Curious Minds Podcast S2: The New Kid on the Craft Block
Which craft material is less than 100 years old, requires baking in an oven, and sold out in 2020? It's time to talk about polymer clay...
Curious Minds is an original podcast by Domestika that explores the curiosities and untold histories of the creative world. Every two weeks, we interview renowned creatives to discover the strange and fascinating stories behind different topics: like why stop motion endures in the digital age, or why we doodle.
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While toilet roll, flour, and pasta were deemed the most newsworthy shortages around the world in 2020, another took shape on social media. Suddenly, everyone was at home and wanted to discover a new hobby while getting in touch with their inner child…and white polymer clay sold out everywhere.
Polymer clay, also known as oven-bake clay or FIMO, is a relatively new material—a German doll-maker discovered its suitability for making doll heads in 1939 and sold it on for mass production in the sixties. In fact, it isn’t "clay" at all, but PVC plastic. For decades it was associated with childhood crafting. But now, a new life for this material is blossoming, thanks to the satisfying videos of the process and results all over Instagram and TikTok. But the material isn’t without controversies, from the pricing of items (when the clay is very cheap) to environmental questions.
This week on Domestika’s Curious Minds podcast, we talk with four artists and craft-experts to explore the boom in polymer clay’s popularity, the creative possibilities, and how it’s leaving behind its kiddie reputation to become a valuable art form.
Click on the link below to listen and subscribe on Spotify. Alternatively, you can find the episode on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Season 2, Episode 4: The New Kid on the Craft Block
Our guests in this episode are Bonnie Bishoff, Zoe Rain, Gail Tan, and Ginger Davis Allman.
Bonnie Bishoff and her husband J.M. Syron have been making art and furniture for thirty years. Their designs combine polymer clay with more traditional materials, and Bonnie shares that people are often unsure about the use of plastic in art. But, as she explains, there are benefits to the material, from the lack of waste products compared with wood and metal, to its sheer malleability: you can even use it to sew!
Clay and Rain, owned by artist and streamer Zoe Rain, is a shop selling polymer clay accessories, often with tiny botanical details. Zoe's journey started in 2019, and became a full-time job in six months. She discusses the process of learning to use polymer clay professionally—because the packet instructions don’t provide the best methods to ensure a high-quality product. She also explores the lack of appreciation for the medium, and how customers can get confused by the pricing of polymer clay items.
Polymer clay jewelry can appear pricey, but the price needs to be weight against time spent perfecting your techniques, and of course the various tools required, agrees Gail Tan. She too turned polymer clay jewelry-making into a full-time career, with her shop anna&bull. She shares that polymer clay is perfect for connecting with a sense of childlike play. The 2020 shortage actually helped her process: using only scraps, she created new color combinations with vibrant and moodier tones.
Finally, Ginger Davis Allman runs a polymer clay information site called The Blue Bottle Tree. She celebrates how the material can adapt to the level you're working at. When it comes to making things to sell, she explains why she advocates creativity over trends—as well as the importance of just getting started and not letting perfectionism take over.
Listen and subscribe to the Curious Minds podcast
Remember, to stay up to date with every episode, you can subscribe to Curious Minds for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.
If you'd like to discover more stories behind curiosities of the creative world we often take for granted, explore all the episodes from Curious Minds on our blog.
You may also like:
- How to Stick New Polymer Clay onto Finished Pieces
- 11 Polymer Clay Artists to be Inspired by
- Polymer Clay Jewelry Design for Beginners, course by Made by Maeberry
- Creating Jewelry with Polymer Clay, course by Marisa Clemente
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