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23 February 2021

Creating a lead-crystal Dragonfish sculpture

Davia Walmsley, Daedalian Glass Studios’ Founder and Creative Director, discovered a slightly chipped and generally worse-for-wear, antique stone dragonfish sculpture ‘out in the wild’. Of course, her instinct was to save the piece of art by bringing it home and remaking it in cast lead-crystal glass!

The origin of this unique design

In Chinese mythology, there was a very tall waterfall cascading down from a mountain. This waterfall passed through a gate that was guarded by dragons, hence the name, Dragon’s Gate.

Koi Carp swam upstream against a strong river current and would reach this waterfall but would not be able to pass the Dragons Gate to reach the top of the waterfall. However, if any Koi were able to climb to the top of the waterfall then they would transform into a Dragon Koi. As with most mythical origin stories, there are numerous versions that are told but these are the core details that remain constant.

The image of a Koi leaping over the Dragon’s Gate symbolises accomplishment, perseverance, and courage against adversity.

Casting the Dragonfish scuplture

The first step in saving the sculpture was to create a copy in wax.  This material is extremely malleable and allowed Davia to rework, reshape, and generally touch-up the sculpture (as shown in the image above).  One task completed in this stage was to alter the shape of the tail and Davia felt that the curve wasn’t quite right on the original sculpture – sounds simple enough but it represents a good day’s worth of human labour to reshape, blend, then carve in new scales to match to original.

Once Davia was pleased with the wax casting, the next step was to make a copy in plaster.  This harder material cannot be remodeled as drastically but allows for finer details and smoother lines to be created so once more the casting was followed by many hours of human labour to get the mould just right.  This is a long process but making sure the design is as perfect as it can be at each step is really prudent in the long-run as the materials are becoming less malleable (making any alterations / corrections at a later stage much harder to achieve).

Once Davia was completely satisfied with the mould, she contacted her friend and fellow Glass Artist, Katya Filmus to lend a hand preparing master jacket moulds for glass casting.

Katya came and spend two days at our studios, working alongside our studio team to create these master moulds.  Again another lengthy process but the advantage of doing this is that the master moulds can be used in future to make new copies of the dragonfish, so none of the previous steps will need to be repeated.

After casting the lead-crystal glass (a crucial step of the process we will refrain from sharing images of) the final steps are to fettle and clean the design, then add a soft sandblasted surface finish.

Step 11 Dragonfish Sculpture
Using a hand-held drill to perfect the shape of each individual scale of the dragonfish post casting,
Completed Dragonfish Sculpture
A completed Dragonfish in cast lead-crystal glass. The culmination of weeks of labour to perfect.


If you wish to discuss a glass design project, please contact our team via email ( or phone (01253 702 531).