Where we make our productsAll of Van Aken’s products are made in the U.S.A. Clay, paint, and liquid products are compounded, assembled and packaged in our North Charleston factory. This facility also houses our office, lab, and warehouse. Tools and displays involving injection molding are produced in a separate facility a few miles away. 90% of ingredients and components originate from the U.S.A. 10% are split between Europe, Japan, and Korea.
How we make clay
Van Aken's Plastalina, Claytoon, and Protolina are oil-based, non-hardening modeling compounds. Because these products contain wax instead of water, each remains pliable and can be used over and over again. These modeling clays are smooth and do not stick to the hands and fingers, unless they are very warm.
These non-hardening modeling compounds are made by combining various waxes with different properties---ranging from soft to hard and from plastic to brittle---and melting them until well blended in a steel vat. White marble dust and pigments are added to the melted wax and mixed together with an industrial "dough kneader".
Van Aken's Kato Polyclay, on the other hand, is a plastic-based, oven-hardening modeling compound. The process begins by blending a variety of plastic resins with plasticizers, filler, and colored pigments. The mixture is then kneaded to uniformly incorporate all ingredients in the batch.
When the batch is complete, a sample is tested by our chemist to ensure Van Aken's strict quality control requirements for density, penetration, elongation, and color have been met. After approval, the clay is put on pallets in large 'lumps' to await the next step.
The cured lumps of clay are then put into a machine, which extrudes the material, and cuts it to size. The bars of clay are wrapped in clear cellophane. This shows off the clay's vibrant colors, but is also a minimal and biodegradable form of packaging.
Cartons are packed with the clay according to size, and they are put into the warehouse to await shipment to retailers, schools, and animation studios around the world!
How we make paint
Tempera is a liquid painting medium in which pigment is mixed with a water-soluble binder. The word 'tempera' comes from the Latin "temperare" (to mingle, to temper), so really any paint is tempered paint, because pigment is not paint unless it is suspended in a liquid medium or binder so that it can be applied to a ground with a brush.
Van Aken's tempera paint is made by combining organic, and/or synthetic, ingredients in particular formulations or recipes. Every recipe is designed to create different colors, or qualities (like brushability, durability, color uniformity, opacity, brightness, and body) in the paint.
The raw materials are combined in a steel vat with a high-speed disperser (imagine a 2 ton milkshake blender). This color mixture is called a 'batch'. A sample from every batch is tested in our laboratory by our chemist for viscosity (thickness), pH (acidity), color, and weight.
The batch of approved paint goes to the filling line to be automatically dispensed into various size plastic bottles. Then the bottles of paint move along a conveyor to the capping machine, where each gets a cap. Labels describing the color, size, use applications, and the AP non-toxic seal are put on before being boxed according to type of paint, size, and color. The cartons are put into the warehouse to await shipment around the globe!