We often think of ceramics as being made with porcelain clay and, a lot of times, that is the case. But did you know there’s another way to create sculptures without a kiln? Oven bake clay is a popular way for crafters and professional artists alike to build ceramics. Using the same construction techniques as conventional clay, you can bring your artistic vision to life in a regular kitchen oven—that's right, from the comfort of your own home.
What is oven bake clay?
Oven bake clay, commonly known as polymer clay or Sculpey, is made from synthetic materials that include PVC powder, plasticizers, binders, fillers, lubricant, and pigments. When placed in the oven, the powdered PVC softens into the plasticizers and forms a solid plastic mass.
Polymer clay is an accessible material to work with. It’s relatively inexpensive and can be manipulated to form figurines, beads for jewelry, decorative vases, and much more. Many artists like to combine Sculpey with other materials into mixed media creations. And unlike conventional clay, the oven bake version is sold as solid colors—so rather than glazing your sculpture after the fact, you can form your sculpture in your chosen hue and not have to paint it afterward. If you do choose surface adornments, however, that’s easy, too. You can use acrylic paint to add detail to your work and glaze it using special mediums.
Sculpey comes in a variety of colors.
This sampler is a great option for trying out many colors…
… but if you prefer neutrals, these are available, too.
Starting a sculpture with oven bake clay is fun and easy.
One of the best things about oven bake clay is that you can practice the same techniques you’d use if you were molding clay from the earth. Before you begin building, you must “warm up” the Sculpey by kneading it with your hands or pinching it between your fingers.
Try some of these materials!
Rolling pin. Use a rolling pin to flatten your Sculpey into a disc and to ensure that you get rid of any air bubbles in the clay.
Sculpting tools. If you’ve ever worked with conventional clay, great news—you can use the same pottery carving tools on Sculpey! This set by WINCAN includes a staggering 30 pieces in all shapes and sizes. They are well-regarded for being great tools for carving, modeling, cutting, and scraping.
Bamboo skewers. These work well if you're trying to poke tiny holes in your clay, such as for beads and other jewelry.
Wax paper to protect your work surface. Polymer clay can affect certain finishes. If you’re not working on marble or glass, you’ll want to tape a sheet of wax paper to your table to protect it.
Bake & Bond adhesive. Use this special glue to attach two raw pieces of clay together. Once they are baked in the oven, they form a strong bond.