Ceramic Guppies

I usually do regular pinch pots with my first grade students, but this year I was inspired by all the little fish I’ve seen throughout art teacher blogs. These are our rendition!

I use Laguna Clay, Laguna Underglaze and finish with Duncan Dipping Glaze.


Instructions are simple….give each student a palm-sized ball of clay, form into a pinch pot, add a tail, fins, eyes and teeth/mouth/lips, scratch attach using a scoring method, write names on bottom, dry completely, fire (05), paint with underglaze, allow to dry for a few minutes and then dip in dipping glaze, fire again (04).

This is an easy shape for young hands to make. Give them lots of opportunity to create different sized fins or tails, even eyelashes! My time with my students was limited to 40 minutes of clay time, so I kept the children moving along with the basic shapes. If you need to break up the project, use a zip lock bag to keep the clay moist.

This would be a great project for air-dry clay and acrylic paints…might try that next year as kiln work is time-consuming!


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  • Janice Skivington

    This is a great idea for younger kids , but what do you suggest for those of us who do not have kilns and such ceramics equipment? Do you recommend an air dry clay and type of paint?

  • Patty Palmer

    Like I said, this would be a great project for air dry clay and acrylic paints. I heard Crayola makes a great air dry clay. Generally, acrylic paints are pretty much the same. Any school appropriate acrylic paint (aka cheap!) would be fine.

  • Jen

    I love this project! It always turns out so cute. Crayola's Model Magic works really well – it's softer and easier for little hands to work with.

  • Dru

    Those are so cute!! I work at a Boys and Girls Club and I'm going to try those out with the kids 🙂

  • Lori

    I am going to give these a try with the air dry clay. I don't know much working with this medium-is there a gloss coat that would work over the acrylic paint?- or would it be needed? I guess we'll find out! 🙂

    I love your blog and all of your ideas! I also can't wait to try the Autumn Painted Pumpkin Collage.

    • Sue

      I would use Crayola Model Magic, let dry, and paint with acrylics. That is all you need. Air dry clays can be difficult especially with younger students.

  • Cheryl Hancock

    I love to use acrylic paint as it just saves so much time and energy.
    Glazing can be done with spray on clear or I have even used watered down PVA – white glue..
    I have another idea which I will explain later- Have to go out!!

  • One Mom

    Hey! I gave you an award on my blog! It is my very first one so I am happy to pass it on! http://ourhomeschoolreviews.blogspot.com/

  • Patty Palmer

    Thanks, One Mom!!! Glad you enjoy the blog!

  • april

    They are wonderful! I do have some of that air-dry clay by Crayola and will try with my granddaughter. Thank you again!

  • abc-Design

    I ADORE this twist on the pinch pot! Crayola air-dry clay is one of the best and it works with score and slip too, it can even be bisque fired. Sadly, not glazed but there are lots of glossy acrilic paints.

  • Dana A.

    I love to use tempera cakes to paint the final clay piece instead of glaze for the younger grades. The clay would have to be bisque-fired. The results are nice and the paint absorbs into the clay and dries quickly.

  • Kai K

    It is the first week of Jan. and Art Night coming at the end of January…How many weeks minimum is needed to complete if using a kiln, painting and glazing and firing them again? I have very little experience, but we have a kiln on our campus! I need a cute project!!!

    • Patty

      Depending on the weather (indoor heating is the best variable) the guppies take about 7-10 days to dry. Then as soon as they are, fire (10 hours) and leave in kiln overnight to cool. Glaze and then put back into kiln (8 hours). Leave in kiln to cool then you’re done! 2 weeks if you keep to a close schedule. Faster if you use indoor heating (we don’t need to in Santa Barbara).They’re adorable so I’d go for it.

  • Susan

    I left this tip on another lesson… For those of you wanting that Glazed look while using air dried clay.. coat the project in Modge Podge. this will give all those cheep paints a high end look. My kids ( all 600 of them) love it and so does my pocket.

  • m rogers

    I actually did this lesson with my 3rd graders because this year my art time with students was cut to 35 minutes a week! I needed to have old enough children to complete the entire thing including little details in one lesson since I do not have room or enough bags to save 150 projects. (each grade I teach has 6 to 8 classes in that grade). The 3rd graders loved them and for next year I am ordering some underglazes since I had only regular glaze this year.

    • Patty

      The under-glaze and glaze really makes a difference in how the piece looks in the end. More time/expense but it’s a keeper!

  • Amy

    I just tried these this week with my 2nd graders! They are FANTASTIC! What a perfect extension for the same ole pinch pot!

    Also, I’ve discovered that tempera varnish (From SAX/School Specialty) works really well to make them glossy. I use tempera cake paint. The varnish will tend to smear slightly and it seems to work best if you let the paint dry a while. Also, if you put the varnish on too thick, it looks blue.

    We barely finished in our 50 minute class time.

    • Patty

      THANK YOU! So many people have asked me what alternatives they could use to replace glaze. I’ve only used acrylics and to be honest, never liked the results. After working so hard on a clay project, it’s really nice if it’s shiny!
      I’m sharing this on Facebook!

  • Amy

    Ohhhh!! In my 19 years years of teaching art I never thought of using the term “Scratch Attach” to help them remember the scoring and slip! It works wonderfully!!! Thanks!

  • Carissa

    Could anybody tell me how much Crayola air-dry clay is needed per student to make these? For example, how many students could use a 5lb bucket? Thanks!

  • Rosanne Steffens

    I have done these fish with third graders and instead of glaze I use watercolors. Once they have covered the fish with regular watercolors I pass out the Prang metalic and sparkle watercolors and they add shiney sparkles and metalic detail that makes the fish shimmer just like it was wet. Sparkle watercolors are not that exciting on their own but over regular watercolora they are amazing.

  • C Steagall

    You could connect this to the book “Only One You” by: Linda Kranz 🙂

  • beckytufts@hotmail.com

    Thank you! I tried this with my 2 daughters (8 and 5) tonight and we had a blast- we used Crayola air dry clay and embelished with googlie eyes, some wikki stix, and some other odds and ends. And broken red tongue depressors for tongues. We had some styling fish. They are drying now so I cant confirm that they will make it through intact, but we had a blast either way.

    We referenced the book the Pout Pout Fish. The fish in it has wonderfully plump lips and goes around saying “Blub, blub blub” to everyone until he realizes he is not a pout pout fish but rather a kiss kiss fish. The book is great and encourages some fish with fancy fins, mohawks, hair-like tentacles. Fun stuff.

    Thanks so much for this lesson- I am a big of a fan of your lessons but this one is a favorite of mine- there are a lot of clay skills packed in here- rolling spheres and snakes, pinch pot, attaching, texturizing and decorating (glazing in the classroom)…and I think the kids will love the little monster fishes they create- the fish are so personable. Its easy to get excited about. I look forward to trying this with 2nd graders next year!

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