What is it?
Polymer clay is a synthetic modeling material and not earth clay at all. It contains a mixture of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) particles and plasticizer. Unlike earth clay, which needs extremely high temperatures to cure, polymer clay can be cured in your home oven at temperatures of around 275 degrees (depending on the brand). Polymer clay, also unlike earth clay, will not dry out which means that you can leave your projects without having to worry about them hardening before you are finished. Polymer clay can also be baked repeatedly which means that you can make a creation in steps and not have to worry about squishing one part of it as you work on another.
What can I do with it?
Polymer clay, or just clay - since it's shorter - comes in numerous colors, including metallics, translucent, and glow-in-the-dark. Colors can be mixed together like paints so that the choices are virtually limitless. The clay can be used to make miniatures, sculpture, jewelry, household items and virtually anything else you can imagine. You can use it to cover pens, picture frames, jars, tins.. - anything that can be baked at the same curing temperature as the clay. You can transfer images onto it or stamp into it with rubber stamps. You can texture the clay before baking or carve it after its cured. You can color the raw clay with mica powders, glitters, powdered chalks and embossing powders. Once the clay is baked, it can be drilled, sanded, painted, or sealed.
Where can I get it?
Some of the most common brands are Sculpey, Premo, FIMO and Cernit. In most craft stores, you can buy a 2 oz. package of one color for a little under two dollars. Sample packs are also generally available. Clay can also be ordered from many online suppliers, in small packages or in bulk.
Who is it for?
Anyone can work with polymer clay and have fun - whether you are five years old or a lifelong professional artist. You don't have to be "artistic" although it's hard not to be, with such an easy material to work with. You may not be able to create professional looking sculpture or intricate canes yet, but you can use cookie cutters or rubber stamps to cut out shapes and decorate them and then glue the result onto a magnet to put on the fridge. The wonderful thing about polymer clay is its versatility. There is something for everyone to be interested in.