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Arguments on this page:

- what is Polymer Clay

- how to cure/bake

- what else do I  need

- pasta machine

- how to condition

- history of Fimo

What is Polymer Clay and how to work with it?

"Fimo" is the name of the first brand of Polymer Clay. Polymer Clay is what I would call the evolution of earthen clay, it is an art and craft material made of PVC, pigments, plasticisers and will stay soft until cured by heat. There are many different brands of Polymer Clay, Fimo is the first of them, if you want to know more about how it was invented and it's history please read the Fimo Timeline (courtesy by Fimo Staedtler) below.

 

Different brands of Polymer Clay have different characteristics and sometimes curing temperatures but they all need to be cured to become hard and once cured they will not become pliable again. 

 

Most will start curing properly at around 110-130°C but they can start the curing process around 42°C - so be careful not to leave your clay in the car under the sun...it will become hard and impossible to use.

 

So...what can you do with Polymer Clay? You can sculpt it, carve it, paint it, mix it with pigments, paints or even dirt and sand to create interesting effects, you can silk screen it, you can use it for mixed media projects embedding stone, shells, glass, wood or metal in it. I would dare to say that the only limit to what you can do with it is your own fantasy ;)

 

Many people ask me if Polymer Clay is "safe" or even if it is "toxic" - Fimo (and other brands) is certified as non toxic but it is important not to overheat or burn Polymer Clay as the released fumes will irritate your eyes and lungs, it is not dangerous but irritating just as burning any piece of plastic/PVC. Polymer Clay is not food safe, but not because it will release anything onto your food but because it has a porous surface where bacteria can grow.

 

To make sure you cure your clay properly it is very important to use an oven, you can use your kitchen oven but if you make a lot of stuff, consider buying a dedicated one. Since most ovens are not accurate when it comes to temperatures, but curing Polymer Clay is about the most important step I highly recommend you buy and oven thermometer and test your oven. You will find that there can be spots where the temperature is higher (my kitchen oven has a high heat spot in the left corner that's about 10°C higher than the rest) or even that your oven has fluctuations.

 

All brands have many colors and some have different categories. There is Premo that has also the line of Premo Accents - those are the speciality colors with glitters and mica and various inclusions, glow in the dark, translucent colors etc

 

Fimo has a line of air dry clay called Fimo Air that has very little to nothing in comon with the oven bake clay. 

Then there is also Fimo Kids, suited as a toy and Fimo Soft, mostly suited for beginners. 

Fimo Professional has some colors called TURE COLOR that are perfect for mixing your own 175+ colors, click on the picture below to go to the color mixing map:

 

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Always pre-heat your oven, insert your items to cure only once it's stable on 130°C for at least 5 - 10 minutes. I always cure at 130 for 60 minutes, no matter how small the items are, various tests show that it's the best temperature and time to get your clay to be strong and flexible. Also try letting your items cool slowly in the oven, it will make them even more flexible.

Different brands of clay state different curing temperatures and times, 130°C for 60 fits all but Kato Polyclay that needs higher temperatures (150 - 170°C) and therefor can not be mixed with other brands as they would burn or if cured at their lower temperatures the clay would result brittle.

 

There some weird ideas and suggestions about boiling clay or curing it over a candle or steaming...well...we're not cooking and we're not steaming dumplings...we're looking for chemical reactions to happen... so please, use an oven, don't put it in your microwave, don't steam it, don't fry it.

 

Since many people here in Italy insist on curing (or trying to...) at 110°C for 20 minutes only I took the time to make a quick experiment: see for yourself.

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The examples above where bend, rolled up and hammered various times, you can see how good or badly they resist to this treatment

 

 

Once Fimo is cured well you can bend it and it is flexible enough to not break right away, you can drop in on the floor, I even throw it onto the walls to test it ;) You can actually carve it, cut it, drill it, sand it, it will not break.

 

My suggestion for having success with Polymer Clay is to join a locla guild and go to as many on hand workshops as you can.

 

There is many great books out there that you can also get from your local library or download as ebooks. It is my personal opinion that it is best to stay away from youtube...too many non competent clayers out tehre and too many copy cats that will only teach you rubbish

 

 

There's also tons of tools and products you can buy, texture sheets, pigments, stamps, cutters...but look around in your kitchen or your tools box and you might discover a huge amount of fun tools to use! If you are looking for top quality texture sheets try Lisa Pavelka she has loads of fun and quality stuff to use with clay, also look up Christi Friesen for some great products  ☺️ 

 

Of course you can also create some great tools yourself, I love carving my own texture plates: 

 

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How I finish my pieces: I sand and buff.

 

Polymer Clay does not need any protection you do not need to varnish unless you want to protect some color or pigments on the surface. If you have to always rely on the dedicated varnishes every brand of Polymer Clay produces. Do not trust mail polish ever or some random varnish, they will turn sticky within days or month most of the time.

 

I go for a more natural look and use wet/dry sandpaper, I start at about P600 and go up till P4000 and then buff with my buffing wheel. It takes quite some time and effort but is well worth it IMO. Below a picture of a sanded and buffed heart and a cabochon textured with a sponge - what a huge difference the surface treatment makes.

 

Please visit my Etsy store to purchase texture sponges and sanding sponges kits:

 

ETSY

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As for the pasta machine, so far my favourite is ATLAS MARCATO it comes in two sizes: 150 and 180, it's very sturdy, light, you can take it a part and clean it in about 5 minutes. The biggest plus is the motor that comes with it, without it I would probably not be able to clay due to my problems on shoulder and back.

 

Unfortunately not all pasta machines can be taken a part, below a quick visual reference on how to take a part your Atlas Marcato pasta machine and how to clean it. 

Below some videos in italian to explain how a pasta machine works, how to clean it and how to best use it to condition your clay

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Staedtler has recently released the Fimo Timeline, you can see a low res version below,  please visit the official website to view the high res version where you can also click and zoom on the images. All information is protected and of property of Staedtler, please contact them to obtain permission before using any pictures or text: 

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