I like to give myself creative challenges, and sometimes I think why am I doing this to myself!? But having seen some beautiful polymer clay sea scenes that include different sea creatures, I thought it was time to stretch myself and make a bigger version of my sea Altoids tins.
The first thing I needed to do was find a suitable container for my mini reef. I didn’t want it to be too heavy or deep so it was easy to see all the details inside. After looking round a few charity shops, I found a large bowl in the supermarket for £2 – bargain!
For references and inspiration I looked through Citizens of the Sea, a beautiful book recommended to me by a friend with has the same obsession with sea creatures! I also love Pinterest for ideas and YouTube for videos on techniques with polymer clay.
Now I had all my materials, I gathered all the different coloured Fimo together I wanted to use in the coral reef. I also used white sand for the sea bed, some really shells and resin. I bought some rubbing alcohol and found it is one of the best (and cheapest) things to clean your clay of lint and dust while you’re working, and can be used to smooth the clay.
I started the coral reef in the bowl by adding clay around the edges, which was a mixture of brown, yellow and mother of pearl. Looking at a few pictures on my phone for reference as I made the different coral shapes, I worked intuitively as I went along and found this to be my favourite approach to this project. I didn’t draw out any plan of how I wanted it to look and I think this helped with making something organic and natural.
As the different shapes and pieces were so small, this became quite a time consuming project. I had to take frequent breaks over the weeks that I made it to save my hands from getting to rough. At first I was going to have one shark and maybe an octopus in the reef, and to get the scale at least semi accurate, I put the bowl to one side after doing a little bit to make the shark. I was very happy with the way he turned out for my first attempt.
As I continued building up the coral reef, I decided to make a second shark. This gave the piece more balance in the centre. I love bright colours and combining all the different effect clay really made the whole piece pop. Before I baked the bowl with the coral inside it, I dusted some of the edges with different Perfect Pearl powders, adding some shimmer and dimension. I baked the sharks on folded pieces of foil to keep the fins and tail in shape. I also make a few swirl shapes and a starfish to add to the sand.
After baking and my pieces had cooled, I added the sand to the bottom of the bowl, spreading it out a little with my fingers. I put in a real shell, the clay starfish and swirls. This is when I started to get nervous! I wanted to tint the resin but wasn’t sure how it would react. I added a tiny drop of Pearl FX ink in blue to a small mixture of resin and poured it into the bowl. I was adding my resin in layers so the sharks looked like they were swimming. After about 8 hours I mixed up some more resin and poured it in, then placed the sharks in position. The blue actually started to look quite effective.
At this point I ran out of resin so put my project to one side for a while. I noticed after a few days that the resin was still slightly tacky and hadn’t set. I looked this up online and realised I hadn’t spent enough time mixing it together or blowing out any air bubbles. Luckily I was able to rescue it when my order of resin turned up and I added the last layer. Phew!
I’m really pleased with how this challenge turned out. One thing about it is that it is quite heavy and I should have possibly used a lighter container. I love how the little bits of coral look. I used two and half packets of resin though and that stuff isn’t cheap! Next time I do a similar project, I might make it a bit smaller to save on my materials.