• About Polymer Clay

    Polymer clay is a relatively new medium for arts and crafts. Though it was first created in the late 1930s, it has been readily available for only the past thirty or forty years. Compare this to the centuries over which many mediums have been explored and you’ll understand why there are still untold possibilities for polymer clay

    Polymer Clay has been around, in one form or another, since the late 1930s. The idea was born in Germany, where Fifi Rehbinder, a doll maker, was having trouble finding her usual supplies, due to the political upheaval of the time. A resourceful woman, she developed a plastic clay she called “Fifi Mosaik”, which she used for sculpting doll heads. It wasn’t until 1964 that Rehbinder sold the formula to Eberhard Faber. The manufacturer tweaked the formula into the Fimo brand of polymer clay and sold it in toy stores in Europe, where it was viewed primarily as a toy for children or a medium for sculpting dolls and miniatures for use in doll houses

    Polymer Clay made its first major appearance in the United States in the 1970s. The Shaup family, immigrants from Germany, received Fimo as a Christmas present from a grandmother still living abroad. The Shaups’ clay creations soon caught the eye of friends and neighbors, and in 1975, the family began to import Fimo into the United States. American companies shortly followed suit.

    Meanwhile, other people in the United States were also experimenting with polymer clay. In the 1950s, clay illustrator Gordon Swenarton used a vinyl dough he obtained through his father, who was a chemist. And in the 1960s, Zenith Products Company in the United States “accidentally” created its own variety of polymer clay. The compay developed “Polyform” in hopes of using it as a thermal transfer compound. While it didn’t work in its intended industrial capacity, a young visitor’s interest illustrated that the product had great potential as an arts and crafts medium. (The owner’s daughter sculpted an elephant from the clay.) “Polyform” was the original version of what is now known as “Sculpley”. Though the white Polyform/Sculpey was sold as early as 1967, it didn’t get its present-day brilliant line of colors until 1984. Until that time, artists had to add their own pigments to colorize the clay.

    By the 1990s, polymer clay’s popularity was obvious, and other manufacturers took notice. AMACO developed Friendly Clay, departing from their existing line of natural clays. Premo clay came along in the mid-90s, when polymer clay artist Marie Segal indicated to the makers of Sculpey that there was demand for a higher-quality American-made clay. The newest variety of polymer clay, Kato Polyclay, was developed in 2001 through collaboration between artist Donna Kato and manufacturer Van Aken.

    Today, there are several brands of polymer clay from which to choose, as well as specialty clays (liquid polymer clay, mica clays, glitter clays, glow-in-the-dark clays, etc.). Polymer clay continues to gain popularity, and new techniques are still emerging in this (comparatively speaking) new medium

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