Barbara Becker Simon – Master Muse Challenge #47

MasterMusesDesignChallenge47 - Barbara Becker Simon

Barbara Becker Simon Hero 6 Barbara shares with us a quick synopsis of the steps she takes to create her fun and whimsical fish pendant.

We hope the tutorial will serve to inspire you to create! No matter if you just get out your sketch book and draw a similar project based on these challenges. It's a place to start. It's a way to start off your day in the right frame of mind with a creative exercise!

Barbara said "For this project I wanted to bring back a syringe technique I played with in 1999 when I made my first metal clay fish bead.  I had just finished a cake decorating class and saw the kinship between the pastry bag and tip and the syringe!  Yikes, that’s eleven years ago and I think it’s still a fun texture; hope you will too!”

If you are interested in the full step-by-step tutorial please stay tuned. It will be available at Whole Lotta Whimsy. They will be in a handy bench format too! This tutorial looks like it will be over 70 pictures with tons of detail in this #47 Tutorial!

In this tutorial you will learn:

  • How to create a hollow bead out of metal clay
  • How to sculpt on clay details and create other sculptural elements
  • How to refine and perfect greenware metal clay through filing and sanding
  • How to use syringe metal clay to create texture, and efficient sculpture detail 
  • How to set a stone using the clay method
  • How to attach separate metal clay components together
  • How to finish silver metal clay

6 molded Using a lubricated form, such as this plastic egg, drape your silver metal clay gently to conform to the shape.

Trim excess clay.  Allow to dry on the mold.  Remove and allow to dry completely.

11 fit Determine how chubby you want your fish to be and trim any excess clay to make it narrower.  Then sand each side to make the edge flush for fitting the seam.

Prime edges with water, cover with silver metal clay paste, and carefully fit the two halves together.  Press to seal.


Check for gaps or cracks and fill any seam areas.  Use silver metal clay with a clay shaper or metal spatula-type tool to caulk these gaps.


19 hole Determine the halfway mark on the hollow form.  This line will determine the belly and dorsal side of the fish.  Determine which end will be the mouth.  

Carve out the hole for the mouth using a craft knife.

28 form Using silver metal clay, roll it into a rod shape.  Prime the area with water, add silver metal clay paste, and then sculpt the clay onto the upper lip.  

Let dry.

Then add the lower lip and give the fish a pout!

Barbara shows these sculpting tips in detail over many steps and photos in the full tutorial available in 2011 at Whole Lotta Whimsy.

Dry again.

33 emery Groom these areas by sanding with sand paper, craft knife, and or damp brush.  

Round off the seam with the sanding board all around the fish body.

38 cut Using acetate or another moldable, releasing material, form a tight cone shape to use as an armature for the tail.

Roll out the silver metal clay, wrap it around the acetate, and blend the two seams.  This is a temporary connection.

Use a tissue blade to cut the excess clay and make the flared shape of the cone.

Cut this tube open at the seam and unwrap from the mold.

42 pinch Pick up the ends, pinch them together and remake the seam.

Let dry.

Test the fit to the tail hole in the fish.  You’ll need to sand the flat end of the tail cone to fit the curvature of the fish.

51 tail Add the tail cone to the fish with paste.  Perfect the seams.   

Dry and caulk any gaps.  

Dry again.

59 taildone Add tail embellishments to the fish with clay and paste attachments.  By varying the size and curvature of the tapered ends of these forms, you will add movement and a whole lotta whimsy to the fish 😉

Barbara shows all these steps in full detail in the full tutorial.



68 done   Repeat step 8 with the belly fin, dorsal fin, and pectoral fin.

70 scale1 Using the silver metal clay syringe, in a three-step movement, begin to lay down the scales.  

Repeat layers as you work toward the front of the fish, like a brick pattern.

Dry each layer so you do not smoosh the syringe work.

81 stones When you begin to approach the area where you will place the eyes, with your scale placement, stop and mark the spots.

Finish the scales up to the eye area and dry completely.

Using two small balls of flattened clay, set the stones into the balls of clay.  Set aside to dry.

Open some space behind the stone settings by drilling a small hole with a drill bit. 

92 eyes Attached the stone set eyes to the fish.

Sand, perfect and clean up the fish now prior to firing.

Fire in a bowl of vermiculite in a kiln at 1470F for one hour.

Brass brush with soapy water.

Using a burnisher (steel, boro, or agate) highlight all the details.

Now string your fish bead on beautiful coral or pearls.  Wait for the Oooohs and Aahhhs while you ponder taking a cake decorating class! 

Barbara is well known for her hollow glass fish and these metal clay fish are spectacularly fun!  Who wouldn’t want to pucker up to this guy.  His detail, texture and personality are well executed.  This is a piece that would definitely be fun to wear and sure to gain comments.  Truly an art masterpiece! 

This is a perfect example of where metal clay really is a suitable medium for the design.  The hollow form with sculpted details would be difficult and time consuming with traditional metal techniques.  Lost wax casting is time consuming and requires equipment that is costly.  The syringe form of metal clay is often over-looked as a excellent and efficient tool for sculpting, texturing and adding detail.  It can also be used for repairs!

Each of these Master Muse class tutorials exposes new techniques to even the most seasoned of instructors and makers. I'm always surprised at how differently each artist approaches a challenge and how their skills allow them to execute a creative result. I learn at least one valuable shortcut or new technique in each tutorial.

These are affordable classes that you can take in your studio, at your pace, with all the details and more that you would get in a live class. Not to mention that they are scrupulously edited and if the details aren't there, I ask for more info and pictures. 

Don't forget to leave a comment. Our artists would really like to hear from you.  They’ve put a lot of work into sharing their artistry and gifts with the readers.  Share with us your thoughts and whether it will inspire you to make one similar, or like it. 

Barbara’s got a great book out, Metal Clay Beads.  We are giving away this book and also a FREE Linda Kaye Moses Doming Plate.  All you have to do to enter is participate in our Compass Word challenge!  You’ve got til the end of January to submit your entry.  Please don't wait or you'll miss out on a fantastic experience and a change to win over $60 in goodies!

Our next blog FREE give-away will be a mystery grab bag of goodies. Your odds are pretty darn good at winning so don’t be shy and participate in the discussion (and in our tribe).

How to win? Leave a comment on every blog (even older posts) or get two entries for tweeting, putting it on Facebook, the Metal Clay Yahoo Gallery forum, your blog etc. Just send us a copy of the link to! Let your friends know how to make their Wednesday's rock…. with of course, the Master Muse Tutorial launch!  

Barbara Becker Simon earned a BS in Art Education and an MFA in Metalwork and Jewelry. She has been a goldsmith for over 40 years and taught at the University of Wisconsin-Menomonie and Iowa State University. Barbara travels the US teaching lampwork & metal clay workshops as Senior Instructor for Rio Grande. Her work appears in Creative Metal Clay Jewelry: Techniques, Projects, and Inspiration New Directions in Metal Clay, (Wire), The Art of Metal Clay, (Haab), and PMC Decade and PMC Technic, (McCreight), among others. In April 2009, Lark Books published her book, Metal Clay Beads. Barbara is known internationally for her lampworked glass beads & jewelry. Contemporary Lampworking by Bandhu Dunham features Barbara's work on the cover. Formed of Fire (Dunham), Beads of Glass (Jenkins), and 1000 Glass Beads, (Lark) also features her beads. Barbara work is on display in Washington DC, Glendale, AZ, & Japan.

Check out Barbara's work at You can purchase her incredible glass & metal beads and work online! Contact her for more details.

Photo credit: final piece Drew Davidson; step-by-step Barbara Becker Simon


19 Responses to Barbara Becker Simon – Master Muse Challenge #47

  1. I love this project! I've always loved your fish beads and now I can see how to make them!! Thanks, Barbara!

  2. I love the syringe, but often don't feel i'm adequate enough with it. I never thought of taking a cake decorating class and using the technique for syringe! What a great idea!

  3. Wow it is really neat to see that little guy come to life! I need to work on seeing something in 3-D step by step so I can be that creative. Thanks for sharing with us, Lori

  4. This is such a stupendous bead and a generous tutorial. We've all loved your beads. Learning how to make one at home is truly a gift from a Master!

  5. Barbara, I hate syringe…but this project makes me want to try it again! Seems everytime I use syringe, I master it just as I fun out….. Perhaps if I worked with syringe consistently, I'd get better results! But, 3 syringes in 6 years isn't a good track record! Love the bead! Great shape!

  6. The recent class I took with Barbara and her awesome book tell me that this tutorial will be wonderful! Thanks for sharing more of your fabulous techniques with us, Miss Barbara!

Don’t Miss a Thing - Sign Up For My Free Ezine Now