Polymer clay is a synthetic PVC-based modelling clay. What is PVC? It stands for Polyvinyl Chloride, which is, undeniably, a form of plastic. Yes - when you make jewellery from polymer clay, you are technically actually making plastic jewellery. Eww! Because, like, who needs more plastic in the world?
Plastic does get a bad rap, and rightly so in many cases. We have all seen the pictures of our oceans filled with floating plastic. But I would argue the problem is more about 'single use' plastic and excessive use of plastic. We buy our bottle of water, we drink it, we throw the bottle away. Or we buy a bunch of bananas (by the way, flown half way round the world!) wrapped in plastic, get home, take off the wrapping and throw it away. Neither of these things are good, obviously.
But it's not the same as wearing a lovely, handmade, high quality
polymer clay pendant round your neck.
Come on now, is it ?
Polymer clay can be used to create beautiful, high-quality pieces of jewellery that are long-lasting and durable, unlike much 'fast fashion' jewellery today that quickly gets thrown away. And while I said earlier it is technically plastic jewellery, it is most definitely not 'plastic-ky'. It is not trashy, cheap tat! A good polymer clay artist will cure a piece of jewellery and then sand and buff it until it feels beautiful to the touch, soft and velvety, with a delicate sheen. There is no need for varnish to seal clay (no extra chemicals!)
Particularly for jewellery, but also for other polymer clay creations, a little goes a long way, so one bar of clay can be used in many different projects. And nothing is wasted or thrown away, all the clay gets used. Leftover clay from a project is always repurposed by being used in new projects. Even baked clay can be recycled, as fresh uncured clay can cover cured clay to create something new.
And clay is great for giving a new lease of life to household items that might otherwise be thrown away, for example, covering old glass jars and tins. The ultimate in recycling!
And while polymer clay is PVC-based, it has none of the nasties in it that are often associated with PVC, such as lead, and in particular, phthalates. I use only high-quality brands of clay in my kits that have been proven and certified as non-toxic and safe (it is after all, a children's play thing!).
One brand of clay that I use is Sculpey. They state on their website that it is perfectly safe to bake your clay in the same oven in which you prepare your food. Polymer clay (when used as directed) does not give off toxic chemicals in the curing process. No chemicals are release from the clay when baked according to the manufacturers instructions.
What if its not used as directed? That is, what if you burn it? While its true that if polymer clay is burnt in the oven, it gives off a gas that can irritate the eyes, this gas is not toxic. And to burn clay in this way, you would need to bake the clay at 175 degrees centigrade (according to the Sculpey website). We bake our clay at around 110 degrees, so that's a lot of room to play with!
All in all, I love polymer clay, and I am happy that I am not causing undue harm when I use it and sell it.
Other ways I am being eco-friendly: I do not waste any packaging that comes into my house, I try and reuse it. I reuse bubble wrap rather than throwing it in the bin, but I won't by it myself to use in my own wrapping. I use tissue paper that can be recycled, my postal bags are bio-degradable plastic, and I use recycled cardboard for my boxes.