The Fine Art Air-Dry and Polymer Clay Market Can Be Confusing for the Beginner to Intermediate Artist

What this page is and isn’t about — It’s about fine art air-dry and polymer clays. It’s not about ceramic, cold porcelain, resin clay, epoxy clays, or any kiln-cured products.

This page was written after reading https://www.reviewstream.com/reviews/?p=155083#thoughts-box, which was about Premier clay, an artist grade air-dry clay, and the beginner’s needs or understandable confusion.

For jewelry making, Premo!, Fimo Classic, Kato, and Cernit are some of your better choices of oven-cured polymer clays –they’re durable enough and do not have to be sealed unless certain surface treatments (mica powders like Pearl Ex) were used. See: https://thebluebottletree.com/seal-polymer-clay/

Out of the air-dry clays presently sold by Dick Blick, the strongest and most artist grade ones used for sculpting, according to many art doll artists, are Activa La Doll Premier, Activa La Doll Satin Smooth, and Creative PaperClay. Creative PaperClay is frequently listed as academic not because it’s strictly academic and you can’t create incredible fine art sculptures out of it, you can, but because students can use it but most, including public school art teachers, don’t know how to get fine art results out of it. In this video, you can see me, starting at 2 min. in, flipping through a book by The late Robert McKinley who made exquisite are dolls with Creative PaperClay. Susie Benes has an excellent basic into page on Creative PaperClay here. She goes into how-to here. Adele Po has some good information and pictures here. You can find some pretty cool Creative PaperClay sculpting videos in this youtube playlist. And of course Pinterest will yield an array of examples.

Durability… (Remember, this page is not covering resin clay from Japan, etc.) Jewelry may take much more wear and tear, so fine art air-dry clays that can be damaged by exposure to water – so Creative PaperClay or Premier Clay usually aren’t used for charms, pendants, and beads. Not unless they’re encased, including inside the bead hole, in resin. For jewelry, oven cured polymer clay is a better choice.

Seal it or not? As a rule, air-dry clays generally have to be sealed once dry and finished but oven-cured polymer clays don’t. (Two-part epoxy clays like Apoxie Sculpt don’t have to be sealed but although they’re often called air-dry, they actually cure by chemical reaction and may even be able to cure under water. They’re not true air-dry clays.)

Cracks in Premier clay.… Cracks don’t mean your air-dry clay is weak. Premier is one of the strongest air-dry clays. Nearly all air-dry clays have some shrinkage and Premier is no exception, although it shrinks less than some air-dry clays. Having a good armature, if armature is necessary, and using minimal amounts of water while sculpting with Premier can decrease the likelihood or severity of cracks. Sometimes cracks happen but they’re easily be repaired with Premier, even if your item dried. See the below video. Cracks may occur if you added too much water while sculpting, used a cardboard armature, used thin clay over a rigid armature (Ostrich legs built on a wire armature, for example), let your item dry too quickly, or didn’t support sculpture parts subject to gravity. Don’t dry your Premier clay items under a fan. Do remember to keep unused clay in an air-tight bag and/or container.

For figurative works, Premix, an air-dry clay made by the same company as Premier, is said to be easier to sculpt and blend than Premier. Doll artist Hannie Sarris loved Premix clay. Others love Premier clay. Both take some different sculpting techniques than what one would be used to with polymer clay and one uses minimal (!) amounts of water are used while sculpting Premier. People working with these air-dry clays might lightly dab their fingers across a wet sponge to keep clay moist enough while sculpting. They may use a mister type of water bottle. Do not use Sculpey Clay Softener or any type of oil to soften, smooth, and blend these air-dry clays — they are hybrid clays and have their own characteristics, sculpting techniques, storage and compatibility considerations. They’re not like the majority of polymer clays that are oven-cured (e.g., Fimo Classic, Fimo Soft, Cernit, Fimo Doll, Premo!). They’re not like most air-dry clays on the market. They are used by a number of very famous art doll artists and others.

So yes, there are indeed air-dry polymer clays — Activa Lumina Translucent Polymer Clay, Staedtler Fimo Air Basic Modeling Clay, and Activa LaDoll Premier clay are examples of air-dry polymer clays. Activa, the company that makes laDoll Premier clay, describes Premier clay as a type of polymer clay on their site. Lumina has long been known to the polymer clay community. Fimo Air Basic is weaker than either of those.

Polymer clays have their own issues — Dirt, lint, hair, compatibility issues, and baking considerations (always monitor your oven with two oven thermometers, not counting the oven’s own temperature reading). If you look at it that way, a few easily repaired cracks in Premier clay items isn’ts a bad deal.

Sculpey Diluent, AKA liquid Sculpey Clay Softener, works with oven-cured polymer clays, specifically, and not with air-dry polymer clays. Here’s the Sculpey Clay Softener Material Safety Data Sheet: https://www.sculpey.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Clay-Softener-SDS-10282015.pdf

Note: Makin’s, Hearty, Das, “cold porcelain” clays, Creative Paperclay, Celluclay, and epoxy putties are not polymer clays no matter who describes them as such.

For a whole lot of information on all things polymer and air-dry clay, see:

…Or go to clay manufacturers’ sites and hit their FAQs and MSDS pages. I wish there were sculpting, storage, compatibility, MSDS and other information (to seal or not to seal) with each clay package that one takes home, but that’s sadly not the case.

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