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How to Make a Polymer Clay Window Fish

Sculpt a whimsical window ornament and embellish it with fabric foil for a playful touch to any room.

Materials and Tools:

pasta maker
acrylic roller or rolling pin
card-stock work surface
2 ceramic tiles
needle tool
clay shaper
aluminum foil
polyester filling
cotton swabs
round-nose pliers
Future floor wax
6 inches of 20-gauge wire
2 small beads
rainbow fabric foil
polymer clay: black, gold, red, translucent

Steps:

1. Condition all clay by rolling it through a pasta maker several times.

2. Roll conditioned black clay into a ball and then shape it into a fish body with your hands.

3. Using another piece of black clay, form top fins and tail fins, leaving a small amount of excess clay at the ends so you can join the fins to the body easily.

4. With your fingers, press and shape areas on each of the fins where the fabric foil will be applied. After deciding what foil color(s) you want to use, place the foil, color side up, on those areas, and use your fingers to rub the foil over the areas and then quickly pull the foil off, as you would remove a bandage from a cut. Foil doesn't always adhere to all parts of clay, so place it back on bare areas and rub again until you're satisfied with the color coverage.

5. Repeat step 4 for the tail fins and the top fin. Then, using the needle tool to texture the parts of the fins with foil on them, press into the foil just deep enough that you can see the black clay.

6. Gently press the tail fins into place where you want them. Using the clay shaper or another smoothing tool, smooth over the small amount of excess clay left at the end to form a strong, seamless bond between the tail and the body.

7. Attach the top fin the same way you attached the tail in step 6.

8. To make the lips, roll clay into two small logs and taper each end of the logs. Place the top lip in position and press gently to adhere; repeat for the bottom lip. Note: The shape of the mouth — smiling or not smiling — goes a long way toward determining the fish's personality.

9. Once you're satisfied with the placement of the lips, add color with the foil the same way you did with the fins.

10. Make the eyes by rolling two small balls of clay and flattening them into pancakes. Place these into position and press gently to adhere. Use a clay shaper to round edges and smooth over any fingerprints.

11. Roll two tiny balls of clay and place them in the middle of the pancake-shaped pieces. Press very gently — just enough that they stay in place but don't become flattened.

12. Working on the ceramic tile, roll two more balls of clay, about 1½ inches in diameter each.

13. Flatten each ball and shape the side fins, making sure that one end tapers to a small, rounded point and the other end flares out for the bottom of the fins. Again, use your fingers to press areas on the fins where color will be added, and then place the foil on these areas and repeat step 4 until you're satisfied with the color. Texture the fins with the needle tool.

14. Thread a piece of 20-gauge wire (about 1½ inches long) through the holes of two beads. Twist the wire ends to secure each bead in place.

15. Push the twisted wire entirely through the narrow end of one of the side fins, letting the bead rest on top. Create an anchor by bending the very tip of the wires up, and then push the wire firmly into the body of the fish. This will secure the side fin to the body.

16. Use the round-nose pliers to create a hanging loop in a 1-inch piece of wire. Twist the excess wire together and trim if necessary. You need only about ½-inch of wire. Make another anchor at the end of this wire and press the loop into place directly in front of the top fin.

17. Smooth any clay that was displaced by the wire back into place with the clay shaper, making sure to pack the clay tightly around the wire to prevent air bubbles and to keep the loop in place until the clay is cured.

18. Place the finished fish on a bed of stuffing on one of the ceramic tiles. Tent with aluminum foil and bake at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to an hour. Use an oven thermometer to be sure the temperature is exact. Note: Always tent clay pieces with aluminum foil¾in the event of burning or overbaking, this will contain fumes and residue.

19. After the fish cools, use cotton swabs to coat and seal it with floor wax. For an extra-glossy finish after sealing, bake again at 275 degrees for 10 minutes.

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