Posted on Leave a comment

Tropical Fish How-to

14.5 inch x 7.25 inch

Enjoy summer’s 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 summer 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.

Tropical Fish Tray by Lisa Vogt

 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.

Tropical Fish Tray by Lisa Vogt

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.

Tropical Fish Tray by Lisa Vogt

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.

Tropical Fish Tray by Lisa Vogt

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.

Tropical Fish Tray by Lisa Vogt

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.

Tropical Fish Tray by Lisa Vogt

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 free-form 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 summertime 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

GPQ Summer 2019

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.

Follow my blog for more tips and tricks!

Instagram @lvogt_originalsinglass
Instagram through_the_artists_lens

Vacation Essentials eBooks by Lisa Vogt SHOP

Do you get my newsletter? If not you’re missing out on sales and special promos. Sign up on my website right-hand sidebar.

Upcoming Webinar and Class

Galaxy as seen in Make a Fused Glass Sink with Lisa Vogt Webinar


Make a Fused Glass Sink with Lisa Vogt Webinar July 27, 2021
Register here:

In this comprehensive Webinar, I’ll guide you step by step through the time-tested processes I use to make large-scale, functional vessels.

You’ll learn safe handling techniques for cutting oversized circles, how to fuse and slump thick pieces to retain consistent bowl height, plus trade-secrets for worry free drilling.

In addition to fabrication know-how, you’ll receive a complete supply list, specifics on kiln requirements, source information for the slumping mold and drill kit, as well as helpful installation tips.

With all the professional tricks revealed, you’ll gain the confidence and knowledge needed to make your own dazzling beauty.

In addition, I’ll demonstrates how to make a glittering dichroic sink. I’ll show you how to make a cast glass sink from nipped glass pieces, dichroic bits and frit. Plus, you’ll be guided through the various cold-working steps I use to finish the cast glass sink edge to a glamorous, professional, quality polish.

Currents as seen In Sculptural Fused Glass with Lisa Vogt

Sculptural Fused Glass, 4-Day, Hands-on Workshop
October 19-22, 2021
Register today! 3 seats available. Register here:
 Wesley Chapel, Florida, 4-Day, Hands-on, Class size is limited.

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

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

 This class is for you! Any skill level can attend. Beginner, intermediate and advanced students alike will learn how to advance their glass fusing skills and expand their artistic style.

 Join me and I’ll show you all the pro tips and tricks I use to make stunning 3-dimnesional art. You’ll learn how to combine advanced techniques in new ways to create extraordinary sculptural pieces of art.

You’ll leave class with several completed glass sculptures, my custom firing guides and a deeper understanding of sculptural fused glass fabrication. You’ll have the knowledge, confidence, and inspiration you’ve been craving to take your artwork to the next level.

Materials are included, that’s a $150.00 value!

May 2021 Student Testimonials 

 “My favorite thing about the class was the creative freedom – we were not required to make the same thing the same way. I was surprised by the variety and number items we made and the flexibility we had to go our own way with our projects. The glass studio was very comfortable and very clean with plenty of room.” -Ron

 “My favorite thing about the class was the projects were tailored to our interests with user specific glass choices and design options. This makes the best type of learning environment. I loved the continued technical information that was used in daily discussions. Loved the amount of space we had for working and the use of top-quality tools and the hands-on assistance Lisa gave each one of us. You will hear and see me again. Thank you for your time and talent.” – Donna 

 “My favorite thing about the class was the creativity – putting things together in new ways – using different materials – and how welcome I felt. I was surprised how much we were able to get done and by Lisa’s ability to coach those of us on different levels. My least favorite part was that the class ended. The classroom setup was excellent – well organized. I really feel like Lisa gave me the tools to advance to a new level. It was worth the cost of the workshop, airfare, B&B, animal care and house sitting! Can’t wait to put what I leaned into practice and return for another workshop.” -Sue

Read more student testimonials on my website.

Artwear by Lisa J Vogt

 Artwear Designed for Artists by Artists Tell them how you really feel with bold T-shirts, Eco-conscience tote bags and sassy mugs.

Watch it NOW! Start fusing today!

Glass Fusing Videos by Lisa Vogt


 Downloadable instructional videos for every skill level.

eBooks by Lisa Vogt

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

Leave a Reply