I was recently commissioned to make a very small silver Darwin Fish pendant. I have always preferred to work large. If it can be done, it can be overdone! However, a commission is a commission. I’m going to tell you how I did it and how you can make a similar pendant. It obviously doesn’t need to be a Darwin Fish — the same techniques will work for whatever design you choose.
I initially planned on sculpting the fish and then adding legs using syringe. Then I discovered the existence of a commercial template of Darwin Fish. The smallest one was almost as small as the client wanted. I usually work with Art Clay ™. However, PMC3 ™ shrinks a bit more. The two brands are somewhat different in their working characteristics, but not so much that you can’t switch from one brand to the other. So I used PMC3 ™.
To produce the fish itself, I rolled metal clay to a thickness of 1.75 mm. Thinner than that, and the three dimensionality that I wanted would have been in peril. Thicker than 2.00 mm, and the fish would have been too thick for the rest of the design.
I covered the template with plastic wrap and pulled it tight. Then, placing the template and plastic wrap over the metal clay, I pressed down around the template. I used my fingers around the larger curves and a metal tool around the smaller ones. The result was a three dimensional Darwin Fish that, after it dried to greenware and I sanded the greenware, looked sculpted but without the work of sculpting.
I then rolled some metal clay to a thickness of 0.75 mm. I textured it and cut out a shape for the background of the fish. The reason this was thinner than most pendants is that the fish will give the piece additional mass, and I didn’t want it to be too heavy.
I then attached a the fish to the background. I added a standard bail (same texture as the background). Then I added a line of syringe, so the fish had something to walk on 😉
I fired the pendant and tumbled it.
Of course, most pieces look unfinished coming right out of the tumbler. I patinaed the piece with liver of sulfur. However, I carefully wiped all the patina off the fish itself and actually polished it with silver polish. After all, the fish has no features for the patina to accentuate and, by polishing it, I made it stand out.
All that remained was to attach a chain. The picture below shows the piece with a coin, for scale.
That was what I was after! A happy client and a shiny Darwin Fish!
I hope this inspires you to try your own design, no matter how far removed from a Darwin Fish it might be 😉