Polymer Clay Sculpture and Why It’s Awesome

Welcome to the wonderful world of polymer clay sculpture! I’m glad you found my website. Here you’ll find all kinds of crazy polymer clay ideas including action figure prototypes, ornaments, and much more! In this article, I’ll focus on basic polymer clay sculpture ideas that anyone can do.

That’s right, it doesn’t matter what your experience level is with polymer clay. I’m going to get you started. This website features many in-depth tutorials both in video and article form. I tend to lean more towards the realm of fantasy since I grew up during the time of the original Dungeons & Dragons. While I was below the recommended age to play the game at the time, I started D&D in the third grade. Luckily, I had a particularly intelligent friend who was in my class that introduced to the world of fantasy. The funny thing is, my friend didn’t stay in that world for very long. I guess I’ve been there ever since. From the world of D&D, I soon discovered Greek and Norse mythology. I got hooked!

Why polymer clay?

While I had (and still have) a vast imagination, I wasn’t particularly good at art in the form of drawing or painting. It wasn’t until I was around forty years of age before I found something I can do. My original idea was to work with clay doing stop motion animation. Instead, I accidentally stumbled upon polymer clay. After taking some tutorials. I learned the basics and took it from there. For whatever reason, I click with polymer clay and wish I discovered it earlier. Better late than never I guess.

Polymer Clay Sculpture and Why It’s Awesome

Polymer clay fantasy

The best thing about the realm of polymer clay sculpture is creating figurines from your imagination. There is no right or wrong way and in a sense, you can make no mistakes. Of course, if you’re dealing with human anatomy, our bodies have certain distinct characteristics that separate us from the rest of the animal species. But even taking human anatomy into account, do you notice when watching cartoons from the beginning up until modern times, characters have certain body parts exaggerated? Whether it be a nose, chin, or feet, the character portrays a human but ultimately it doesn’t look human.

The rules of true human anatomy don’t apply while the basic ideas do. Thus, work around any mistake you feel you made. I can’t tell you exactly how many polymer clay figurines I’ve created over the years, well over a hundred. During all those projects I only remember starting a project completely over because of a mistake about two or three times. You have a lot of room to work with.

Polymer clay jewelry

While having plenty of extra wiggle room with fantasy figures is one thing, making mistakes with polymer clay pendants and jewelry is something completely different. When making such items from polymer clay, making a mistake is far less forgiving. While I haven’t entered this realm of polymer clay sculpture yet, I do have plans of giving it a shot in the upcoming months.

It’s important to remember that you’re working with polymer clay because it’s fun and rewarding. If you find yourself getting frustrated, it’s best to wrap it up for the day and get some rest. Try again when you’re feeling well rested and energized. That’s when my best ideas come out.

Techniques

Like many other things in life, there are different ways to arrive at the same destination with polymer clay sculpture. The best technique is the one that feels right to you. Experimentation is the key for beginners. Some rely heavily on tools while others depend more on their hands. For myself, I use both together. It also depends on my mood. In my last tutorial, I created an action figure prototype from an extra face I had left over from another tutorial. For some reason, I was in a hands-on mood that day, using few tools. Sometimes, the opposite occurs. If you really want to focus on detail, you’ll need to work with tools. Don’t let this intimidate you.

Tools often used for polymer clay sculpture

Some of the best and simplest tools for polymer clay sculpture is a toothpick and the head of a wooden match. A toothpick really gets whatever detail you’re looking for in right areas. A match is great for blending the layers of polymer clay as one which I’ll cover in the next paragraph. Besides these two simple, dirt cheap tools, there’s a wide variety of tools on the market that I highly recommend. I have used just about all of my tools at one time or another, and they are heavily stained to the point that some need replacing. Still, the price for such tools is extremely modest and will last a long time.

Layering – A major part of polymer clay sculpture

Of course, there are other forms of clay sculpture. In fact, polymer clay really isn’t clay, it’s actually PVC plastic! There are no true clay particles in polymer clay. That’s kind of funny. Coincidentally, I recently visited the Appleton Museum and got my hands on some true clay, the real stuff. The museum offers a workshop for painting and clay sculpture. They don’t use polymer clay there, they use clay that feels like mud in texture. The more you work it, the more moisture is lost and it quickly dries out. While good for primitive pottery and such, I really wasn’t impressed by anything I saw made from this clay mud.

While I wasn’t particularly inspired by working with true clay, polymer clay is definitely my way to go. Like I mentioned earlier, there are different ways to reach the same destination, it’s the one that feels right to you. For example, you can take a big wad of clay and use tools to sculpt a face. In this technique, you’re actually shaving the clay off your model. With layering, which is my preferred method, you take the same wad of clay and create distinct features by layering more clay to the original blob. Do you get a general idea? I also use tools to sculpt away excess clay when it’s necessary, especially when I’m creating limbs for action figure prototypes. I layer on the muscles, then carve away what doesn’t fit or seem logical.

What’s your motivation for polymer clay sculpture?

The first thing you need if you’re new to this is confidence in yourself. You’ll be surprised at what you can do. As I mentioned, jewelry and charms are harder and will most likely take more time to master. You may also want to create an animal, such as a lion, only you really want this figurine to look like a real lion. That’s possible but takes more time. Attention to detail is more vital in such a situation. Alternatively, you may want to create a cartoon style lion, making it your very own creation by giving it distinct features separating it from a real lion, or another artists interpretation of a cartoon lion.

Motivation means everything in all forms of art, often generated by various emotions from sorrow to bliss and everything in between. Find your zone. What works for some, including myself, may not work for you. Approach it from an angle you’re most comfortable with. Art is also very therapeutic. Personally, I do it for entertainment value but whatever your motivation is, just go with it. You won’t know unless you try.

Common polymer clay tools
The simplest of tools, a wooden match, lollipop stick, and a toothpick.
Polymer Clay Fantasy Figures
Tools available on the market that I highly recommend. Forever clay-stained from many hours of sculpting.
How to make a polymer clay face Part 2
It's all about the layering. Layer additional pieces of polymer clay to get the features you want.

Why polymer clay sculpture is important

I think this art form is very important during the time of the digital age. It’s important to work with your hands making something physical rather than digital. Computer and video games, social media, and iPhones. We as a society have become a little too dependent on digital products. There’s a certain satisfaction one gets by accomplishing goals that you have something to show for. For example, if you spend many hours on a video game, trying to get to the next level, basically all you’re doing is learning how to beat a computer. There’s not a whole lot that you can take away from that. Once you’ve completed all the levels of the video game, it is no longer of interest or fun. With a polymer clay figurine, you have something to show for your time and work which lasts for years to come.   

Please take a look at the rest of my website

I have plenty of content on how to get started with polymer clay throughout my website and YouTube channel, and I’m only getting started. I update this site every week and have many plans and new ideas for its future. Enjoy your stay and come back often!

Polymer Clay Sculpture and Why It’s Awesome

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