Mica Shift Mermaid Scales | Polymer Clay Tutorial

Mica Shift Mermaid Scales - Polymer Clay TutorVideo #262: “Cindy, when I’m ready to finish a sculpt, you are the site I go to and mull over the effect that I want.” ~Lynda-D

With Summer officially here in the Northern Hemisphere (even Vancouver’s weather hasn’t realized it yet), some Mermaid inspired polymer clay jewelry is just ‘the ticket’. Sorry… showing my 80’s roots with that nod to Billy Crystal, ‘ticket’ thing.

Any who, as often happens, this neat idea to create Mermaid Scales using a mica shift technique, happened when I was trying to come up with a completely different tutorial idea. One idea led to another, and then to another, until I was making shimmering Mermaid Tails, to use in funky Summertime jewelry. Serendipity!

I love when something unexpected and beautiful happens! Definitely serendipity. ~Silverleaf

I used this technique in a rather simple and clean design, but you guys are welcome to steer it in all sorts of directions if you like. I see the potential for full bodied mermaids, using it for dragon skin or fish scales. In fact, the concept could even be used to make some kind of fishing lures, for those who make those sort of things… Dad are you listening? I also expect to see some Steampunked Mermaids from you, Hope Martin.

Let’s see your creative minds flow on this one guys!

So… coming up tomorrow (Friday, July 6th, 2012) in the Vol-050-1 members video at the Polymer Clay Tutor Library, you too will know how to make Mermaid Scales in Polymer Clay!

Here’s a sneak peak of this week’s tutorial…

The full version of the “Mermaid Scales” preview video shown above, is now available for purchase at the Polymer Clay Library in the Vol-050 Back Issue Package.



Please Note: A general prerequisite for all of my weekly tutorials is that you have a good understanding of the polymer clay basics, including: conditioning clay, using a pasta machine, clay blade and other simple tools, making Skinner Blends or Teardrop Blends, baking clay, as well as sanding and finishing. If you need help in these areas, my Polymer Clay Beginners Course will get you up to speed quickly. There is also plenty of free information on this blog. Use the search box at the top of the page to find articles on specific topics.

Other Supplies & Tools:

  • Acrylic Sheet or Block (optional – I got mine with my Amaco Bead Rack).
  • Round container (it will make sense when you see tutorial).
  • Small Drinking Straw (it will make sense when you see tutorial).
  • Scissors.
  • Micro-Mesh Sanding Pads or Wet/Dry Sandpaper in 400 grit, 600, 800, 1200.

By the way, many of the “shopping” links I provide for the various tools and supplies used in my tutorials, are “affiliate” resources. That means companies like Amazon and the other suppliers I refer, pay me a small commission if you click on the links and end up making a purchase at their site. It’s not a lot, but every little bit helps in keeping the cost of my tutorials so low… at only $3.32 per month. And, the prices for products that you may purchase through my links, are exactly the same as what you would normally pay. So please do feel free to click away whenever you need to pick up a few things for your studio. Thanks so much for supporting this site :-)

Customer Feedback About Membership Value:

Cindy I really love your videos. I live in a rural area where I don’t have access to workshops, so I really appreciate your workshop-like videos. Last weekend I made a mod cane following the instructions on your video and I was amazed at how easy it was! I have been wanting to work with polymer clay for quite some time, and had even bought some of the supplies. However, I couldn’t get over that hurdle of actually sitting down and making something until I watched your step-by-step videos. Thank you! ~Karen-B

Of all the tutorial sites I visit, yours is my favorite. ~Christine-F

Hi Cindy thanks for your lovely words on my blog , I just dont know how you do it with all you must have to do here. If I can inspire others to join here and give Polymer clay the recognition as a real art form thru your tuition, I am so pleased to be a part of that. ~Elizabeth-K

The following topics are included in this week’s Polymer Clay Tutor Library, Mermaid Scales video tutorial:

  • See examples of beads, pendants, earrings and other components, using the Mermaid Scale technique.
  • Find out how simple it is to create this funky mica shift technique for your unique mermaid inspired polymer clay and mixed media jewelry pieces.
  • Learn the reasons why you may just want to dig around in your pantry for the perfect drinking straw for this project.
  • Plus, with some creativity and ingenuity, there are many ways to come up with other unique designs of your own.

The full version of the “Mermaid Scales” preview video shown above, is now available for purchase at the Polymer Clay Library in the Vol-050 Back Issue Package.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. pollyanna, 05 July, 2012

    Another WOW video coming up. Friday’s are the best!!!

  2. pattw35, 05 July, 2012

    You’ve been busier than a cranberry merchant ! Life is full, eh? What a neat little tute is coming. Scales can be used in lots of places -even in making small fat feathers for a birds breast – waiting with “Anticipation”…………grin

  3. Ken Hamilton, 05 July, 2012

    Ah well, I still haven’t gotten the Mica Shift technique to work for me but I’ll keep trying, someday I’ll get it. This tutorial looks fantastic though and can’t wait to see it.

  4. Dixie Ann, 05 July, 2012

    I’m with you Ken, I haven’t figured it out either so am anxiously waiting for this tute. With all the company gone and computers all fixed I can get back to my claying!

  5. Elaine Faulks, 05 July, 2012

    I think the scales will eventually fall from your eyes KEN and DIXIE (sorry couldn’t resist that) when CINDY shows us her way with mica-shift and fish scales or dragon scales or all those other magical creatures who look so good wearing scales.

    Love the colours and stylish look of those earring Cindy.

    I have some really colourful earrings made from real fish scale dyed, but dare not go in swimming with them on hee hee.So just going to check I have all the supplies……………………….cheers xx…………………………..

  6. Marion Rayner, 06 July, 2012

    Love this cane Cindy! And really gorgeous colours too! I’d love to know what you were trying to achieve when this “accident” happened! Something else to look forward to perhaps?

  7. Christine H, 06 July, 2012

    I love the Mica Shift technique and this is a great application! I have added pearl white or even pearl gray to colors that aren’t “pearl” and it gives me a wider range of colors to use for mica shifting! Can’t wait to try this. Yes, Cindy, do share what the project was that caused this “accident”

  8. Natalie Herbin, 06 July, 2012

    Hi Cindy
    Just love this tut…..I have friend who loves. Mermaids and I can’t wait to make this for her….I’m glad that I stocked up on the pearl clay a while ago….I have used coffee stored straws to sow thing like this on birds but now I know now to do it. Better Thank you Cindy for this great tut !

  9. karonkay, 06 July, 2012

    Awesome tut! love the mica shift projects. I am thinking maybe sunflower seed centers for my sunflower project. Maybe using bronze clay with a little gold. Hope it works. It will give the illusion of seeds. Thanks again for being an inspiration for my project!

  10. rita hammock, 06 July, 2012

    Hi Cindy, thanks again 4 a wonderful class! Since my hubbie’s accident we have been housebound & will be for a while yet. U have kept my spirits up w’ ur creativity! Even tho @ this moment in time I cannot physically work on my clay, I can still watch u create! This helps me!! Btw, u have beautiful nails! Looking forward to ur traveling adventures…I am grateful that my family was fortunate enough to travel worldwide, before my disability took hold. No better way to learn & teach but by doing something & running w’ the wind. And like the song says, ‘ the memories, they can’t take that away…’ Hope u can come to Brighton, Mi. We would be happy to show u round ;) thanks 4 all u do.

  11. pollyanna, 06 July, 2012

    Wonderful lesson. Can’t wait to make some earrings,etc. Thanks!!

  12. Pam, 20 July, 2012

    My thoughts EXACTLY!!! =)

  13. Elaine Faulks, 06 July, 2012

    Mmm just knew I should have stocked up on coloured pearls clays but blew the craft budget for the next couple of months so my fish scales will have to be an Autumn (fall) project.
    Great idea CINDY to use an ordinary drinking straw, (See peeps, we do not have to spend out too much for this clever way to create fish scales)

    Well in a couple of hours the Olympic Torch will arrive here in Essex. The seafront at Southend-on-Sea is crowded even though it has been raining. 37 schools will be singing an Olympic Anthem to cheer it on it’s way to eventually reach the Stadium in London. Never seen so many flags and bunting and everywhere looks newley washed as the rain has at last stopped and the sun is out. (Hopefully for the next few hours) Lots of outdoor events were cancelled recently as fields were water logged as it’s been the wettest couple of months here in the UK.
    In Wales my sister was cut off from the shops as the main road turned into a raging torrent, luckily her house is halfway up a hill but she said a lot of her friends are flooded out lower down in the valley.

    Just received my LUCET. An old Anglo-Saxon way to make braids. Has anyone got one? Now I have yet another way to make cords for my jewellery, so thanks CINDY, I can now say my items are completely hand-made starting from scratch………………………cheers.xx………………….

  14. Cindy Lietz, 06 July, 2012

    How exciting for you Elaine! When the 2010 Winter Olympics were here in Vancouver, the torch actually came right down our street! We got to see it from the driveway. The torch relay was extremely long, since it covered our entire country, and Canada is pretty darn big! The odds of actually coming down our street were incredibly low, but we don’t live far from Surrey City Hall and the Police Headquarters, so it may have been because of that and not because the Polymer Clay Tutor lived there… LOL

    Looking forward to watching some of the games. They are always so much fun to watch!

  15. Ken Hamilton, 06 July, 2012

    Well Cindy, there were four other cyclic games which have not survived into the modern times, one was similar to the Olympics, BUT and here’s the kicker for those of us in the arts, the Pythian Games held at Delphi and the PanAthenaea Games held at Athens INCLUDED the arts, back then it was Music, Dance and Theater, I say we’ve been undervalued and it’s time to bring back the arts into these ancient/modern traditions. So maybe it WAS because the PCT tutor lived on that street that the torch went by. (Well one can always hope). Enough history lesson, class dismissed. :>)

  16. Monique U, 06 July, 2012

    Elaine, I had never heard of luceting prior to reading your post… naturally I had to google it and found myself at Ziggy’s interesting website. We tend to think of our generation as being innovative, when actually mankind has been producing clever devices since the dawn of time! I have been learning tatting via an online course, and now I have yet another technique on my “must learn” list.

  17. pattw35, 06 July, 2012

    Another easy-peasy tute! You rock, Cindy ! My mind is whirling ! So many ides – and colors. See ya later, got to go playclay !!!!

    How fun to see the Olympic Torch ! The rain washed away all the gloom and the sun is shining. Enjoy, Elaine. Make your hair on the ole arm stand up, huh. What a thrill…….

  18. Cindy Lietz, 06 July, 2012

    Thanks guys! I hope you have fun with this tute! Hot enough for ya? Most of North America is in a heat wave right now. We finally have some Summer weather showing up around here (Vancouver). The last few weeks (months) have been so rainy and cold that it has been nicknamed Junuary. Glad it isn’t as hot here as many of you have it. Can be hard to clay if you don’t have air-conditioning. I can also barely think in the heat and there are lots of tutorials to create. So hopefully it will stay like it is today and it will be just perfect!

    Just a side note, in hot weather like this, be cautious about having clay shipped. It can get extremely hot in a truck box and your clay may arrive already BAKED!

    For tips on working with clay in the heat, type ‘ice pack’ into the search box at the top of the page, and a few articles will pop up for you.

    Have fun!

  19. pattw35, 07 July, 2012

    FYI -Those of us who endure the hot summers -NEVER order clay from far off places. Even Michaels has to be checked ( pinch corner of pkg -if it “Gives” its o.k. If not -it has been cooked on the way to the store).

    I ONLY order during November thru February. The heat in Arizona ,in the summer, is in the 90’s to over 100’s !!!

    So be careful when you order !!

  20. Jocelyn, 07 July, 2012

    Good point about the “baked in transit” issue.

    Love this tute!

    The blue/green blend is gorgeous, but, I can sure see a gold to red blend, too!

  21. Elizabeth Kerr, 06 July, 2012

    Hi Cindy and all, just saw the Mermaid Scales tut.
    love it.
    I have never been very good with the Mica shift, so this is going to help tremendously.
    As we all say, you teach in such a way as to make it easy for us to learn all these tecniques,that they are not a mystery anymore.
    Thanks so much for this one.
    Elaine, we in OZ are certainly looking forward to the games. Seeing all those places in U.K. is lovely too. As is another programme I watch about U.K “Escape to the Country”
    Roll on the games.
    My fav are the Swimming and Gymnastics.
    Bye for now
    Elizabeth K.

  22. Dixie Ann, 07 July, 2012

    Well gosh it is another day of 102 degrees here in Iowa and the midwest is really cookin! I’d swear I was in Arizona. No way would I order clay to be shipped during the summer. I drive right home from Michaels when I need it this time of year with the A/C on high! Even the electronics in the car get screwy when its this hot. My radio stations keep changing and reception is so buzzy. Another thing I would not order is anything made of plastic or anything in aerosol cans. Plastic has been know to soften and become disfigured and aerosol cans have been known to explode. So not a good time to
    order PYM II if you are in a heat wave right now.

  23. Elaine Faulks, 07 July, 2012

    Hi CINDY,

    Good to know you’r having a heatwave as we usually get your weather about ten days later, so better stock up on sun-cream. Although with all our wet weather I keep looking at my skin in case I’m developing mermaid scales and glancing at my feet, which might at any day turn into flippers.

    PATTW35 Didn’t actually see the Oylimpic torch go by as left it a little late to start out and all the roads were closed off so had to catch it on local TV. Still, looking foreward to THE GAMES. The mountain bike events are being held in Hadleigh which is just a few miles away, right by the ancient ruins of the castle. So will have to check when the roads are being closed, they have been practising nearby for ages so mustn’t miss it

    How exciting CINDY that you had the Olympic torch go right past your house in the 2010 winter games. Perhaps they will include a new event in years to come ( the quickest team to create 50 swirly lentil beads from PC) hee he……………………. I will put you down as team leader :-)

    MONIQUE if you like ancient crafts have you ever made a DORSET BUTTON? But if you look it up you be careful as you might come across a morris dancing team called by that name!! Thought I would cut out the rings needed with my cuttlebug from PC. They were originally carved out of bone and the thread was animal sinews. We have come a long way since then but still use rat-tails!!

    ELIZABETH K the swimming events and gymnastics are fantastic I will be sitting glued to my TV. My daughter who lives in Adalaide loves to watch “Escape to the Country” as misses the UK at times As although she loves her new homeland she is very attached to these Isles.. If you want a little brain training she says you can now watch EGGHEADS, which she never missed when she lived at home. Just found a tiny amount of pearl clay so I have just enough to mix with green and blue to make my mermaid tail yee ha, will have to sing a few sea shantys to get in the mood……………….cheers xx……………………………….

  24. Elizabeth Kerr, 09 July, 2012

    Hi Elaine , thanks for your reply to my mail about the games, cant wait. I too will be glued.
    Wimbelton was great to watch too. Andy Murray did well, and his time will come.
    B ye, going to look up Dorset buttons, very intriguing

  25. Monique U, 07 July, 2012

    Elaine, I would have answered “no” about the buttons but then I googled an image and to my surprise saw that they were just like the “woven” buttons my mother used to make. I had never heard their proper name. My Mum’s ancestry was French and Irish. Many economically displaced families from Ireland settled in “Acadia” (Northern New Brunswick, Canada) in the late 1800’s, Mum’s paternal grandfather, a Kerry from County Kerry, among them. I am guessing this Franco-Irish culture shared many or their traditional crafts: Mum was taught to spin, weave, knit, sew and embroider alongside all the traditional housekeeping skills required by rural home makers. Probably the button-weaving was just another domestic task in her childhood (1920’s). I recall seeing her make the buttons but am uncertain whether I actually made some myself! Unfortunately, Mum died relatively young so I cannot pick her brain about this… It was nice to find out the actual name of those buttons, though.

  26. Elaine Faulks, 09 July, 2012

    Monique You are very welcome, what an interesting ancestry you have.We spent a couple of summers in Dorset, a beautiful county with marvellous coastline. The jurassic coast is so interesting.
    We hunted for fossils and gem stones. The local women folk from times gone by had a cottage industry making these woven buttons and would exchange them with the travelling pedlars for ribbons and other sewing related items, especially pins, hence the expression pin-money.

    We visited a re-enactment of the English Civil War between the Roundheads (Parliments men) and the Cavaliers (Kings men) very exciting. In the grounds of the castle the women-folk had set up camp, were cooking soup pies, bread etc that would have been dished up to their menfolk at that time. Round the camp fires they were doing all manner of crafts. Spinnning, weaving etc. including making Dorst Buttons. Just had to buy a few as will make great fastnings for bracelets, necklaces etc. They say you could tell which village or hamlet a Dorset Button originated from by the design, as there are dozens of different ways to make these and each one has a quaint name.

    Sorry CINDY history lesson over. Now got to do some research on MERMAIDS did they really exist? Bet they would have loved some polymer clay beads to weave with shells for their jewelry……………………………….cheers xx…………………………………….

  27. Monique U, 09 July, 2012

    Elaine, hopefully those poor little mermaids live in MUCH WARMER waters than those found around either the UK or Atlantic Canada, or they would need to grow fur coats!

    Cindy, another pretty mica effect to practice is always welcome… Hint, hint…

  28. Lavedia Edwards, 09 July, 2012

    Hello Cindy,
    I love the new vedio that you posted this week. I would love to send you a picture of what I made. What should I do…

  29. Polymer Clay Tutor Doug Lietz, 09 July, 2012

    Hi Lavedia – Glad to hear you enjoyed the Mermaid Scales video. You can upload your project photos to the Members Gallery Page.

  30. Dixie Ann, 09 July, 2012

    Hi all, want to share another neat idea I had to help me display some
    of my jewelry ( necklaces in particular ) when I place them in places to sell. It was getting so expensive to buy the black velvet stand up displays so I decided to make them myself and it was really quite easy. I am posting photos on Cindys Facebook Beadsandbeading site so you can see what they look like and maybe decide to make some of them yourself. It took me about 2 hours to make each one and all you need is cardboad, some black felt, some heavy black matt satin, (or whatever you can find in the sale bin) double sided tape or adhesive spray or both, a couple of shank type black buttons some black ribbon and some thin cotton batting (optional).
    So I hope you enjoy this idea.

  31. Peggy Barnes, 10 July, 2012

    Well my husband and I took our youngest camping for the 4th of July celebration last week. I wasn’t quite the trooper Papa was. Justice our grandson brought his bike without training wheels and Papa ran beside him while he rode his bike, very well I might add. They did this on the 5th with the temps reaching 106. Temps were in the low 100’s all week and weekend Sunday dropping down to 90. They still fished, hiked and looked for Geodes along the Des Moines River. While I remained in an air conditioned camper giving my husband breaks while Justice and I did puzzles, painted, watched videos, and played several different games. Because of my Fibromyalgia and some of the medicines I am on heat and I do not mix at all. The sweat just runs down my face and back and before you know it I am sick to my stomach and down with a migraine.

    Now I know none of this has to do with Cindy’s wonderful tutorial but it is the reason I didn’t watch it until today. It was more than worth the wait because I love the mica shift technique and am even quite good at it. I am looking forward to making some mermaid tails. The only thing I wasn’t quite certain of and as soon as I finish here I will go look it up. Shouldn’t the tails be tuned the other way so the wide part is at the bottom? Or is it just me. Well off to look at mermaids and then to my studio to make some mermaid tails. :) Thanks again Cindy and Doug for an Awesome TUTE!!!!!!!.
    Sending many Uuuugggs to all. . I

  32. Natalie Herbin, 08 August, 2012

    hi Cindy
    I finally got to work on the mermaid scales….only problem is when I do the tear drop blend for the mica shift….the clay gets almost as wide as the pasta machines rollers..what am I doing wrong?
    Natalie Herbin aka safti

  33. Cindy Lietz, 08 August, 2012

    Hi Natalie,

    Going back to watch your Vol-009-3 Teardrop Blend and Vol-035-3 Lietz Teardrop Blend Shifts lessons again, will be helpful for you. In them I show how to keep your blends from getting too wide.

  34. Natalie Herbin, 09 August, 2012

    Hi Cindy
    I just made a few mermaid tails…… some for pendants and two for barrettes….my only problemis that I am having trouble using the blade to cut a thin sliver off the mermaid tail..how can I sharpen my blades or should I just buy new ones..I have been using the same ones since I started about two years ago..is there a safe and easy way to fix this problem without buy new ones every year or so.

  35. Jocelyn, 14 August, 2012

    Hi Natalie! Blades are the bane of my existence now that my hands are wonky. I used the search, and Cindy has a great blog on sharpening with lots of tips in the comments, hope it helps:

    I use a hand held gadget I picked up somewhere, and after a good clean and a couple of slides through I get much better results. Heard of folks who use fine sandpaper to buff the angle of the blade, to realign the little thingies of metal and that seems to help as well.

    A mistake with a blade can ruin your profit margin. Last year I looked at how much blades cost, and broke down and ordered a large amount of them at the Thomas Scientific site (tissue blades). I feel rich and protected now, lol. The unit cost is so much less if you buy in bulk.

    Any of you have any other blade rejuvenation secrets you’d share?

  36. Dixie Ann, 14 August, 2012

    I looked at the Thomas blades site and was really surprised at the cost of them.
    Luckily I found some for $2.00 each and have even sharpened them using a knife sharpener that resembles one of those long ring sizer tools. I used to watch my DH use one. The best way I found was with water and a sharpening stone. You have to be careful though and watch what you’re doing. You can only re-sharp them a few times, after that it’s better if you start with a new blade and throw the old one out. You also have to have the right kind of stone so if you want to go this route be sure and do some research or ask at your local hardware store. The older gents seem to have a wealth of knowledge.

  37. Jocelyn, 14 August, 2012

    Thanks, Dixie! Did some googling and found this one from Lindley blogging about sharpening and blades. Wow, custom curved blades? Wonder where you get those? I have to say, in the reading I did just now including an Aussie forum, it seems that most say start with a fresh blade.

  38. Dixie Ann, 14 August, 2012

    Thanks doll, she has an interesting blog. I actually use 2 blades Jocelyn. 1 just for slicing canes, and 1 for everything else. I paint nail polish on them to tell them apart. I just finished building a 3 tier workbench to my existing one and am so anxious to get back to some serious clay work. ;)

  39. Natalie Herbin, 09 August, 2012

    Forgot to mention that I only do the scales on one side since pin is going on the back…It makes a very unique barrette

  40. Dixie Ann, 14 August, 2012

    Natalie, your barettes and pendant sound really pretty. Hair accessories seem to be very popular right now. I wish you much success. Would love to see your stuff.

  41. Debbie Bogart, 18 April, 2021

    Hi! I just literally started doing Polymer Clay just two days ago and I’m actually wanting to practice doing flowy fish/Mermaid fins/ fabric, mainly just doing the folds and making it look decent. I am sticking to simpler shapes and that for now but I figured practicing some of the more advanced techniques like what I mentioned above with some scrap clay, would save me some time down the road. Any advice you have would be awesome! (I do have High functioning Autism so please no overly complicated terms, I tend to do better with simple explanations. It still drives my mom up the wall at times despite me being 32) anyways have a Great day and keep making awesome videos!

  42. Cindy Lietz, 20 April, 2021

    Hi Debbie welcome to the world of polymer clay! My Nephew has Autism so I fully understand. <3

    When learning a new skill it is always best to start at the beginning so you have a good foundation. When a child learns to write or draw they start by chewing on a crayon, then scribbling, then holding a pencil, then drawing funny people, then writing their name and maybe even one day becoming a talented writer or artist. They don't just start by writing essays and drawing masterpieces.

    I like that you're thinking of practicing your mermaid shapes with scrap clay! That is an excellent start. I would start by getting to know the clay. Marble a couple colors together and see how it turns out. Mold, twist, poke, roll, mark and play with the clay and get to understand how it behaves. Watch all the videos I have on conditioning, baking and finishing, so that you have a good foundation of skills before moving to the harder things.

    I have a Beginners Course that would help you if you're interested:

    Once you have successfully made a few pieces, there are lots more free and paid tutorials on this site that will build your skills even further.

    I hope that helps and have fun!

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