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Sculpey III Polymer Clay -- A Product Review: How Sculpy Can Be Used to Make Anything

Updated on March 16, 2011
Photo by Faith Goble, featuring marbled polymer clay beads
Photo by Faith Goble, featuring marbled polymer clay beads | Source

Imagination and creativity are often stressed in children, but they are wonderful things for people of all ages. While I was encouraged to stretch my imagination and creative horizons throughout childhood, high school saw almost all of that die out – and without constant encouragement, one can easily forget to even try. Having remembered the importance of creativity, I now find it very difficult to stop – its power in reducing stress and inducing a sense of fulfillment are nothing short of addictive.

Now that I’m a starving artist and have narrowed down my choice crafts to a handful, polymer clay has taken an ever-growing place in my work, and is rivaled only by beading. Polymer clay is often connected with “summer camp” crafts and other amateurish applications, and though it is great for kids too, it is certainly not ONLY for kids. This is a medium that’s relatively inexpensive, but infinitely diverse in creating components, faux surfaces, sculptures, and so much more. Sculpey III is by far my favorite general-purpose clay; about the only times I use other clays are for lifelike human sculpture (for which I use ProSculpt) and polymer clay buttons, which I create with Sculpey Premo! because it’s a bit tougher after baking.

Sculpey III Basics and Uses

Depending on your location, Sculpey can get somewhat expensive for the avid clay hobbyist – anywhere from $1.00-$3.00 per 2oz. block if purchased from the stores. On the plus side, none of it ever goes to waste because it stores indefinitely and even the mixed-color scraps have many uses – that is, if you already know that you love working with polymer clay. Alternatively, sample packs containing 1oz. or 2oz. blocks that include some of Sculpey’s most popular colors are an excellent option, with the blocks averaging out at .75-1.00 apiece. In addition, eBay often has a wide selection of auctions with large mixed lots of Sculpey, which can be an inexpensive way to really grow your collection.

What are the uses of Sculpey III polymer clay? In this medium, the sky truly is the limit. Countless books currently on the market detail how to make lifelike human sculpture, animal sculpture, fantasy figures, even faux stones, wood, metal, and so much more. When I began, this plastic-based polymer clay was my choice for making cartoon-esque dog figurines. From there I advanced to polymer clay canes, beads, working with foils, PearlEx powders and inclusions – the list goes on. Sculpey III is often used for home décor items – decorative flower pots, light switch covers, chain pulls – and fashion statements. Basically anything that can be baked without harm can be used as a base for your creations.

How to Use Sculpey Clay

The most important thing to remember when working with Sculpey clay is to keep your hands and work space clean – it will pick up literally anything with which it comes into contact. Use a warmer or work balls of clay back and forth in your hands until it’s uniformly warm and easily pliable. Bear in mind that the clay will not harden or dry until it’s baked since it’s plasticizer-based rather than water-based. Once baked at 265F for 20 minutes and then allowed to cool, it will be hard. While this is a good clay for items that require multiple baking, some of the lighter colors will discolor with excess baking. Consider equipment such as a pasta machine, cutting blades, rollers, sanders (a dremel tool works very well for this), and other specialty tools, depending on what you’re making, but dedicate them solely to polymer clay. If you don’t do much clay baking your normal oven will be fine, but with a lot of clay you may want to consider investing in a toaster oven just for clay. If sanded, buffed and polished properly after baking, this clay can look just like glass.

Sculpey III is much easier to clean up than traditional clay or Play-Doh because it doesn’t crumble, smear, or splatter. The biggest cleaning issue is with bolder colors, which may need to be scrubbed off of your hands – bright red and darker greens and blues are the worst for this.

My Recommendation

Overall, Sculpey III has been the best clay for most of my purposes, with the exception of those that require a harder clay. Sculpey III polymer clay can be very soft, though setting it on paper will help leach some of the plasticizer out to make it a little more rigid for certain projects. Some artists and crafters will not use this clay for polymer clay canes for the softness, but it is actually my favorite for this application – however, the clay must be allowed to “rest” for 24 hours or spend some time in the freezer after the cane is finished before you make any attempt to reduce it.

Polymer clay has certainly been the most versatile and addictive crafting medium I’ve ever found, and I’m constantly building on my supply collection and catalog of techniques. The cost is pretty minimal to get started, and by the time you’re even tempted to spend substantial amounts of money you’ll be well advanced in the craft. That said, it is one of those skills that one can use on a small hobby scale, or bring it up to a full-blown artist’s scale and anywhere in between.

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