Even with more than thirty years (sigh) of experience in the matter, I still learn about polymer clay every day. I do not claim to know everything on the topic, but I’ve learnt some things for sure. And learning can be very painful with polymer clay, but the lessons are well remembered!
In this article, I would like to share my personal experience with baking polymer clay, to help you save time if you are just starting out, or give you a new perspective if you are an seasoned clayer and feel stuck.
Baking is a step that may seem secondary but it is crucial for a good polymerization (solidification) of the polymer clay. It is too important a step to be left to chance. Unfortunately that happens too often.
I am so sad when I see people still don’t know how to bake correctly their beloved polymer clay artworks. Your art is important and deserves a long life, so here are a few rules to follow to get perfect results safely.
Every artist has their own recipe so I invite you to experiment and find what works best for you, as long as it is with common sense and respecting safety basics.
CHOOSING AN OVEN
First, bake your artworks in a suitable oven. An electric oven is more precise than a gas oven, and a microwave oven is no use for polymer clay and can even be dangerous.
The ideal is to have an oven dedicated to baking polymer clay, out of respect for your artworks, but also for your food and your health and safety reasons.
Before you buy an oven, ask yourself what you are going to use it for. A miniature oven is perfect for jewelry but limits the size of your artworks if you make sculptures.
You can start with a small oven and invest in a larger one later if your works get bigger. The prices of ovens vary, but to give you an idea, a mini oven costs around 60 EUR while larger ovens cost up to a few hundred euros. An oven lasts years so it is worth the investment. I have had my mini oven for fifteen years and it still works perfectly, but now that I am making almost only sculptures, I wish I had bought a bigger one.
• Baking time varies according to the brand and the size of the works.
• I bake my larger artworks for about 50 minutes and smaller artworks 15 to 20 minutes.
• Preheat the oven until the desired temperature is reached, then place the artworks in the oven.
• If you prefer to put the artworks in a cold oven, don't forget to add the temperature rise time to the baking time (if the objects have to bake 30 minutes and your oven reaches the desired temperature in 15 minutes, objects must remain 45 minutes in the oven).
• Put a timer if your oven does not have one.
• Baking must be long enough for the heat to reach the core of the object.
• If the clay does not bake long enough (or the temperature is too low), the polymerization will be incomplete and the clay will be fragile and more and more brittle over time.
NUMBER OF BAKINGS
You can bake polymer clay several times. It can be useful if you make complex works.
Intermediate bakings can be shorter, but the final baking must be long enough for the polymerization to be complete.