Need a little guidance when it comes to mastering how to store your clay? Hello again! What to do to store that batch of your craft clay? Because as you well know, if it dries out, it’s toast -unless it just becomes stiff, but revivable in which case you can soften it up a little. So how do we best preserve the goods?
First off, depending on which kind of clay, there are certain practices to take. I’ll explain all of them for each clay type I am familiar with. Depending on which kind you currently have in your repertoire, you may find this information helpful. So let’s dive in now.
Pin to Your Clay Board
Tips For Storing Traditional (the Kiln firing kind)
OK, full disclosure here – I do not own a kiln or use this kind of clay right now, I am strictly going by what I learned from taking classes. When I was in college and working on various projects that would take days or weeks at a time (case in point – ceramics class met on Monday and Wednesday) we protected our works in progress with two things – a little misting from a spray bottle and a white trash bag (or sometimes a clear one, but heavier than those that you’d get at the dry cleaners -what are they called?)
We did NOT use black bags, however, as dark colors cause heat to be absorbed more easily – and in this case clay to dry out more easily) Pretty much the same reason we wear darker colors in the fall and winter. and less during the warmer months. We would wrap our projects with the trash bag which would protect them until we returned. This is a good practice to remember.
Also that magical temperature of 68 degrees F, that I’m sure you’ve heard many times? This is optimum for storing your clay. Not sure if my art professor had a dehumidifier, but that can help.
Storing Your Air Dry Clay
Air dry clay can be great and enjoyable to work with – until it’s not. It’s got a propensity to dry out more easily. To some extent, you can revive it a little if it seems drier than usual (you can tell by the way the color lightens) as long as it’s not unworkable (you’d probably know that right away!)
You can usually re-moisten it via a spray bottle or moist towel which will help as long as it’s not too much moisture. Sometimes it’s a balancing act. You have to have the Goldilocks approach with water – not too much and not too little. This kind of clay as far as projects go, may have a tendency to crack due to these moisture issues.
It needs to be in a cool, dry place at all times. I personally like Ziplock bags which are great for small, odd -sized pieces. If you’re talking about a larger slab, the original bag it comes in is usually enough – it also has that twisty-tie thing; not as reliable, so it’s always good to have an extra layer of protection and one way to do that is to use one of those plastic or acrylic storage containers – the kind that has the snap-lock lid and you can see through it, is what I prefer.
Storing Polymer Clay
My good friend Sculpey (as I like to call it!) which comes in that larger brick size or those little 2 oz slabs, also needs to be strategically stored. The box that “Original” (white) or “Super Sculpey” (fleshtone looking) comes in, does have cellophane wrapping in it, but it’s not self-sealing, so I have to take extra precaution to wrap up what I have left if I don’t use the whole box on something.
A Ziplock (brand name) or close-locking bag is always my go to. Plastic wrap can work due to it being transparent, but I prefer bags that seal.
How Long Does Your Clay Last?
As far as those 2 oz slabs go, I keep them in my storage bin (I do have a “catch-all” plastic tote unit for a lot of my supplies) until I’m ready to use them – now as far as their shelf life? It can depend on some things. A lot of humidity where I live which seems to affect everything from my spice collection to my craft supplies….means I have to take special precautions.
I don’t like to stockpile Sculpey for this reason. I usually buy a little at a time – a few slabs for what I need at a stretch (it’s not hard to find so I don’t worry that it’s going to be discontinued any time soon-although some variations are harder to locate.) One time I was working on a project from a batch I had stored for...maybe about 2-3 years – and it was kind of a pain to work with as it had gotten so stiff. Thankfully, later on I learned about some tricks I could employ to soften it up a little.
To be totally honest, polymer clay can last a very long time depending on how well you store and take care of it.
Oh, and I have heard that you can put Sculpey in the refrigerator to help preserve it longer….as long as you put it there and not the freezer I think this is a good idea! I refrigerate a lot of stuff that isn’t food, and it helps! Plus I no longer have to worry about some weird bugs like silverfish getting in it either.
Plastic storage containers (again, see through, including the ones that come in translucent blue, green, etc.) with snap-lock lids, in small sizes, are great for keeping your polymer clay collection in easy reach as well as clean. I use those small square ones like the one on the right the most:
Some days I wish I had a portable/small dehumidifier, I could test out how well this would work with some of my supplies. If you live in a more arid environment you’re more fortunate.You may have an easier time managing your clay stash.
Want to learn more tips and tricks? Check out my Budding Clayers’ Toolkit – it’s a complete guide that covers everything from storage to handling of your clay – you can see it here.
So I hope these tips help you to preserve your craft clay, and good luck to you!