By Tara Bennett
Based on 25 years’ worth of research, LSU chemistry professor John Pojman has developed a new multiuse polymer product, which will make artists think twice about saving up for a kiln.
This new invention is known as 3P QuickCure Clay, which Pojman developed through a process called frontal polymerization. This process relies on a chemical reaction using polymers and heat, which hardens the substance into a lightweight product. Pojman began his work in polymer chemistry by starting out in the field of physical chemistry. It wasn’t really until he began at LSU that he set his eyes on the practical applications of polymers.
“I’ve been studying that for a long time for different uses,” said Pojman.
One of the uses Pojman would gravitate towards was art. Originally, Pojman intended for his invention to be used as a rapid wood repair putty for commercial purposes, but an associate suggested using it as an art tool. Working together with former LSU graduate student Shelby Prindaville, Pojman developed the clay from its original houseware repair model to a final product fit as an artist aid.
“So that’s how it evolved into art,” said Pojman.
However, there was no “eureka moment” in the lab when Pojman created the clay as the process progressed over time.
“It was more of an evolution,” said Pojman. “We had different versions of it, so it’s taken several years to really kind of optimize it to get a really good property. So it wasn’t just a one-time thing like we mixed it and got it to work.”
Some of the benefits QuickCure offers to artists is that it possesses a long shelf-life, can adhere to itself, doesn’t require mixing, and does not dry out compared to water-based clay. However, the standout feature of QuickCure is it allows artists to skip an otherwise necessary component. QuickCure eliminates the use of kilns by only requiring temperatures of 200 degrees.
“You don’t have to actually heat it in the oven,” said Pojman. “You just have to heat the surface, and the reaction will self-propagate.”
Another attraction for artists is the art that can be created using QuickCure. It can be painted, glazed, drilled, sanded, and holds 6,000 pounds per square inch. Pojman’s website contains examples of several art projects using QuickCure from the University of Saint Mary in Kansas where Prindaville serves as the art program director.
“It was really exciting just to work with the students, get their feedback on features they liked, and also help them use it, and then see where their creativity went,” said Pojman.
Of the works the students created using QuickCure, Pojman notes his favorite are the lizards as they demonstrate the strength of the clay.
“That’s not something you can do with regular ceramics,” said Pojman.
Now Pojman is gearing up to sell the product internationally. Currently, the product is produced at the Louisiana Business and Technology Center at LSU and available commercially online or at retail centers located in Metairie, Alabama, and New Mexico. He plans to distribute P3 QuickCure Clay internationally in Canada, Mexico, and Australia. There are no retailers yet in Baton Rouge, but Pojman says he is interested in someone carrying the QuickCure brand.
“I’d love to have someone who would be a retailer here,” said Pojman.
Pojman says that it was really fun and rewarding for him to be able to work with an artist in developing a property for artists. The future ahead now is to push it to Pojman’s original conception as a home repair product and to further develop a local network.
“Especially for [the] artists who really want to have the ability to do things rapidly…there are features and things you cannot accomplish with a kiln,” said Pojman. “My goal is to really expand and get a significant market for it.”
At the moment, Pojman says the main challenge in regards to the product is to have people understand how to use it.
“Being in a store, they look at it and go, ‘Cure on demand, culture material, what does that mean?’” said Pojman. “We have something that is really very different and people don’t understand how it works. So a lot of it now is to develop the tools and the word of mouth and the instructional materials so people can say ‘Yes, I understand, I can see what I can do with it.’”
To address this issue, Pojman hosts regular demonstrations so people can see the clay in action, and has plans to include instructional videos to his website. His next demonstration will be held in New Orleans in September. For more information, visit his website at quickcureclay.com.