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Tropical Fish Tray How-to

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Hello Spring! Welcome sunny, fun filled days with this shimmering tropical fish tray.

The most wonderful characteristic of glass is its generous nature. If you open yourself up to discovery, glass continuously offers the curious artist brand new opportunities to be creative. I’ve been working with this medium for more than 30 years now! And it still amazes me that a simple, new twist on old techniques can still give me a huge thrill and excite me as much as a carefree kid on spring break.  vacation.

Due to the number of projects I make, I have a lot of scrap glass. So, when I find a new, clever way to make something beautiful with left over material, I get fired up. And best of all, the reliable techniques used here are fun and easy to apply. It’s the unusual pairing of multiple design methods that makes this tropical fish tray so attractive and enjoyable to build.

Don’t let the complex looking design scare you. The different techniques I used to create this bright reef dweller are broken down into easy, manageable steps.

 Let’s get started.

 Use the pattern as a guide to cut the base layer out of clear glass. Grind the glass to improve the shape and remove any sharp edges. Clean the glass with water and then dry it with a towel. Set the clear base aside.


Number the pattern pieces on 2 copies of the fish pattern. This will simplify the assembly later. Cut the pattern up with scissors. Use a glue stick to hold the paper pattern pieces on the glass. Cut the glass as close to the pattern as possible. Remove the excess glass with running pliers and grozing pliers. Use the same method to cut and shape the fish scales.


Save your scrap pieces to make the open and airy background pieces of the tray.


Grind the cut fish pieces to remove any sharp edges. Clean the ground glass with water and then dry the pieces with a towel. Arrange the ground fish pieces on the clear base layer. Glue the pieces to the base with fuser’s glue. Let the glue dry before moving to the next step. Otherwise, the glass will slide around when you apply the frit.


Using a spoon, pour fine Cobalt blue frit on the fish. Gently sweep it into the gaps with a small paint brush. This adds contrast and detail to the design. Run a line of frit down the top and bottom fins. Use a narrow paint brush to make a scalloped design in the frit. Remove any excess frit with the brush.

Sift medium blue opal powder frit on the fish head, tail and small fin. Clean up the edges and make them crisp with a small brush. Sprinkle medium white frit on the head and tail. Place a small scrap of black on the head to make the mouth. Arrange a premade dot on the head for the eye.

Making eyes. I have a little container full of fused glass dots that I pull from when making projects that have eyes. To make dots I cut ¼ inch squares out of white glass. I cut 1/8 inch squares out of a black backed dichroic glass. The small dichroic square is stacked on the white glass and glass is fired to a full fuse temperature using the guide below. The small pieces plump and ball-up during firing. They make super cute, expressive eyes for a variety of projects.

Cut the border base layer out of clear glass. Cut a second layer out of white glass. Stack the white strips on the clear strips.


Cut ¼ inch wide strips of glass out of clear glass and colors that complement the fish colors. Using mosaic nippers trim the strips into small squares.

Arrange the glass border and the assembled fish on a primed, or a fiber paper lined kiln shelf. Place the cut squares and scrap on the kiln shelf around the border and fish. For nice, individual round shapes make sure there’s adequate space between each of the little pieces. (If they, touch you’ll end up with ovals and wiggly worms.) Note: It’s not necessary to grind the scrap before firing. The organic shapes they create add softness to the design.


Yes, laying out all of these tiny pieces is tedious. Tough it out. The dots and dashes made from the scrap are worth the extra effort. I promise you’ll love the variety of shapes and increased selection you have to choose from when you assemble the tray background. Plus, you can use the extras dots and dashes in future projects.


Fire the glass to a full fuse temperature using the guide below.

Place the fused fish inside the fused border on a primed or fiber paper lined kiln shelf. Fill in the open background space with the dots and dashes made from scrap. Make sure the pieces are in contact with each other, the border and the fish to connect the entire project together.


Dots and Dashes bowl bonus project. This adorable bowl was inspired by the fun, organic shapes made by fusing the randomly shaped scraps left over from cutting the fish. I had so much fun laying out the fish background, I couldn’t stop myself from doing more. This little gem is so simple and super fun. Just draw a 6 inch circle on shelf paper. Arrange leftover dots and dashes inside the pencil line. Fill the space. Make sure the pieces of glass are in contact with each other to connect the whole circle.


Fire the assembled pieces to a tack fuse temperature using the guide below.

Carefully place the tacked fish tray on a ceramic mold. Place the small bowl on a ceramic mold. Slump the tray and bowl using the project specific guide below. This gentle slumping guide works well for pieces that are delicate and have open spaces in the background. The temperature is lower than usual, and the hold is longer. This conservative slump guide ensures these glass projects retain their size and shape, without stretching, during heating and slumping.


This project evolved as I went along. I started with the freeform fish design. Then I liked the idea of incorporating an open background that mimicked bubbles. I was concerned, strength wise that the tacked dots might not be strong enough to support the weight of the fish. That’s when the border idea came to me. The border would give the project a nice visual frame and add support to the overall tray.

In the end, I’m happy with the unexpected mix of techniques and the way the tray came out. Design wise, I like how the clean straight lines of the white border contrast the bright, fluid background. And I’m pleased with the way the stylized fish brings uplifting, aquatic springtime activities and memories to my mind. I hope you have as much fun as I did making a Tropical Fish Tray of your own.


Tropical Fish Tray as seen in Glass Patterns Quarterly Summer 2019

14.5 inch x 7.25 inch

Watch the Fish Tray video here:

Happy Fusing!


 Fusing Guide

Segment 1: Ramp 300 F/hr to 1300 and hold 30 min.

Segment 2: Ramp 500 F/hr to 1465 and hold 10 min.

Segment 3: Ramp 9999(AFAP*) to 960 and hold 40 min.

Segment 4: Cool to room temperature.

*As fast as possible

Tack Fuse Guide

Segment 1: Ramp 300 F/hr to 1365 and hold 10 min.

Segment 2: Ramp 9999(AFAP*) to 960 and hold 40 min.

Segment 3: Cool to room temperature.

*As fast as possible

 Gentle Slumping Guide

Segment 1: Ramp 300 F/hr to 1200 and hold 20 min.

Segment 2: Ramp 9999(AFAP*) to 960 and hold 40 min.

Segment 3: Cool to room temperature.

*As fast as possible.

NOTE: Kilns fire differently. Test fire these guides in your kiln and then make adjustments as needed.

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Beginner and advanced fusers alike will find inspiration, motivation and renewed artistic freedom from the combination of techniques shown. In addition, you’ll receive a detailed outline with project specific guidelines and my custom firing guides.

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Wesley Chapel, Florida, 4-Day, Hands-on, Class size is limited.

It’s hard to describe what it’s like when I’m feeling the creative flow. Time flies. Hours pass in what I thought were minutes. My naturally distracted mind is focused on what my hands are doing, and nothing else. I get lost in my own world. When I return to reality, I feel rejuvenated and spiritually uplifted. That’s why I like sharing my studio space with others. I try to give them that experience and hope they feel the same inspiration and fulfillment I do. -Lisa

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Materials are included, that’s a $150.00 value! Plus, a professional photo shoot of your artwork is also included.

This is the turning-point workshop you’ve been waiting for.

Here’s what the students are saying about the workshop.

“Instruction was clear, help was always available, and Lisa’s explanation of the equipment was great.” -Sherry

“My favorite thing about the class was the friendly atmosphere that encouraged open thoughts and sharing ideas.” -Lyn

“I enjoyed making all the projects, especially the flow piece and the freedom to be creative with our work.”  -Joy

“My favorite thing about the class was the ability to see multiple pieces of art that originated from concepts taught.” -Vicki

“Lisa is very professional, knowledgeable and freakishly talented. House, art, mosaic, her work – really fun and beautiful.” -Lorna

“Incredible class. Lisa shared her artistic knowledge of color flow and her technical knowledge of glass.” -Larry

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 Things that surprised the students about the class.

“I was surprised by the photo booth demo-it was very helpful.” -Joy

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Downloadable instructional videos for every skill level.

Book covers Check out my eBooks for elegant patterns and detailed fusing instructions. 

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