Friday, December 23, 2011

Clay Fish - (2nd)

This clay project was inspired by the clay fish seen on "paintedpaper's" photostream on flickr.

I introduced this project by reading to the class one of my favorite children's book, "A Fish Out of Water" by Helen Palmer. Its about a boy who feeds his pet fish too much and the fish grows and out grows every container in the house, even the bathtub. The students made paper bathtubs to hold their fish. They also named their pet and placed fish food in its mouth or tub so it wouldn't go hungry.

The water in the bathtubs was textured with blue tempera wash and sponges. 
Texture makes plain areas more interesting.

These fish were made with Crayola's Model Magic Clay. Each 4 oz bag of clay is split between two children. They pull a small amount of clay off their chunk to make two large eyeballs. The fish body is formed from one chunk of clay. Students pinch the fin shapes and stick their pinkie finger into the clay for the mouth. The tail is snipped with a scissors to split it. 

Students write their names on a 3 x 3 piece of paper, then set their fish on top to dry. Later when the fish is dry, I write the child's name in permanent marker on the bottom of each fish.

Using tempera cakes we painted our fish with mixtures of yellow, orange, and red paint. It was not easy to keep the eyes white. 

Sculptures are interesting on all sides. So after the paint dried we drew skin textures on both sides of the fish, either scales, lines, or dots with permanent black marker. Finally we glossed the fish for a wet look with Sax True Flow Gloss Tempera Varnish.

I made copies on heavier paper of the tub layout for each student. We drew bathtub toys, bathmats, brushes, shampoo, towels, even the faucet and hot and cold handles. Then we sponged painted blue bath water for a foamy, bubbly texture.

Idea Sheet

Sometimes we just design fish aquariums.


  1. May I use this idea for my class? Did you use 8.5 x 11 paper for the tub layout?

    1. Yes! The kids will love it. I copied the bathtub diagram on 8.5 x 11 paper. It was heavier then 20#. It was the heaviest our copier would do - almost as thick as tagboard. Our school orders it from a local printing store, already 8.5 x 11.

  2. What kind of clay did you use for this project? What did you use to make them glossy without having the paint run?

    1. We used Crayola's Magic Model Clay - 4 oz bags. The gloss was Sax True Flow Gloss Tempera Varnish.