Newclay Products has been manufacturing art and craft materials in the UK for over fifty years. The company was established during the 1960s by the Lewis family. Mr Lewis was an arts and crafts teacher at the time and did not like the air-drying modelling clays that were then available. Having identified what he saw as a gap in the market he set about developing his own version. Mr Lewis did not know it yet, but Newclay (the air-drying modelling clay) was about to be born!
Initially for his own use, the aim was to formulate an air-drying modelling clay that dried to a hard and tough finish and is an ideal material for children to use, while eliminating the complications, cost and safety issues associated with firing and glazing traditional pottery materials. Soon, Mr Lewis was making air-drying modelling clay for his teaching colleagues, then for other schools as word spread about a new product. What would become Newclay Products was established in a garden shed in Chislehurst!
Development of Hardeners H1 and H2, Newclay Gloss, Newclay Satin and Newclay Modelling Wire as accessories for Newclay, and a number of other products, soon followed. Increasing sales, particularly of Newclay, soon resulted in a need for more suitable premises. A three storey shop and house with basement in the Crystal Palace area of London was occupied in 1967. More equipment was purchased and installed as new products continued to be developed. A number of educational suppliers included Newclay’s products in their catalogues – a considerable breakthrough for the business. Demand for products also came from some unexpected sources, such as a range of packs for dry and silk flower arrangements in a variety of colours. The business was incorporated and became Newclay Products Limited on 24th October 1967.
In 1974 the council wanted to develop the Crystal Palace site so alternative premises were required. With nothing suitable in the district, it was decided to move to Devon to be nearer the source of raw materials, thereby cutting the carriage costs. The manufacturers, Watts Blake and Bearne (now part of Sibelco) rented the company a shed on their grounds, which was used for two years until another move to nearby Starcross. This period saw ever-increasing sales of Newclay and its accessories but also the development of other products, including the introduction of Newplast, a high-quality version of the traditional, non-drying, re-usable modelling material readily recognised by many generations of children and adults.
Once again, the owner of the [Starcross] premises wished to develop the site, though it was becoming too small anyway, so in 1994 the business moved to an industrial estate at Heathfield near Newton Abbot, where it occupied four large units. Product developments have continued, most notably with the introduction of Air Dough, a light and pliable, air-drying modelling material, Finger Soft Dough, a general-purpose playing dough primarily used by children, and Uro, a heat cure modelling material – the only polymer clay manufactured in the UK.
The Lewis family continued to manage the business until November 2006, when it was taken over by Paul and Valerie Dearing. Now a sizeable operation capable of manufacturing some 100 tonnes of modelling materials a week, more new products were introduced over the next ten years. The Heathfield premises being modular were becoming ever more inflexible resulting at times in inefficient movement of people and materials. So, we moved again, in March 2016, to more suitable premises in one single, large unit, still on the Heathfield Industrial Estate. With an almost ‘blank canvass’ we adopted an open plan approach to the positioning of machinery and equipment and also installed dust extraction facilities and drum lifting and heating equipment to improve the heath and safety of our employees.
Well-known customers of Newclay Products include Aardman Animations. In fact, Wallace & Gromit and the characters in ‘Chicken Run’ and ‘Shaun the Sheep’ are made, at least in part, from Newplast. A number of animation companies also take Newplast and other clay products, and this product also features in the Harry Potter films. Other well-known customers include Galt, Marks and Spencer, Early Learning Centre, House of Marbles, Plalite and Hornby, for whom products have been made under their own brand names. Local Education Authorities also take Newclay products for use in schools.
Large quantities of products, particularly Newplast, are supplied for industrial uses, such as construction, electronics and ship-building. Newplast is even utilised in the manufacture of the Airbus, ‘fridges and freezers and in some MRI scanners used for diagnosing serious illnesses. More unusual products include a “fake” Semtex, which looks, feels, smells and weighs like the genuine article but lacks the explosive characteristics, for use in training sniffer dogs, and a dough product which is used to demonstrate sausage machines!
Newclay Products principally supplies its products in bulk to wholesalers, retailers and educational suppliers, as well as to schools, universities and industrial end-users. We do not operate a retail sales business and minimum order levels will be applied to certain types of orders for direct supply.
Newclay Products Limited
Registered in England and Wales, Number 00919472
Registered Office: Wessex House, Teign Road, Newton Abbot, Devon, TQ12 4AA