“Don’t be afraid of challenges. We all make mistakes, toss them in the trash and try again.”

Interview: Donna Kato

Donna Kato is one of the most famous polymer clay teachers, especially for her  own brand of polymer clay. Are you interested in the story of the production of her Kato Polyclay? You should continue reading!

Can you tell us your story, please? What were your beginnings with the polymer clay?

I started working with polymer clay seriously sometime in the early 1990’s. I  had seen Nan Roche’s book, The New Clay and I knew I had to try it. Prior to that, I did play with it some after finding it   n  a  children’s toy store but I didn’t seriously pursue it until later.


Being a lecturer and teaching workshops around the world, you travel a lot and spend lots of time traveling. Do you enjoy such a lifestyle? Do you like meeting people from different countries and discovering new places?

I do enjoy traveling and teaching – I’ve met so many wonderful people and seen so  many places that I know I otherwise would not have. Polymer clay opened doors for me and I am very grateful for the life it has made possible.


When did you come to the moment that you said you would start working with the polymer and it would be your livelihood?

I think I decided that fairly quickly after re-discovering the medium. I had a bead store in Chicago and so I began to teach in the store. When my partner and I decided to   lose the store, I decided to  keep working with clay. Through the store, I met a woman who marketed Kemper products and she hired me to Demo at the big trade show in Chicago. That was the beginning of my career in clay.


Everyone would certainly wonder how you came to your own polymer brand. Was it difficult to launch it to the market? How was all the testing and experimentation going on?

I started out working with Cernit. It  as  the brand I found in the toy store. At the time, it was translucent, the colors were translucent so the only way to cane images was to add white to  each color which also turned them into pastels. I  turned to Sculpey – Fimo was just too hard to  condition then. I worked for Polyform and then I worked for Fimo. After that, it was time to have my own clay. Through the business, I had met the owner of Van Aken. We started working on Kato Polyclay and the clay was released in 2001.  It was a bad time to release the  clay, this  was shortly after 9/11. I had some friends help with testing the product but it was a rough start. The clay advanced too quickly so we ended up selling and then replacing all the clay we sold. It was a pain but it was the right thing to do.


Where do you search for an inspiration for your craft?

My work builds on itself. I make something. Maybe I pick it up sometime later on and find something about it I like. I take what I like and try to make something else. It goes on and on.

What do you say about the polymer community? Does it seem to you that the number of people working with polymer is growing? What was it before?

I can’t answer this question because I just don’t know…I hope it’s growing! I know there are more and more events and we have many, many who come. The ECC (Euro Clay Carnival) events are booked into 2020 now. I think we must be growing!


What do you love the most regarding the polymer? What do you think that is the reason you are still interested in it so many years?

I love its versatility. It just does so many things. It is never boring. I love the colors, the feel of the clay. There is nothing between you and your clay, it’s direct contact and I really like that.


For many people, you are a polymer icon, what would you tell them and advise?

I guess I’d say keep moving. You don’t have to make massive forward moves in  your clay or career on a daily basis, but everyday make some small bit of  forward progress. Don’t be afraid of challenges. Lots of people are afraid of color – if you’re one of them, start mixing colors. We all make mistakes, toss them in the trash and  try again. We’re  lucky, our medium isn’t like silver clay or gold, we can afford to play, to experiment, to make mistakes.


How long do you work on a product? What was the maximum time you spent working on your product? Do  you sketch your ideas before you  tart creating?

In the designing phase, I guess a project could take a week or so. I sometimes sketch out ideas but most often, I  just  begin in clay.


What can we look forward to from you at the moment? Are you planning anything new?

Right now, I’m recovering from my last trip! I’m playing my guitar and resting up. Tomorrow, I go into my studio to make some things for my next trip!  Maybe something new will come of my “tasks” – the best things often happen when you simply are not looking for them.





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LC Production is a non-profit organization whose goal is to bring together children, youth and adults and to raise their interest in working with polymer clay as well as with other materials.

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