Normally I share easy art tutorials using paint, but this is a little different – this DIY clay art is an easy air dry clay craft project. Working with clay was such a fun experience and the sculptural fish I created look like they’ll jump right out of the frame.
I had purchased a package of air dry clay years ago, filled up a Pinterest board with clay and pottery ideas, but couldn’t actually commit to a project until I fell in love with this stunning ceramic artwork and was (finally) inspired to make my own DIY clay art.
My DIY clay art pales in comparison to the gorgeous ceramic piece that inspired me! But I just really enjoyed the peaceful process of making these clay fish.
Supplies for DIY Clay Art:
(I’m still on my craft-with-supplies-I-have kick and I happened to have everything on hand to make this air dry clay craft project).
- Air dry clay
- Rolling pin
- Cutting board
- Shimmering acrylic paint (I used Artist’s Loft Metallic Cobalt Blue)
- Small plastic container with water
- Small paint brush
- Fish shaped cookie cutter
- Fine grit sandpaper
- Paper towels
- Textured wallpaper sample or scrapbook paper
- Picture frame (no glass)
How to Make DIY Clay Art
The first step was to cut out my school of clay fish. My air dry clay had hardened into one solid brick over the years, so I tried my best to stab at it with a knife to make some punctures, then I poured a 1/2 cup of water on it and let it sit in a sealed bag. Like magic, my clay became workable again, so I kneaded and rolled it into a cutting board (like cookie dough) and started cutting out fish shapes with my cookie cutter.
I dripped a finger in water and ran it along the edges to smooth out the obvious cut edge of each fish.
I used a toothpick (food skewer works too) to poke a little eye, then I shaped my fish to curve different ways – some are flat, some curve left, others curve right.
I set my fish aside on my cutting board to air dry, per instructions. When the clay was dry, I gently sanded any rough edges with a fine grit sandpaper and then gave them a glimmering coat of paint. I just took some teal paint with shimmer and watered it down – adding a few drops of paint to a tablespoon or so of water. I lightly brushed the paint on, trying to keep my application loose and messy. I let the fish dry, flipped them over, and painted the other sides too. I ended up doing two light layers of paint, but actually preferred just one coat.
Here’s where I made a little mistake: I wanted a glossy top coat, so I tried using some leftover varnish I had, but it made the paint crackle a little. For this project, it helped my fish look more fishy, with texture that resembles scales, but for any other kind of DIY clay art project, this is a word to the wise: don’t cheap out on craft supplies and try to substitute something else.
I happened to have a textural, beachy wallpaper sample on hand, but there are so many gorgeous scrapbook papers that would work too. I glued the wallpaper to a cardboard backing for the rigidity and then started gluing on my fish. I dry fit everything to form my “school” and then, using my 5-minute epoxy, starting attaching my fish – some to the paper, some to each other.
I let everything dry for a couple of hours – just in case! – and then checked to make sure I had glued all of the fish. I had missed one! But luckily I caught it and glued it down before popping everything into a simple white IKEA frame I had on hand. I used this same epoxy for my DIY agate slice art and, almost five years later (wait, what?) it’s still holding strong.
I love how this DIY clay fish art turned out – it shimmers when the sunlight hits it, and it has such a fun, modern coastal look. This would be such an easy project to get kiddos involved with too.
The only trouble is, the best light for photographs is also the best spot for watching the lake, so I had various puppies blocking the light, making it difficult to capture how well these fishies shimmer:
P.S. Even though this clay fish project turned out cute, and I’m so happy that I finally found the motivation to work with my air dry clay, I definitely think the original ceramic art by KaroArt is much, much, much (!) better. If you have a chance, check out the Etsy shop of this talented ceramic artist from Dublin, Ireland. Karo also makes gorgeous ceramic bowls, dreamy storm cloud ceramic mugs, and heart-shaped wall art.