Before I started posting how to make clay cabochons for your decoden or other crafts, I wanted to give a basic guide for those of you who have never worked with polymer clay before.
1. Where to buy Polymer Clay
You can find Sculpey, Fimo, or other brands of clay at most craft stores like Michael's or Jo-ann's. You can also find it on eBay or Etsy with a little searching, but it's best to buy your clay in person to prevent buying clay that's gone bad. When you're at the store, press your finger nail into the block of clay and it shouldn't be hard to leave an impression on it. If the clay feels too hard, it's gone bad and can't be used. You'll want to pick out blocks of clay that feel the softest. If you're not sure which colors to buy, buying a sampler Sculpey set is a good idea and will last you a while. A block of Sculpey costs about $3 and a sampler set can cost about $12-$30.
2. Basic Tools
You can probably find a clay tool set at the craft store as well, but all you'll really need is an exacto knife and a small rolling pin.
After you open a block of clay from it's original wrapper, you'll want to keep it in a closed plastic bag when not using it. I also suggest keeping different colors in different bags so they don't get stuck to each other and mix up your colors. I've had clay in plastic bags that stayed good for over a year!
You can bake your clay in your kitchen oven, but I wouldn't recommend this. Since polymer clay is toxic, you'll have to clean out your oven after every time you bake clay items. Otherwise it can get in your food and make you very sick! Instead I would invest in a toaster oven that you'll use just for clay. Not only do you not have to clean it, but you can move your toaster oven into another room than your kitchen or even bake items outside. You'll want to have it in a place where you can open a window, have a fan on, and close the door, since polymer clay gives off toxic fumes that will make you feel sick to your stomach if you breathe in too much. You can buy a new toaster oven for around $20, but you can easily find them at garage sales, thrift stores, or on craigslist/kijiji for even less. Some craft stores carry "polymer clay ovens" but they'll really just a toaster oven repackaged with the name "polymer clay oven" You can bake your clay items on the metal tray that comes with the toaster oven or on a piece of aluminum foil. Don't use a piece of cardboard or paper since your clay may stick to it and leave paper pieces on the bottom. Note: You CANNOT bake polymer clay in the microwave.
5. Time and Temperature
On the back of Sculpey boxes it says to bake clay at 250 degrees F for 25 minutes, but that's way too much! I bake my clay at 150 degrees F for 10 minutes. Each oven is different though, so before you start baking your finished pieces, experiment with small balls of clay until you find what's hot and long enough to bake your clay completely, but not so hot and long that it will burn it. You should let your pieces cool completely before testing to see if they're hard.
Glazing your clay items will give them a glossy, finished look, and they'll make food items look super realistic. You can find glaze in the same section as the clay in the craft store. A small bottle costs about $5 and will last you virtually forever, so it's a good investment. After they've cooled completely, simply paint the glaze on with paintbrush and let it dry for about half an hour. The glaze is super sticky, so I wouldn't put the pieces on paper or newspaper to dry since they'll stick to the paper. I would let them dry on the metal tray or aluminum foil you used to bake them on.
Now you're ready to start making all kinds of miniature sweets and goodies! Post a comment if you have any questions :D