinating ink and patina, a paintbrush, a paint tray, a cutting tool, and 9 base metal core beads for creating your handmade polymer clay beads. There are a limited number of each colorway for these kits, so make sure you get the one you want before they're all gone!
Do you have any favorite polymer clay tools that you just can't live without? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share them with us!