In centuries past, the ocean was thought to be full of krakens, sea serpents, sea monsters and other fantastic creatures. They helped to bring the mysterious ocean into the more familiar realm of the ‘known’ by introducing human traits and an element of storytelling. One creature that shows up in such stories throughout history is the mermaid. Mermaid mythology is quite varied, with mermaids taking on many different appearances, origins, and personalities.
The first known mermaid stories appeared in Assyria c. 1000 BC. The goddess Atargatis, mother of Assyrian queen Semiramis, loved a mortal (a shepherd) and unintentionally killed him. Ashamed, she jumped into a lake and took the form of a fish, but the waters would not conceal her divine beauty.
There’s something magical about mermaids and I absolutely had to do a tutorial for a mermaid jar! So, here goes…
Things and tools you’ll need
• A jar
• Aluminium foil
• Seashells. If you live by the beach, you can plan a day around this project just to go to the beach and collect seashells!
• Battery operated fairy lights
• Blue acrylic paint
• Black Sharpie/permanent marker
Using polymer clay
Polymer clay is an extremely simple and versatile medium to work with. One of the biggest advantages of working with polymer clay is that you can cure it by baking it in a home oven. Even if you don’t have access to an oven, there are many types of polymer clays that you can harden by air drying. If you are using an oven to cure your creations, read your manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid any problems. Over heating polymer clay can release toxic fumes.
How to make your mermaid
- Mould the basic tail and body structure of your mermaid using aluminium foil. This will act as the core for your mermaid figurine. The polymer clay will be wrapped around this foil structure. While making the foil tail, use the jar as a guideline to mould the shape of your tail.
2. Choose the colours of polymer clay that you would like for your mermaid and roll it out into sheets of 1cm thickness.
3. For the scales of the tail, cut out circles from the coloured polymer clay using a knife or by using a circular cutter object (like a cookie cutter)
4. Wrap the skin coloured piece of polymer clay on the body part of the foil structure.
5. Arrange the circular scales on the tail area to give a scale-like effect.
6. Optional: Use sculpting tools to create textures on the scales and tail.
7. Roll a ball for the head and some thin “snakes” for the hair strands.
8. Attach the hair strands to the head.
10. Bake your mermaid in your home oven according to your manufacturer’s instructions. Usually, most clays do okay at 275°F for 10-20 minutes. Remember that the curing time for polymer clay depends on it size and thickness (and the brand). So keep an eye on your clay to ensure that it doesn’t scorch/burn.
Even though good polymer clay is usually certified to be non-toxic, I’d suggest reserving a separate baking tray for your polymer clay projects. If you don’t have a separate baking tray, line your tray with baking paper so it makes the cleaning process easier later.
10. Once your clay has hardened, get it out of the oven and let it cool.
11. Once the figurine is cool, draw the facial features using a Sharpie or any permanent marker.
12. Give your mermaid a seashell bikini with the help of your hot glue gun and some hot glue.
How to make your mermaid luminary
Clean, wash and dry your jar. Get rid of any labels. If you’re using a plastic jar and are struggling to get rid of the sticky label, check out my tips on Jar Hacks 101
2. Paint your jar with the blue acrylic paint. You’ll need to do a second coat after the first coat of paint is dry.
3. Using your hot glue gun, attach the mermaid figurine to the jar.
4. Decorate the jar with seashells.
5. Place the fairy lights in the jar and experience the magic!