Sculpey Polymer Clay Tutorials – Baking Sculpey Clay Without Burning

Baking Sculpey Without Burning

Vid #76: How to avoid burnt clay projects by using ceramic tiles to bake polymer clay instead of cookie sheets:

 

Today’s article is a perfect example of how you can learn from my mistakes. The burned clay shown in the photo happened because I didn’t even follow my own advice!

There was a lot going on that day and I didn’t want to leave the kitchen to bake a couple of polymer clay strips in my studio upstairs. So I put them in my home oven using a couple of cookie sheets instead of my usual ceramic tile sandwich method as described in this article: Baking Polymer Clay Pendants

I figured I’d be fine if I used parchment paper against the metal of the cookie sheets and then sandwiched the clay like I do with my ceramic tiles… Wrong!!

Even though I carefully monitored the temperature with an oven thermometer, the beautiful lavender colored strips fried to a crisp. They ended up looking like dark strips of bubbled chocolate!

Didn’t smell like chocolate though. Man it stunk! In fact it was the tell tale smell of burning polymer clay that first tipped me off since the baking time was no where near being done!

I guess what happened is that the metal in the pans actually conducted and concentrated the heat at the surface of the clay. Unlike the ceramic tiles which even out the heat and protect the clay from scorching.

Burning polymer clay is a bad thing that you definitely do not want to do. The fumes can be harmful and should be avoided. Read this article on polymer clay safety for more on that.

If you do ever make the mistake of burning your clay get it out of the oven and air out the room as quickly as possible.

Don’t throw the burned clay out though. There still may be something you can make with it. A while back I wrote about Fimo Clay Artist Maureen Thomas who accidentally scorched some polymer clay leaf shapes she was making into beads. Serendipitously, they ended up as a beautiful polymer clay necklace that is now part of her ‘Burnt Leaves Jewelry Collection’.

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The full version of the “Burnt Clay” preview video shown above, is available for purchase at my Polymer Clay Bead Making Videos Library in the Volume-005 Back Issue Package.

This “Burnt Clay” video tutorial is more about what not to do than what to do. Burning your clay can be avoided if you always follow proper procedures. You will be happier if you do.

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Comments

    • @Cindy Lietz from Making Polymer Clay Beads:
      Hi Cindy
      Well about two weeks ago I baked some yellow and pink what I called lentils( slightly flattened bicone beads i and 3 pendents in a toaster oven that I got on free cycle..tented it with alumnim foil( that was my first mistake) and then let bake for too long(walked away)..Well , you can imagine what I had when I came back. Pendants looked like burned marshmellows and my beads were now brown and darker yellow..I almost threw everything in the garbage but decided to read your article about burnt beads. Guess what ..I made a beautiful bracelet..the beads look like wood..( my 4 year old granddaughter helped me shine then with future shine).Everyone who sees it just loves it..My daughter said she would even wear it.. But I know for the future.what to do Keep my eyes on my work and tent with parchment! Thinking of burning more to get the wood effect but the smell is not worth it.
      Natalie aka Safti

  1. I’ve not baked anything yet but I once worked in a plastics factory & the smell made me sick so I din’t stay there for long.

  2. Hi again,
    I haven’t done anything yet and I already have my first question. I’ve been said at the shop where I bought my material that polymer clay can be toxic if you “over-cook” it and that even if I do everything correctly, it is advisable to thoroughly clean the oven after using it (they told me that people that do stuff very frequently buy a little oven just for that). As I’m a beginner I’m going to use the oven I use to cook and I’m a bit worried. I’ve also been said that there is another place where you can take your pieces on a tray and you get them “baked” for a quite reasonable price ($1’5-2’5, depending on the number of pieces). It’s 4 minutes walking from my house so it wouldn’t be a problem to go. My question is if I can design pieces throughout a week, for example, leave them in a tray and at the end of the week take them all together to the shop or if the clay will get damaged and I should “bake” them as I finish them. Thanks a lot.
    Hugs.

  3. Hi Mis Labores,

    I moved your comment over to this article page where it is more on topic than where it was originally posted. Hope you don’t mind.

    This is a large site so it may take you some time to figure everything out. The article on this page, along with the links that point to other articles about “clay baking instructions” and “polymer clay ovens,” will be helpful for you.

    The other thing that you will find useful is the search box at the top of the page. Try searching for keywords like “baking” or “oven” and you will see a long list of articles that you can review.

  4. I have made these cute little sheep but parts of them have stayed white and other parts have turned this transparent white. I have no idea how to fix this problem. Do I cook them at a higher heat or longer to get them uniform. I am very frustrated. This is my second batch and I do not know how to fix the problem.
    Your help would be greatly appreciated.

  5. I think some translucent clay has gotten accidentally mixed up with your white clay. Translucent clay looks white when it is unbaked but ‘clears’ slightly when it bakes.

    Try a new batch of white polymer clay to be certain this is the problem. Also make sure to thoroughly mix your clay before using to ensure the pigments are properly distributed and the clay is well conditioned.

    To ‘fix’ your otherwise cute sheep, just paint over them with white acrylic paint or antique them for whole new look.

  6. Hi Cindy,

    I took a favorite letter opener and wrapped the plastic handle on it with a “quilt” of cane slices…my dove with a rose in it’s mouth if you recall the picture of that cane I sent to you. Anyway, I baked it for about an hour thinking I would make sure the clay would be nice and hard when completed. Well, I did not think about the plastic that I was covering. Sadly, the whole letter opener on one end was just a melted mess. I still use the letter opener…it is a reminder to me to really think about a new project and all that is involved in it (like plastic) before putting it in the oven LOL! As time goes on, and as I use the letter opener more and more, the pattern of the dove is coming clearer through the dark mangled mess…I guess the design somehow survived some of the scorching that it took after all :)

    Some day if you put up a page for us to send in our photos to share with each other, I will send a picture of the letter opener in to help people see what NOT to do :)

    Hugs to you, Cindy E.

  7. Oh gosh Cindy E. that’s too bad!! If I had a penny for all the mistakes I have made like that, I would be rich! Things to learn from though… Thank you for sharing your story.

    I do recall your dove cane. It is very pretty. Maybe you can get a metal letter opener and put some of the cane on that instead. Do keep those photos for a member’s gallery page. Hopefully we will be able to set one up when we have the time!

  8. Hi Cindy!

    Thanks for the video on burnt clay! I had experienced that, that is, before I viewed your new video. Where were you!!! Ha! Ha! I had made some really neat colored cabochons, in special shapes, and placed them on a metal tray, within my toaster oven — no thermometer/no parchment. Had timed this with my microwave, but never did check on it during baking. Must say, the obvious way (for me) to know that this clay was burning was the pungent odor. It affected me terribly with my Asthma and COPD. Anyway, the coloration changed from a gorgeous Fall colored pallette, toooo rusttt. After it cooled, (in exasperation) I tossed it. Anyway, after it was tossed I was angry at myself, because my right-brain had kicked in — Raku tap the rust with metallic, acryllic paints of Fall colors. Too bad, so sad, goneeee!!!! Just think Cindy, I could have had some gorgeous Raku beads, from those burnt beads. Ah well! Decided after that time to — 1. To precisely follow directions, until I was accustomed to working with new techniques. 2. To keep an eye on my clay, so that it had less chance of burning; and 3. To keep smiling, because we always learn from our mistakes, because they often come gift-wrapped. Ahem! My words of wisdom: None of us have the capacity to change what has happened, however, we can learn and build on it. So, I go with all three (3), and say, “Smile, and have Fun!”.

    Regards,

    Diana

  9. Sorry to hear you threw your pieces out. You can almost always make something cool out of even the wrecked stuff! Live and learn, live and learn! Thanks for sharing your story Diana! :-)

  10. Nick what you should do is click on the link beside my name called Baking Polymer Clay Beads to find several links on baking polymer clay beads.

    In general, I bake Sculpey at 265 degrees for an hour for the best results. Do read the articles for on the best way to bake your clay, though.

  11. INFORMATION UPDATE… about the fumes that can happen when you burn your polymer clay in the oven. I just posted about this important polymer clay safety topic in another thread. So rather than re-posting the info here, simply follow the link by my name above to go to the original post.

  12. Hi Cindy. I told ya I’d be lurking didnt I? LOL! Anyhoo, have I ever burned any clay? Oh boy, you betcha!! A loooong long time ago, I was making some faux ivory/bone beads and I worked for hours texturing and getting them all just right. Then I popped them in my nice “new” oven, set my timer, and went off to do other things. Well to make a long story short, my timer never got a chance to go off because the cloud of smoke in my kitchen called me first. Whooo what a stink! I pulled the tray out quick and dashed them outside and spent 2 hours airing out my house. That taught me to never trust an oven you havent tested first. Then I inspected the beads and found a strange result. Only one side had really burned badly. All rough and charred looking and very dark brown. But the side facing down to the tray had only turned a darker ivory color with no bubbling. And the pattern of texturing could be seen all around the bead still, even on the burned side. To me they looked very much like carved bone that had been in a fire. Really old and kind of mysterious. So I kept them and made a bracelet that still gets me comments on what they are and where I got them. Not a technique I would recommend repeating though. I too have COPD and asthma, and it was not a good thing to experience at all. Now I have a countertop convection oven dedicated to clay only, and the temp stays right where I set it. Plus I always use an oven thermometer since that day.
    XOXO Jamie

  13. It’s wonderful to have you lurking around Jamie! (Love being able to see your face in your avatar now too!)

    That’s is called serendipity when something wonderful comes about like that. Something that came from a mistake can sometimes be the most wonderful. Just ask some parents. :-)

    I agree about the thermometer use. Nothing can be more frustrating than having something burn and not turn out cool looking!

    I always check my thermometer before baking any polymer clay piece. (I even check now when I bake cookies in my regular oven. Turns out my home oven is 50 degrees too hot! No wonder everything was burning on the outside and raw on the inside!)

  14. First of all, sorry for my English, I hope I can express myself well enough so you understand me.
    I have a huge problem that I don’t know how to solve. Bubbles appear on my beads when I cook them, and they get burned and they smell like burned plastic just 3-4 minutes after I put them in the oven. Can it be because I mix different brands of clay? I use sculpey, fimo and clay color. I am fairly new to polymerclay, but that had never happened to me before, even though I mixed the brands.
    I tried to put some pieces in the oven again, this time lowering the temperature, but it happened the same thing. I usually bake them at 248ºF (120ºC), as it says in the package, but this last time I lowered to 212F and they got burned again. My oven has no lower temp.
    Help me please, I was very excited with polymer and all its possibilities, but now all my pieces are burning and I am very sad about it.
    thank you

  15. Hi Cristina. Welcome to the community. Your English is just fine :) Sorry to hear you are so sad about your how your clay projects are burning. That would make me sad too.

    You have identified two of the most common issues that beginners must learn about polymer clay – bubbles and burning. Fortunately, they are problems that are easily solved with proper instruction.

    A big part of avoiding bubbles comes down to conditioning your clay properly so that air pockets don’t get trapped in your clay to begin with. You should also be watching for opportunities to “pop” bubbles in your raw clay sheets when ever possible.

    However, in spite of all of your best efforts to avoid getting air trapped in your clay, bubbles can still appear. Since these bubbles rise, I try to to bake my pieces with the good side facing down, so that any air pockets that might rise to the surface, at least end up being on the back side of my pieces.

    In regards to your pieces getting burned, that is most likely because your oven temperature is spiking too high when the heating element is kicking on and off (not because of mixing clay brands). This topic of baking and burning has been discussed A LOT here at the blog. If you take the time to read the articles and comments, you will get a ton of ideas that will definitely help to solve all of your problems. Use the following search words in the search box at the top of the page: burn, burnt, bake, baking, temperature, thermometer, timer, oven, tiles, spike, convection, tenting.

    Alternatively, my Polymer Clay Basics Course will get you up to speed quickly with everything you need to know about polymer clay… from bubbles to baking and everything in between. If you want to read how this course has helped many other beginners to avoid making frustrating mistakes, the click on the link by my name.

  16. cindy, i’m doing some intricately detail sculpting on a small scale piece and am having problems not fudging up the detail while working other areas. this sculpture won’t be the final artwork, just a master to be used to make a mold so as to duplicate it many times. my question is can i bake the main form and then add more details and rebake the entire sculpture?
    steve

  17. Hi Steve, that is an excellent question! Yes you can bake your whole sculpture over and over. That is the beauty of sculpting with polymer clay! You can bake you base sculpture, add details and bake again, as many times as you like.

    I like to bake my beads (which are tiny in comparison to most sculpted pieces) for at least an hour. This ensures that it has been properly cured at the proper temperature.

    I have linked by my name to an article about baking for long periods of time.

    There are many articles in regards to baking polymer clay on this site that would be helpful when baking your sculpted works. Just type words like: baking, bake, baked, burnt, scorched, oven, thermometer, etc into the search box at the top of the page to find them.

    Hope that helps!

  18. Hi, I’m a newbie here and was wondering… I used FIMO and when making it had no odor. Last night I used Premo which I like a lot more, but when I baked it had a sort of orangish smell. Is that normal or did I bake it wrong?

    Also, I have my toaster oven on my kitchen table. Is it ok to bake there or should I bake way in the garage? It is the whole toxic fume thing I keep reading about that worries me.

    Besides that I love polymer clay and am glad I joined your site. Thank you for any advice that you can give.

  19. Hi Jeri – Welcome to the blog! I included your polymer clay baking questions in the Q&A section of todays blog post. The link by my name will take you there. Thanks for being part of the community!

  20. hi cindy,

    i feel so bad everything i conditioned and molded burned! :( slept at 2am this morning and was excited to see my stuff but it all got burned… huhuhu

    my oven is a toaster and the setting i used was upper coil heating up (130C) and the time??? it burned when it was ONLY a little over 10 minutes… what will i do???

    this is mainly why i decided to purchase your course just now… maybe it will show me what i did wrong… last night was sooo heart breaking :(

    • @Elizabeth R: Hi Elizabeth, I’m so sorry about your stuff burning! It’s happened to most of us at one time or other, and it IS heartbreaking. You condition & mix & create — then the oven burns it. I want to make sure I understand – are you saying you just purchased the videos AFTER you burned your beads/items?

      I’ll write some stuff down for you now, but I’ll send this first. What burns polymer clay is not the length of time in the oven, but the temperature. The fact your stuff burned in ten minutes says your clay pieces got too hot! Toaster ovens are great for polymer clay, but you have to monitor & keep the temperature steady by using an oven thermometer. The dial/thermostats can be way off. Any oven can fluctuate, have hot-spots, and temperature spikes, too; so monitoring the exact temperature is crucial. You can get an oven thermometer at a grocery store (dollar, discount, kitchen store, etc.) Then, you keep your oven at the correct temperature by watching your oven thermometer, not the dial ON the oven. The correct temperature depends on the clay. What kind of clay are you using?

      I’m not sure what you meant in your comment above about setting “upper coiling heating up”. Please explain when you leave a comment, and please do write back. I want to see how you’re doing and if you’ve seen the videos. I’ll write more in an hour or so (unless I fall asleep first, it’s late here in California!) If not tonight, I’ll send the rest later (when I wake up!) unless I hear differently from you that you’ve figured it out and you’re ok. (I hope you’re okay, and not feeling too upset still about your poor beads!)

      Again, I’m sorry about your beads/creations being ruined. BTW, don’t throw them out, there are uses for all of your polymer clay, scraps, and even the burnt stuff! Take care~

    • Thank you Phaedrakat for your excellent help for Elizabeth!

      @Elizabeth R: The temp getting too high in your oven is definitely the problem. I have written tons of articles about baking polymer clay that you should read. Click the link by my name and you will find an article that will help a lot plus it gives you a long list of other articles that will help.

      Don’t be too sad. We all have burnt clay at the beginning. This site will help you have great success with your polymer clay projects. Also make sure to watch all the videos in the beginners course many times so that you learn everything.

      It’s easy and fun once you learn a few tricks! :-)

  21. Cindy to the rescue! Thanks, Cindy – I wanted to help Elizabeth, but I was too tired to do a proper job. I was thinking, if she’s from Australia or something, her “clay time” would be when I was sleeping! I felt like she needed help right then! But I was too sleepy, & didn’t think to point out the baking articles. Hopefully, she’s seen the videos by now, read the articles & comments. She’ll be making & baking cool beads in no time — w/o the extra-crispy look! :)

    @Elizabeth: Hope you’re feeling better now about the “loss” of your first beads. From now on, you’re going to love polymer clay, and have mad baking skills! Have fun~ :-D

  22. Oh no Phaedrakat… I did not mean for you to feel like you did not do a proper job in the way you responded to Elizabeth R. I think your answers are absolutely incredible. One of the things I love most about your responses is how you are asking questions in an effort to fully understand how best to help people. Keep doing what you are doing!!!

    Hopefully we hear back from Elizabeth R with an update on how things are going with her polymer clay projects.

  23. hi Phaedrakat and Cindy,

    Thanks so much for your rescue responses… I’m from the Philippines so we’re in a different time zone :D This is so nice I have you guys to encourage me…

    I did try to bake yesterday and it turned out well, I THINK ;o) I baked for 8 minutes first and checked then I THINK it was a bit soft so I re-baked for another 5 minutes (I read it’s OK to re-bake) and I THINK it’s ok now. I’m thinking of doing it like this unless someone tells me IT’s NOT a good thing to do ;D I still don’t have a thermometer but I might buy later…

    I’m hoping to sell my stuff because not many in our country do PC stuff ;o)

    Thanks again…

    • @Elizabeth R: Hi Elizabeth, Yes, it’s perfectly fine to re-bake. The important thing, as I explained yesterday, is the temperature, and to bake long enough to completely cure the clay. If you are planning to make things to sell, you’ll have to get a thermometer to monitor the temperature. The package directions of most clays say to bake at such-n-such temperature for 30 minutes for each 1/4 thickness. That’s a minimum of 30 minutes at the perfect curing temperature. Since a toaster oven spends time heating up, cooling down, spiking to get the temp back up, cooling down again (etc. over & over,) you can’t really get a complete cure in 20 -30 minutes. That’s why most pro’s recommend doubling that time, and even baking longer for a thick piece. In order to do that, you have to make sure your oven isn’t too hot so your stuff doesn’t burn.

      Did you read the articles Cindy recommended in her comment above? Try them out, there’s so much good information. If you follow the link by her name that says “How to Bake Polymer Clay” it will take you to a great article. It has links in it to other articles. The first one talks about “breaking the rules,” and it explains how important this lengthy baking is. If a bead is underbaked, sometimes you can’t tell right away. BUT “the remaining uncured plasticizers inside the bead can end up softening the surrounding clay and cause it to become brittle over time.” If you’re selling your beads, this would be a disaster for your customers.

      The part I just put in quotes comes from a comment Cindy made on another post. Check it out — she can explain it better than I! The comment is here: Baking Polymer Clay (Awkward Shapes)

      Read the comment under it, as well. This is another professional clayer who has years of experience.

      I’m excited for you, starting out on this new polymer clay journey! You should be able to do well — plus there’s not as much competition! Your jewelry/beads will stand out from the rest. Best of luck with everything!

  24. Hi, this is my first time making a sculpture with sculpey, and I am not sure as how to bake it.. It’s a dragon, see, and the wings and horns are quite thinner than the body, so..I’m afraid I’ll burn one part or undercook the other.

  25. @Rha: Hi Rha! You certainly don’t want to burn your dragon, it sounds cool! The important thing when baking clay is to make sure your oven temperature is correct. As long as it’s not too hot, you can bake for a very long time, ensuring that the thick parts get cured, and without worrying about the thin parts (you can also tent them with paper, foil, or bury in cornstarch for added protection.) You’ll need to pick up an oven thermometer at the dollar store if you don’t have one, to make sure the oven temperature is accurate, and then monitor it during the curing process. You don’t want the oven to spike high and scorch your clay! Baking clay is not like baking a cake; once the clay is cured, it can be left in the oven without burning. Of course, that’s only as long as the oven is at the proper temperature. This lengthy baking, at a low-enough temperature, means that you can bake an item multiple times. It allows sculptors to bake in stages; often they’ll sculpt some parts, then bake them. Then they combine the baked parts, or add them to the rest of the piece, baking as they “get it right,” and keep on going. This not only preserves a “perfect” piece they’ve sculpted, but it also means they have less to support when they finally bake the entire finished piece.

    While you absolutely do not want to burn your clay, undercooking it is also bad. If your piece is not baked completely, the remaining uncured plasticizers can end up softening the surrounding clay and cause it to become brittle over time. There are many articles on this blog about baking, showing different methods, tips & tricks. There are also many questions, with answers, as well — such as in the comments above this one. For example, I wrote this comment as a reply to someone who had baking questions. It contains links to some very good baking articles and advice. Cindy has several comments above with good advice, as well. Like this one about ovens and the reply right under it to Steve B., who asked about baking sculptures. Read as much of the articles and information as you can. The more you understand the process, the better off you’ll be!

    Before I start rambling too much, it’s probably best to find out — how large is your sculpture? Have you baked polymer clay before, or is this all new to you? Do you have a separate oven, or are you planning to use your home oven? Do you already have a plan on what to bake your dragon in? Also, where are you (which country or part of the world?) I sometimes give advice and mention the dollar store, and then find out the person doesn’t have “dollar” stores. That reminds me — it’s good to have a ceramic tile in your oven; you can bake on it, put one in the bottom of the oven, or both. It helps to keep the oven temp steady, and you can get one at the hardware store for less than a dollar (or the equivalent.) A “steady” oven is important, since temperature, not time, is what will burn the clay. Using an oven thermometer to monitor and keep the temperature at or slightly below what it says on the pkg. directions (usually between 265F & 275F for most clays,) will really help. Oven thermostats can be way off, and the oven itself can fluctuate, have hot-spots, and temperature spikes; so monitoring the temp is crucial. As for the length of time, you can bake most things, like beads, for an entire hour. So your sculpture, depending on how large it is, needs to bake even longer.

    Your raw clay piece will need to be supported during baking. You can use polyester batting, crumpled paper toweling, or other soft, oven-safe filler material. Cornstarch (cornflour in the UK) is fantastic for this, and you can reuse it over & over as a baking surface. You can also bury your entire sculpture in a bed of cornstarch, and let it cook for a long time. It will support your piece, and protect the covered/buried parts from scorching. It’s also really helpful in protecting light-colored clays, like white or translucent, from browning or changing color. This article, Baking Beads on a Bed of Cornstarch, explains the method.

    This other post, Cornstarch & PC Beads… Belong Together, goes a bit further, and lists some of the other cool ways cornstarch helps with polymer clay. *Important note: you should only put your sculpture in the cornstarch bed right before placing in the oven. If you let it sit in there too long before baking, the plasticizers could leach out of the clay, and weaken it. Whichever way you decide to bake your piece, give the thin dragon wings extra protection by covering them with paper, folded tent-style, or more cornstarch. Of course, it’s not necessary if you plan to completely bury your piece!

    Whew! I just noticed the time; need to get to bed. This should give you some things to think about and read up on, at least. Please write back with the details of your project (the questions I had, above) as well as any new or other questions you have. Sometimes more info creates more questions! While most of the projects & posts are about beads & jewelry, this post has some sculpting Q&A’s. The first one is from a sculptor with baking questions.

    And finally (for tonight,) one last comment & answer by Cindy, from someone with a question about baking polymer clay in a lidded roasting pan.

    Cindy recommends using a clay dutch oven, but says that using the lidded roasting pan with tiles lining the bottom will work, as well. If you haven’t decided what to bake your dragon in, this is an option you might consider, too.

    Alrighty, then! I will check to see if you’ve written back tomorrow. I wish you the best with your project, and hope that we see more of you around here! G’night, Rha!

    • @Phaedrakat: Wow, thanks for the detailed info! Well, this is my first time using a polymer clay, so I have no experience in it whatsoever. I am living in Spain, and we have some stores similar to the ‘dollar’ store, I suppose, but I’m not sure if I can find all these things here. I asked a friend and she doesn’t know what I meant with a separate ‘oven thermometer’ or cornstarch (I do, but I’ve never seen it in this country..) I’ll need to ask around and find what I can..

      A ceramic tile can be any type of ceramic tile? Like ones used on a wall or floor?

      Oh right, I’m gonna use a home oven, it’s quite old but I think it’ll work just fine. It’s not mine but used by more students, so I’d rather not burn anything ‘toxic’ in it, hehe..

      Umm, here are some pictures of how the piece is progressing. It’s not done yet, seeing the pictures just now I noticed the front legs are way too thick..I’ll need to fix that.
      s101.photobucket.com/albums/m54/miharuakimoto/?action=view&current=draakvoorbeeld3.jpg

      Thanks a lot for your help! : )

      • @Rha: Hello again! Your dragon is looking beautiful, I wish I could sculpt something like that! I have talent at making beads & jewelry, but I am not a sculptor by any means, unfortunately. I usually try to help people with basic polymer clay info, or help them navigate this website. But there isn’t a lot of sculpting info here, since it’s mainly about the beads… ;~)

        Anyway, I forgot to ask you what type of clay you are using. You mentioned Sculpey clay, is it the regular white Sculpey that comes in a big box?, or Sculpey III, Premo Sculpey, or ?? It’s hard to tell by the pictures, but I can tell it’s a light-colored clay. Your clay might darken a bit anyway, since it will have to bake for a long time. If it’s regular Sculpey, I’m told it can get a mottled-look in the oven, but you can paint over it if you don’t like how it comes out. You probably read that in one of the comments I linked to (did you check out those articles & comments?)

        Regarding the oven thermometer, that part is critical. You can get one at a kitchen supply store, or usually wherever they sell baking items. As for the cornstarch (cornflour,) when you ask for it, mention that it is used to thicken sauces & gravies. That might help you find the right product. The ceramic tile is just like you said, a smooth type like those used for bath, kitchen, or flooring.

        If you are cooking in a large oven, try baking in a roaster pan with a lid to protect your piece from scorching, and the oven from potential fumes. Don’t put your piece directly on the bottom of the metal pan, though, make sure it’s laying on paper/paper toweling (folders, cardboard, etc.,) polyester batting, cornstarch, etc. Metal conducts heat too quickly — if the oven temp spikes it will heat up the clay faster than if it’s touching only the paper products (or other.) You could put larger tiles in the bottom of the oven to help steady the heat, or in the roasting pan, or both… Even if you bake on a tile, put a piece of notebook paper between it and the clay. Your piece is pretty large, so you’d have to use a lot of cornstarch to cover it completely for baking. Although if you plan to do more sculptures, you can re-use it many times. It’s tough to figure out the best way for such a large piece!

        You commented that you might change the legs a bit. If you’re still working your piece, you can bake it in stages, like I mentioned before. This way, as you put it all together, you do not have to support each area so carefully. The areas that are already cured won’t droop, sag, or get smooshed. You do have to add liquid clay to reattach the pieces when they’re already cured, though; which means another product you’d have to buy that you might not already have. (Although Cindy mentioned hearing that some sculptors rub Vaseline/petroleum jelly on cured pieces to help them stick to each other. I don’t know if that’s been tested, though.)

        Well, it’s late again. I’ll get these quick answers off to you, since it’s probably wake-up time there. You’re just starting out, and there’s so much to learn about clay. Even though the focus here is on beads & jewelry, the basic polymer clay information stays the same. Cindy has a Polymer Clay Basics Course (link at top of page) that can teach you so much about choosing clay, conditioning, mixing colors, baking, finishing, etc. It’s a really good buy, with 39 videos! You might want to check it out. She also has a free Polymer Clay Newsletter, that comes with 3 free videos and color recipes. That link is up top, too. There are Member Library memberships and other good things, too, if you decide you really love polymer clay and want more!

        If you want to find free information here at the blog, you can use the search box at the top left of each page. Just type in “painting polymer clay”, “baking sculptures” or whatever subject you’re looking for, and you’ll get a list of articles where they subject was mentioned. It’s a great way to find what you want to learn. And of course, you can ask a question or leave another comment anytime…

        Good luck with your project, and let us know if you need more help!

  26. WOW Rha you have quite a detailed dragon you should be very proud of. Your work is awesome. Phaedrakat has given you some great advice of which I can not top. I apologize if I missed this suggestion in the conversation above. Even though it is a little late for this dragon with talent like yours I am sure you will get requests for another. I have made both dragons and dinosaurs for my grandkids and due to the thickness of the body and chest I used aluminum foil as a center so I did not have to use so much clay. This really helps with cooking your piece. You do not have to worry so much about curing a very thick piece of clay. Plus it keeps the cost down with less clay. Good Luck and I will return to your site to see the finished piece. You are a terrific artist.
    Uuuuuuggs, Peggy

  27. Hi Carrie, I just saw this, and I didn’t want it to get overlooked, so I’m “bumping” it forward. You can try a search to see if this has been discussed before, but I haven’t seen anything myself. As far as the elements…we know polymer is okay with most of them. It’s waterproof, & it can withstand the heat (baked in the oven!) It can handle cold, too — although I’m not sure HOW cold. What kind of “elements” in your area?

    Perhaps this question would be best answered by the manufacturer of the clay you used? Are you worried about the color fading? Getting pitted by high winds? Of course, if you used foils, metal leaf, powders, etc. on your sculpture, you’d need extra protection from a good finish if leaving outside. Interesting question…I wish you good luck! Sorry I wasn’t any help…

  28. I guess I was just worried about breakdown in the elements. It has been combined with steel, plastic and Bondo as well as car paint. The sculpey parts are the teeth and lips. I live in Texas where it is hot and rainy most of the time but occasionally get a freeze (rare). Carrie

    • @Carrie and Phaedrakat: Boy I was hoping someone would pop in here with some advice for you. I haven’t any experience with putting my clay outside and being up here in BC where it is cool and rains a lot, won’t help much for a comparable testing ground. Maybe Carrie you should just put a piece outside to see what happens. I’d write the date on it so you know how long it has been out there and leave it for awhile. I’m still crossing my fingers that someone from a hot place like Texas can help you out.

  29. Does anyone know of any problem with Carrie leaving her Sculpey figure exposed to the Texas elements? Has anyone had problems leaving their polymer clay pieces outside?

  30. Hi! i have a problem baking the sculpey polymer clay but i haven’t started it yet because I don’t know what oven to use..I have an oven toaster at home but I’m not sure if it’s going to work since ive searched a lot of sites that says you need an oven thermometer if you’re going to use an oven toaster to bake polymer clay. But I don’t have that kind of thermometer. Will it burn my clay?how many minutes should i set?I’m afraid of getting it burned since it is my first time and I don’t want my money to go to waste.thank you!

    • @An Tan: An you should be able to buy a portable thermometer in the supermarket or one of the big box stores. They’re only a few dollars. You could be lucky and have an oven with a good thermostat, but I wouldn’t count on it.

  31. Carrie – If you haven’t found an answer to leaving your sculpture outside, have you looked up any info on Renaissance wax? They seem to use it on outdoor objects so it might be worth checking out.

  32. Hi. I bought small packs of Sculpey to create some thick buttons for a fabric project I am working on. I have worked in regular clay before but never polymer clay so I’m not sure what they are supposed to look like when they are completely cured. The buttons are about an inch thick in the biggest area and so I baked them on 275 degrees for 30 minutes then another 45 minutes. Since they looked partially “raw”, I baked another 45 minutes. They are cooling in the OFF oven now. How can I be sure what they are supposed to look like when done? Once they cool, how can I tell if they need to bake more? Also, one of the colors I bought was translucent, but it looks a funny yellow color now. How do I get that clay it to end up more clear? Thank you for any recommendations. BTW, the clay did not burn.

    • @June S.: I’m not sure what you mean by clay looking “partially raw.” Sculpey III clay has a tendency to change color a bit as it cures, but other than that there is no real way to see if it’s “raw.” What happens is that the clay goes from soft to hard and that’s not something you can really see. If you bake your clay, as Cindy suggests, at 265 for 1 hour it should be totally cured. You cannot overbake most polymer clay by cooking it too long, but you can overbake it if the temperature spikes above 275.

      Translucent clay is a little different and, depending on the brand, it can yellow a bit as it cures. In fact, you can overbake the translucent clay. You should do a search in the upper left corner on this page for “baking translucent clay” to learn all the tricks.

  33. Hi, I read this article and it sounds a little bit similar to what happened to me. My toaster oven is brand-new and I tried baking some Sculpey like I normally do, put the toaster oven at 275 degrees and leave it in only for about 7-10 minutes since my pieces are generally thin. But, after only about 4 minutes I noticed the burned clay smell and I ran back into the kitchen to find that it was bubbling! When I took it out it looked like a marshmallow bubbled over. Is my toaster oven still safe to use with food after cleaning it?

    • Yes Freya, your oven will still be safe to use, just clean it out really well so that there is no residue smoke or smell left that could transfer to your food. The material was designed for people to use in there home ovens, and it wouldn’t be reasonable for people to have to stop using their large ovens if they happen to burn a batch of clay.

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