Turning Polymer Clay Scraps into New Creations

women wearing large color pop necklace made of polymer clay
Necklace made with scrap clay only

What is scrap clay anyway?

On social media you can not help but notice that there are a lot people wondering about what to do with scrap clay and asking for new ideas for what to do with it. Since this is a topic of interest I would like to get a bit deeper into it, more than a quick reply on social media.

First, let’s talk about what scrap clay actually is. We might not all be on the same page here! Scrap clay is commonly meant when speaking about clay, that is left over from a project. It often has more than one color mixed in and it also can be not enough to make another piece of what ever you are working on at that time. If all that clay is mushed together it turns into scrap clay. Our main material is too precious to just throw out and we all want to be careful with our resources, not wasting anything, right? So now we have a bunch of scrap clay and need to find out what to use it for!

A Good practice: separate your clay scraps while working on your projects!

The first tip or idea starts right there! I find it a good practice to prevent having too much scrap clay in the first place! When working on a project you cannot help but cut off pieces. You always have clay left over because you used more material than you really needed. I have a good look at all of these pieces and separate the clay by colors BEFORE I mush everything together and turn it into scrap!

For example: If I create a veneer and I have a bit of that veneer left over, I still can cut it into smaller pieces of one color only and then have smaller pieces with more than one color. That might seem a bit up tied at first but it does reduce the amount of scrap clay you have by a lot! Most of the time I can “rescue” a lot of the original colors. Only a small amount has more than one color mixed in and can not be separated any further. That little bit is now my scrap clay.

So what I do with that LITTLE bit? I mix it straight away, before I have other scrap clay from other projects that I would add to it. Why? More often than not I work in a limited color palette on one project. Even if I have two or more clay colors mixed together they are usually not total opposites (on the color wheel). When I mix them together I will get a different color, but solid color, that I can use for something else! That new mixed color goes into my “scrap library” (more on that later). Do separate your colors as soon as possible and mix them into one solid color! That advice also holds true about types or brands of clay as well! Always separate your clay as soon as possible in your work flow.

What can I put together (color, type of clay….)

That leads to the next question: What kinds of clay can I put together? Let’s talk about different types of clay first. Of course there are different types of clay you should keep separate from each other. I would not mix oven cure and air dry clay together. At least not in its raw form. That would make it very hard to figure out how to get such a mix cured/dried!

But I do mix Premo and Soufflé together when I am working with both in one project! They both have the same temperature range for curing and therefore they can be mixed together. This mixed clay will have different properties than the original clay of course, but that does not mean there is no place for such a mix.

Even liquid and solid clay can be mixed, if that is something you have left over from a project. Sometimes one of these “wilder” mixes are just what you need for a special project!

A little bit of color theory goes a long way..

But what about colors? I usually don’t have a wide variety of colors in one project. I tend to work with colors that go well together or are of the same type of color families – cool or warm colors. If you stay in one color family your colors will usually mix well together. If you cross the color family border you get into muddy colors! But even then, you might discover a color that you would not have mixed on purpose and find interesting or even wonderful colors! Of course it does help if you do have a general idea of color theory and the color wheel. Then you know, at least on a basic level, which colors belong to which color family. And you will have a rough idea of what to expect of your mixes.

Scrap clay arranged according to the Color Wheel

Mixing new colors/ colors you love

In fact I see these scrap clay mixes as a possibility to find interesting colors and/or new ways to make my own individual colors. I find that individual color mixes add a lot of depth to your pieces. If you use colors straight out of the package, you will find yourself in a quite large group of people who do the same. There is nothing wrong with that to start with, but making your individual color choices will make your pieces recognizable and special.

I take notes about my color mixes if I really like them! That makes it easier to replicate them, if I need to do that. And I a save cured piece of my mixes is also added to the recipes.

What if you land in muddy colors land? Mud colored clay – Scrap clay as a “filler”

Sometimes scrap color mixing does not work however and you still end up with a muddy or dirty color. This is not the end of the world and there are a number of ways you can use that muddy color clay, too. I usually use my muddy scrap as a core or filler when I do need a lot of clay. Most of the time I will cover it with a veneer or a thin layer of a selected clay color. Bead or cabochons cores are ideal uses for muddy scrap clay. 

Be adventurous! The worst that can happen is that you get more scrap!

Scrap clay always opens up a possibility to experiment or try out crazy ideas! You already have it anyway and you do not need precious fresh clay for your tests! Even if your experiment goes terribly wrong, the worst that can happen is that you get more scrap clay. So I would say: Be adventurous and try out your craziest ideas! You might discover something amazing.

How I store my scrap clay. My color library

I like to store my scrap clay in tins or metal boxes. Usually I re-use the plastic wrappers of the original clay packages to wrap the separate colors with those. If I need more I use cling wrap to keep the clay colors in. It looks kind of messy if you open the tin, but it works for me. I do have separate tins for Premo and Soufflé (the kinds of clay I use most often), but sometimes I forget that and mix them up. So it is NOT a fool proof system! You could also use plastic containers, but you have to make sure it is the right kind of plastic and does not get “eaten” by the clay. Clear and brittle plastic (polystyrene!) should be avoided!

I do keep a (fresh clay) color library, where I store mixed clay amounts, that I can use for new projects. They are mostly left overs from my projects. What´ is interesting about this library is that it clearly shows my color preference.

Challenge yourself to ONLY work with scrap clay!

A friend of mine told me that she uses the end of each year to clean up her studio and she challenges herself to use up as much of her scrap clay as possible. She likes to start her new year with a clean plate. The extra benefit of that idea is that she has a lot of time to experiment and discover new colors, new techniques and tries out lots of ideas! It’s a win-win!

Here is some more of my scrap clay play-

Don’t forget to post photos of your scrap clay play and use the hashtag,

Share your favorite Sculpey mixes with us by using the hashtag #HowDoYouSculpey and don’t forget to mention which clay you are using (#Premo or #Souffle)  

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