February 18, 2012

The humble plastic bag

Sweet reader Maddie emailed a truly fantastic question a few weeks back: how do you organize your space?  In starting to compose an email in reply to her, I quickly realized that the answer to her question was both a) longer than an email, and b) possibly useful to lots of readers working with polymer clay.  And thus was conceived a series of posts on how to organize, store, and keep lint away from your clay!

When I started out working with polymer clay in the (ahem) early 90s, I didn't have much storage space, or any money to get fancy storage containers for my clay.  But keeping the clay from drying out or getting linty is crucial to having good clay to work with.  Enter the humble small plastic zip top bag!  Cheap, clear, easily replaceable, and expert at keeping lint at bay!

The humble 3" x 4" plastic bag!

To this day, I store every individual color in 3" x 4" plastic bags.  If they're purchased colors, I keep them with their original wrapping, since it's easier to slide them in and out of their baggies with it.  I have a too-small box with dividers (if I could find one better sized, I'd love it!) where I keep all of my base colors (cadmium red, black, ecru, etc.) in rainbow order.

All of my pure clay colors in their baggies, in rainbow order. 

If they're colors I've mixed myself, I wrap them in a bit of plastic wrap, then slide them in the bags, and label the outside of the bag with the color's use (for example: "pie crust", or "mint ice cream".) I've amassed a fairly substantial collection of colors, since I like to keep a reference sample of colors I particularly like (for example, that perfect mix of mint chocolate chip ice cream color).  I know lots of really organized polymer clay folks write down their recipes (1 part white, 1 part chocolate, etc.), but I'm better at comparing colors visually, and prefer to mix from scratch each time, especially since clay manufacturers seems to be tweaking their base colors a lot lately.

The small baggies of my custom-mixed colors, some labeled, in my awesome divider drawer!

I occasionally make weird colors, or have odds and ends that aren't worth keeping in their own labeled baggies.  I keep them stored in three bigger plastic snap top containers, divided by warm colors, cool colors, and neutrals.  They're great when I need some weird little bit of something, or want to use an odd color hidden inside a nicer color (for example, inside the platter of a sushi platter) to create volume.  I hate to waste  clay!

Odds and ends clay storage.

Important note: If you're looking for clay storage of your own, be very careful not to store your clay in rigid plastic, or anything labeled number 6*.  For some reason, these plastics react badly with the clay, and you'll ruin both the clay and the container.

How do you store your clay?

* Thank you to reader Eliza who caught my typo- number 5 is a GOOD plastic to store in, number 6 is not.


  1. Hey! Are you sure #5 plastic containers react badly with clay? I just read on another site that #5 is a good container to store it in... I just bought a new container, so I was researching it! Thanks so much!

  2. Eliza- Thank you for catching my mistake. You're right- #5, like the ones shown in my photos, is a *good* one to store it in. I meant to write #6. For any of them, or for unmarked containers, if you wrap the clay in plastic wrap or parchment paper before putting it in the container, that creates a barrier between the clay and the container, and prevents the reaction.