Beginners' Corner
by Judy Gregory

Polymer Clay for Beginners

When you are attracted to the appeal of Polymer Clay and are just starting out you want to:

Know, in advance, that you have to play with the clay to get the knack of each and every technique.

Purchase or Borrow a Few Items

Three Brands of Polymer Clay

The three types of clay I have used are: Fimo, Sculpey and Premo.

I must admit I have not had much luck conditioning the Fimo clay, but others swear by it. They claim that Fimo colors stay the truest when baked, and the detail in their canes is not distorted.

The Sculpey clay is the easiest to condition but will distort when making canes. The colors, especially yellow and red, sometimes darken when baked.

Premo clay seems to be the best of both worlds. It is easy to condition and holds detail well. Because of these characteristics, Premo is gaining in popularity.

There are other polymer clays you can purchase, but those noted above are the only ones I have used.

Determine What Color Clay to Use

Choose your colors.

Start by conditioning the lightest color first and progressing to the darker colors. (I have great difficulty getting the red off my hands and then the subsequent colors are contaminated by it.)

Sometimes the colors darken when baked. Practice and sample different clays, temperature and time baking until you are comfortable and confident with your result.

Before You Start

Some people wear tight rubber cloves to prevent fingerprints in their work and to keep clay residue from clinging to their skin. Others put on hand lotion prior to working with the clay, so the clay will not stay in the creases of their hands. Regardless, always wash your hands with soap when you are done working with clay.

Protect the area where you will be using the clay products with a specific plastic tablecloth or work surface. Do not use the item for food preparation.

Have a specific pan or baking sheet for baking your clay. You can not use the pan for food once you have contaminated it by baking clay in it! You may use your regular oven to bake the clay but make a tent with aluminum foil to contain the fumes. Always open a window to allow the fumes to escape.

Ready to Go?

Start by conditioning your clay. This means roll it out (similar to kneading bread) several times until it is soft and smooth. When you get on a roll and are conditioning several different colors, you may want to keep the conditioned clay warm. You can do this by putting it in a plastic bag and putting it in your pocket or another warm area.

A Few Terms

CANE: A cane is a combination of logs. The logs may be different colors, which you merge to create a cane. To make a cane, select the color you want to be the center.

    (1) Roll the clay into a log of the desired length to make the cane.

    (2) Roll additional logs. These will be used to surround the center log.

    (3) Place the additional logs around each other and start to roll away from you and back. This will make the cane.

JELLY ROLL: A jelly roll is two or more flat pieces of clay laid on top of each other. Usually they are contrasting colors. Begin to roll one end and see how it looks like a bulls eye.

If you just like the swirl look, roll a few pieces into a ball and make beads.


Play and experiment with the clay. You may just invent a new technique.

Make holes for beads or earring hoops prior to baking. My experience has been when I attempted after the clay was baked the whole piece broke.

Make your items thick enough. I tend to make some items too thin and they are fragile and break easily when dropped. The thin items also burn easily.


The directions on the packages generally advise to bake at 275 up to 325 degrees for 10 to 30 minutes. Use a thermometer and check your oven. They all seem to vary a few degrees. (NOTE- I have burned the coolest creations and was totally bummed!)

I could go on and on but by now you are curious, so just for starters, check the library for the below list of books:

  • The New Clay by Nan Roche
  • Creative Clay Jewelry by Leslie Dierks
  • The Polymer Clay Techniques Book by Sue Heaser
  • The Art of Polymer Clay by Donna Kato

If you learn better by watching someone, check Carol Duval on Home and Garden TV or look at their web site,

The wonderful web has a multitude of listing, so go to your favorite search engine and type in "polymer clay". Also, you should check out the following website: The Glass Attic.

Finally, you can check out the National Polymer Clay Guild website to see if there is a guild in your region.

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