The History of Polymer Clay

You know Sculpey oven-bake clay as the fun and colorful material you use to make crafts, jewelry and other unique creations. But where did it come from? Polymer clay has a fascinating history that may surprise you!

What Is Polymer Clay?

Polymer clay is a synthetic modeling material, not an earth clay. It comes from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the third most common plastic polymer in the world. Thanks to its plasticity, polymer clay is ideal for molding, sculpting and creating anything you can imagine. It starts out soft and malleable, and it becomes hard and durable after baking in your oven.

Sculpey offers a range of non-toxic polymer clay products for crafters of all ages and skill levels.

The History of Polymer Clay

For over 50 years, crafters across the world have enjoyed playing and creating with Sculpey oven-bake clay. Here are some of the major milestones in the history of polymer clay that got us to where we are today:

  • 1900s: Throughout the early 1900s, there was a high demand for synthetic alternatives to replace limited natural resources like shellac. Inventors used polymers to create new plastics such as Bakelite, a heat-conduction material. While primarily used as a thermal transfer compound, Bakelite became popular among some designers for its moldability and creative possibilities.
  • 1930s: By the 1930s, various manufacturers offered polymer materials like Bakelite for commercial purposes. When uncured, Bakelite’s phenol base was flammable and posed a risk to crafters. Inventors began developing non-flammable, non-toxic polymer clays as a substitute for artistic purposes.
  • 1960s: In the early 1960s, scientists in an American laboratory sought to create a thermal transfer compound to protect electrical transformers. The material, a malleable clay, wasn’t successful at its initial purpose. However, one team member realized the versatile, moldable, creative potential of the polymer clay, and Sculpey was born!
  • 1967: Originally known as “Polyform,” what is today called Sculpey began selling in 1967 in just one color: white. It was a grassroots effort to get Sculpey in the hands of crafters at street fairs and small art stores across the country. The non-toxic polymer clay took off as a popular new sculpting material.
  • 1984: In the mid-1980s, Sculpey introduced colored clay in the pigments you know and love today, opening Sculpey creations up to a new world of possibilities. At the same time, polymer clay spread in popularity as a fun and accessible craft material for everyone.

Polymer Clay Today

Today, polymer clay is more popular than ever. At Sculpey, we continue to create and explore new brands and styles of polymer clay to fit any project. From our classic Original Sculpey® oven-bake clay to Liquid Sculpey® Polymer Clay, you’re sure to find the right material to achieve your vision. Crafters are always coming up with creative techniques for sculpting, shaping and designing.

The possibilities are endless with Sculpey polymer clay, whether you’re making jewelry, home decor, sculptures or mixed media art. We supply the tools, you supply the CREATIVITY.

Get Crafting Today With Sculpey

Browse our selection of polymer clay products to find just what you need. Be sure to visit our how-to page as well to find free instructions and inspiration for your next project!

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