You need surprisingly little in the way of clay tools to get started with polymer clay, and your money is far better spent on the clay itself so that you have plenty to learn and experiment with. So find out what you need, what you don't, and why, in this article - my attempt to save beginner polymer clayers a ton of money.
If you are anything like me, the prospect of buying polymer clay tools and supplies turns you into the proverbial kid in a candy store. There are so many shiny, tempting bits and pieces to choose from, and at the time, they all seem absolutely necessary. Without all the latest gadgets, it seems that you would stand no chance whatsoever of producing even a half decent finished product. Like most polymer clayers, I have fallen into the trap of buying way too much stuff - more than once, I might add. Much of it I still don't use, even all these years later. I wish this advice had been around when I first started out - lol.
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While it's nice to have a dedicated polymer clay working area, it certainly isn't necessary. With these few start up supplies you can pack and unpack your work space in minutes. The best place to set up is anywhere where you have good light, a non-carpeted floor (otherwise clay can get walked into the carpet) and a stable work surface. The kitchen was always my first stop.
This is the part where we all tend to go overboard, but after sitting down and thinking about it for a while, I realized that there are only a few tools that I couldn't do without.
This is the one area of polymer clay creation where you will need to make a small investment, which is unfortunately unavoidable. You will need some sort of an oven. Polymer clay must be baked. It cannot be air-dried, and it cannot be microwaved. You also cannot use your regular food oven, since polymer clay emits rather nasty fumes as it bakes.
Once your polymer clay blocks are opened they need to be stored in some sort of airtight container to prolong the shelf life of your clay. Since many plastics react with polymer clay, I have found ziploc bags to be the best solution.
(Test your bags first to make sure they are non-reactive. You do this by leaving a small piece of clay lying on one of the bags. Check after a week or so to see if the plastic beneath and surrounding the clay has gone cloudy. If it has, the plastic is reacting. If it hasn't then your bags should be safe for storage. I use the ziploc bags carried by FireMountainGems.com and I've never had a problem.)
So after doing a quick add up, it turns out that you can buy everything you need to get started with polymer clay for around USD90, plus another $25 or so if you want a pasta machine and another $10 or $20 for a few blocks of clay. If you take your total up to $150 you should have all your polymer clay tools, plus enough clay to last you for six months or so. When you think that you could blow that on one or two over-priced gadgets, getting started with polymer clay really doesn't need to be too expensive.
Just a quick word about the clay itself. Some polymer clay brands are more suitable than others for polymer clay art. Sculpey III in particular is not a good choice. It is cheap and readily available, but brittle and it breaks easily. I have heard so many stories of polymer clay beginners going out and buying buckets full of Sculpey III only to be frustrated when their projects don't come out the way they should. It can be very discouraging. If you are just getting started with polymer clay I recommend either Premo, or Fimo Professional, or Kato at a push. Have a look at my article: Which Is The Best Polymer Clay Brand? for a run down of the pros and cons of each of these clays and what they are best used for.
If there are any other must-have polymer clay tools that you think should be added to the list on this page, please let me know in the comments below. And as always, please do like and share with your friends if they are just starting out with polymer clay.
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