I have been doing some research on the availability of Premo Zinc Yellow and Cobalt Blue and I am now convinced that people at Polyform understand that these colors are essential to a complete artists’ palette. However, they only have a very limited amount of influence on which products large retailers, such as Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Dick Blick are willing to carry. The decision to stop stocking zinc yellow and cobalt blue was made by that sector, not by Polyform.
As artists and educators, we need to mount an effort to help Polyform give us what we need. What they’ve done for us already is more than most companies would do; they’ve continued to produce small quantities of products for which there is limited demand so that we would have them available to us. I am convinced Polyform would go back to mass production of cobalt blue and zinc yellow if the large retailers would stock them.
I think what has happened is that one or more major retailers decided they don’t want to carry those colors because they are poor sellers compared to some of the other colors. We need to make them understand that we need a full palette of primary colors in polymer clay the same way painters need a full palette of colors in oils, watercolors or acrylics. They wouldn’t drop one of the paint primaries because it wasn’t a top seller; we need them to view polymer clay the same way. I suspect they haven’t thought about it that way. I also doubt they understand that we need to have those colors generally available so we can educate the next generation of artists about the full potential of this still-developing medium.
So, how to we make our case? I welcome your suggestions. My opinion is that we should focus our initial efforts on the Michaels chain because it is the biggest art and craft chain in the world. I would like to start by compiling a list of reasons they should do this, so that if we get the chance to talk to their buyers we will be able to make the strongest case possible.
Meanwhile, Polyform gave me this list of online sellers of Premo Cobalt Blue and Zinc Yellow:
Polymer Clay Express
24300 Kakae Dr, Damascus, MD 20872
3954 West 12 Mile Rd, Berkley, MI 48072
P.O. Box 2070, Stockbridge, GA 30281
If you know of any other sources, please let me know.
I would say Dick Blick. They sell real art supplies. If anyone would understand the needs of artists it would be them I would think, rather than Micheals which is strictly craft oriented.
Thanks for the comment, Roberta. Unfortunately, Dick Blick sells mostly on-line; they only have 30 stores, so I don’t think convincing them to carry something would motivate the store-front retailers to do the same. My thought is: Where Michaels leads others will follow.
I think it would take the polymer clay artists banding together and emailing/writing to the Michaels headquarters, much like what was done to Polyform products when it was first announced that they were going to dicontinue zinc yellow and cobalt blue.
Unfortunately it still may come down to numbers. If the sales aren’t there for zinc yellow and cobalt blue, Polyform will eventually quit producing them. With these colors available from only 3 online sources, low sales is a definite probability. I believe the 3 online stores you mentioned are the only place to purchase zinc yellow and cobalt blue. Overseas sellers of Premo are out of luck as they can no longer purchase these colors wholesale.
We can try to influence Michaels, but I’m not optimistic. I don’t think real artists are all that important to them. Plus, I was in a store today and was astonished to see how much more private label stuff they are carrying. They already have their own brand of polymer clay and scads of stuff is now called Recollections. I think they are sending all kinds of things over to China to have it copied and/or they are forcing manufacturers to private label for them.
Perhaps the Int’l Polymer Clay Guild could organize a petition or an email campaign. Maybe all the guilds could have their members sign a petition and forward it to the Int’l Guild.
If Polyform is selling to wholesalers overseas, they could sell the cobalt blue and zinc yellow to them as well, the same as they are doing for the three retailers here. I guess the European retailers would have to ask for it.
Hi Carol – and everyone,
I am as worried as you all are about this situation – and thank you Carol, for the clear analysis – it is indeed vital that we somehow get the big buyers to stock these vital colours.
And Polyform is selling the colours overseas – to Britain anyway – Zamauk.com have told me that they will be continuing to stock it – thank you Zama! I will be working hard here to get the big stores to keep stocking it. Overseas sales are significant – so we all need to do as Carol suggests. Is anyone there from Aus, NZ and Europe????
Thanks for the response, Sue. It is good to hear you are working on it in England, too. Let’s keep each other posted on progress..
I think we have to try. It’s too important not to.
“If the sales aren’t there for zinc yellow and cobalt blue, Polyform will eventually quit producing them. With these colors available from only 3 online sources, low sales is a definite probability.”
I agree with Chris- While I do know a few fellow artists that have stockpiled these two colors…I am loath to book a workshop that is dependent on the availability of a double Premo Primaries and then send out a supply list with the caveat that Cobalt Blue and Zinc Yellow may or may NOT be available from three US online retailers.
That is a scary thought!
I agree about Michael’s, as much as I do not like to shop there! If “someone” (hint) could provide Polyform with the idea of a small free handout about those colors (perhaps even a draft), to post at the sales racks, that might encourage hobbyists to move up a notch. This may not be the economy for such a promotional item but it’s worth suggesting. Something like “1001 things to do with 3 colors”. Polymer clay teachers could also encourage students to show up for classes with those primaries.
Good idea. I had some thoughts along those lines also.
Just wanted to say “congratulations” first on spearheading this campaign. It is sad how everything is decided by the “bottom line” these days – I guess you need to convince these stores that their overall sales of Premo will drop if they don’t offer a full colour range? But maybe that is what they want if they are also selling their own brand of clay now?
What surprises me is why these colours? OK – they are not huge sellers for me either tbh. But there are other clay colours that don’t sell nearly as well as those two – so could it be they are more costly to produce in terms of raw materials than their other blues / yellows I wonder?
Just for the record – I still carry Zinc Yellow and Cobalt blue here at http://www.ejrbeads.co.uk/shop in the UK and will continue to do so all the while they are available to me.
Thanks for the compliment Emma. The problem is not a difference in production costs. The retailers are making the decisions about the colors they carry and all colors cost the same for them. We need to get them thinking about polymer the way they think about paint, that is, recognizing that there are certain colors that are essential, no matter which brand we are talking about.
The important factor in this cobalt blue/zinc yellow issue is their availability in the future. Retail stores, such as Michaels or AC Moore, carry thousands of products, many of them are seasonal. To expect large retail chains to commit to carrying a limited item in hundreds of its stores nationwide does not appear to be realistic. I have spoken with the folks at Polymer Clay Express whose business is focused on polymer clay and who want to keep providing those colors now and in the future. The three internet retailers are available to anyone anywhere. If my local Michaels runs out of the dozen or so cobalt blue it might carry they are not restocking it for x amount of time, and I have wasted a trip to the store. Polymer Clay Express and the other internet retailers carry the clay in bulk and are constantly monitoring their supplies. Polyform is the key-they either will manufacture these colors or not. Unlike the petitions that were generated when Polyform made its announcement to discontinue these colors, we should call them at 1 847 427 0020 and make it known that we have looked at the negative consequences of not having these colors available and would like to work with them and the internet retailers try to develop a solution in which all three parties can participate; that is, the manufacturer (Polyform), distributor (internet retailer), and user. The question is does Polyform have a quantity of these colors that need to be sold for them to continue to manufacture them and can the polymer clay community support this number?
Excellent point, Joan. We shouldn’t “drop the ball” on the Internet providers while working on the retailers (although I’m not convinced that convincing retailers to carry them is entirely unrealistic).
I know Michael.s has classes. Perhaps If we get some instructors in to teach polymer color theory classes. This would help to create a “market” for the colors in Michael’s clientele and a bigger demand.
Good idea Seth!
Great article Carol, thanks! In the UK I buy most of my clay from http://www.clayaround.com, and I notice that there are still some of the discontinued Premo colours available (e.g. zinc yellow) at the moment…..
Thank you Kay. I know some of the UK retailers are working hard to keep zinc yellow and cobalt blue available to their customers.
Michael’s does not have classes in polymer clay in the Oklahoma City area. I contacted them about teaching a class- even doing some traveling to other stores and they were only interested in teaching knitting or crocheting- if I wanted to teach that (I don’t- I do polymer!)) From what I understand about Michael’s, their stores are just all cookie cutter stores- all stocked exactly the same. For me, I am OK with mail ordering my clay. I know exactly what they have and no driving!
I know this is not a great idea for all, but maybe some in guilds could do an order together. I am not sure that michael’s really cares about us- maybe if more stopped buying ANYTHING from them they might listen? Maybe a letter writing campaign -snail mail- where all the letters arrived in the same week?
That’s an interesting idea.
When the discontinuation of these primaries was announced the first thing I suggested to Polyform AND to a Michael’s VP face-to-face, was POS project and how-to sheets. The VP looked at me as though I were speaking Martian. I’m all for getting classes into the stores that require these colors but the issue is then how to get those colors into the hands of students if Michael’s doesn’t carry it. The stores in my area, and there are several, were virtually out of stock on ALL Premo colors, or only stocked sporadically, for nine months starting October 2010. So now we’ve got a chicken-egg situation. First they need stock, then they need demand, for which they need stock. I’m sure there is a strong case to be made, but it’s a matter figuring out what that is and to whom it needs to be made in order to get anywhere.
Thanks for sharing your insight on this. How did you get to talk to a Michael’s VP? I think your last sentence is right on – any idea how to do it?
Carol, it might be useful to start with the CEO. I work in the corporate world and find that things sent to the top person often at least get a read – not necessarily by that person, but read. If a lot of the same thing go to the top person, attention is sometimes paid 🙂
John B. Menzer , CEO
702 SW Eighth Street
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716-8611
Perhaps of we coordinated and blitzed the office with our pleas?
Thank you. I’ll give it a try.
Not sure if this was already suggested, but how about posting on Michael’s Facebook page? I’ve had good luck with complaints/issues with other businesses directed to the powers that be using Facebook. Marketing people see it and should pass it on. Good luck!
I think Joan has a good idea there. Social media can change the world 😉 A lot of changes have been made by using Facebook and getting the as many people as possible to add their voices and concerns about an issue. I’ve seen several big business fan pages on Facebook with complaints from customers, and within a short period of time the company fixed the problem. Stores like Michael’s need to understand that artists use these primary colors in everything from their jewelry to fine art sculptures, and there’s just no substitute. Personally I use cobalt blue all the time (I tend to stockpile whenever I’m able to find it), and when I need yellow, I prefer Zinc yellow.
Too bad Michael’s doesn’t have a fan page!
This is the kind of thing that the IPCA should also champion. They represent a worldwide population of users and can wield more influence with senior management than individual customers can. A well thought out missive from the IPCA Board to the senior management of the big box stores maybe?
Hi – I’ve just ordered some Zinc Yellow from PolymerClay.co.uk, but they didn’t have Cobalt Blue. I’ve just bought instructions for mixing colours from Chris (craftsbychrisonline.com) which needs Cobalt Blue to make up some of the colours. She’s absolutely brilliant at mixing colours, which made me wonder if it’s possible to mix Cobalt Blue from other colours?
Thanks for spearheading this – good luck! Marion
Cobalt blue is a true primary; it is not possible to mix it from other colors. I have contacted Polyform (the makers of Premo) to see if they can work with PolymerClay.co.uk and/or other stores to make cobalt blue readily available in the UK.
You can order cobalt blue and zinc yellow from:
ZAMA JERSEY LTD. (on Jersey in the channel islands)
Hi Carol. I have had these same discussions about producing for the art market vs market forces from the mass craft market with Fimo Staedtler. It’s a tricky balance for the companies but I kept trying to explain that the polymer clay world was moving fast and that keeping up with the artists meant they would keep up with the rest of the users. Fell on deaf ears at the time but looks like they are working to get a professional range out now. It’s so hard to write books about how to use the products when they keep changing. but of course we do want them to change for the better. But discontinuing artist pallette colours is not a change for the better. Keep up the good work.
I’m looking forward to seining Fimo’s professional line. Frankly I’m a bit skeptical.
Carol, I started using polymer clay this morning. When none of the colors mixed well (cadmium red, cadmium yellow, navy blue) I found your web site with three different–and to me much more logical choices. Of course they are not at my local AC Moore store. I just ordered from the Polymer Clay Express site. It was the only place I could find them. Thank you very much for directing me to this web site. I would have quit my foray into this endeavor as I am not happy with the choices given in the store. I am sure I will like these colors and mixes.
Your work totally knocked me out! I am hoping that someday I will have advanced to a level close to you.
Thank you, Linda. Enjoy your new colors!