I've always sculpted as a hobby and am completely self taught. In April of 2010 I decided I wanted to finally try my hand at selling my work. I started posting things on etsy and DA and veeery slowly people started noticing. My first couple of years relied heavily on commission work.
How are you so popular? I just started making sculptures to but nobody notices or buys them?
It took well over two years before I was actually getting fulltime work with decent pay. It took a TON of hard work. I sold my work for far less than I should have, because I needed customers. I also did a few shows, to get some exposure by handing out business cards. I made things as often as I could, posted often, and made sure it was very clear I was open for commissions. I posted links on everything. You have to make it easy for people to find the info they need! I posted mainly on etsy and DA, then made a fanpage on facebook very late in the game. Probably should have made that a lot earlier. Fanpages are great, because EVERYone is on facebook. You should also try other social media outlets like twitter, instagram, tumblr, and forums that are relevant to what you make. The more you post, the more people will see and remember you. Above all, be PATIENT and be original. Nobody gets popular overnight. It does take a lot of effort on your part. You have to be your own advertiser. Don't just expect people to find you if you don't try your best to get things in front of them. And if you are just rehashing something that is already out there, it needs to have your own unique flair to it, or people will just look elsewhere for more seasoned makers of the same thing. Put as much of yourself into your work as you can, and it will shine through and make your work really stand out!
I need exposure, will you please share my work on your page?
I get this request a lot, and it makes me kind of crazy. I don't like being begged for shares. I very rarely share other artists's work. If I personally find it and think it is awesome, I will share it on my own. If you want me to check out your work, give a little feedback, that is fine. It might take a while to get to, but PLEASE do not ask me to share your page.
I want to ship my sculptures but I'm afraid they will break. How do you pack yours?
I use cotton balls or tissue paper first to get into all the little nooks and crannies and support particularly breakable bits like wings and horns. Then I wrap it in bubble wrap and put that in a tiny gift box. Then I put that tiny box in a bigger box with at least an inch clearance around the little box, and pack that with newspaper. This lets the little box "float" and be cushioned by the newspaper. I have very rarely had anything break this way. And when they have, it was because I OVERpacked them. Don't use too much cotton or tissue as it can put too much pressure on some spots and actually snap them off!
What are your sculptures made of?
It's called Premo Sculpey. It is just my preferred brand of Sculpey. It is an oven bake, polymer clay. You can bake your pieces right in your home oven, so you really don't need any big expensive equipment! You can pick up Sculpey at most arts and craft stores. I get mine at Michaels and Joanns. I don't buy online so unfortunately I can't recommend any sites.
Why Premo Sculpey? Isn't it more expensive than normal Sculpey III?
It does cost more, but I usually stock up when there are sales. It is much stronger than regular Sculpey, and has a firmer consistency. Normal Sculpey tends to be too soft most of the time and really likes to hold fingerprints.
What about Super Sculpey?
I use that too on occasion. It is the strongest Sculpey, but only comes in that ugly beige color. I prefer to work with colored clays whenever possible. I only use Super Sculpey when I really need the extra strength on a delicate sculpture.
Ok, so why colored clay? Why not use the strongest clay and just paint it?
I used to do just that! But I found that painting can be extremely time-consuming, leave brush lines, and is never quite as vibrant as the colored clays.
Do you ever use paint then? What kind?
I do paint details on. Tiny details that would be just insane to try to do with clay I prefer to paint on. For instance, my ponies hooves and cutie marks are all painted. I use your basic craft acrylic paints. Ceramacoat and Americana are my preferred brands.
Where do you get your gems and beads?
I get most everything at my local beadshop, and some things at Michaels. The crystals are Swarovski and can be baked right into the clay.
Do you bake everything into the clay directly? Like the D20 dice?
I prefer to use things I can bake right in. So no acrylic gems or beads, they get pretty melty. You want to use glass beads, and swarovski crystals. The D20s don't melt in the oven because the temperature is low enough. They do get a tiny bit matte looking though, so I will usually put some glaze on them after.
How do you blend the parts together so well on your sculptures, like the neck to the head?
My sculptures usually start as a head and neck/body in one piece. Then I attach the limbs to the body, and blend them gently with my fingers. I have never liked connecting a head separately. It's lame and I like my way better!
How do you keep finger prints from showing on your work?
This simply comes down to practice, knowing how and where to hold the sculpture, as well as clay consistency. If the clay is too soft you will be fighting fingerprints the entire time, and have a terrible sculpting experience. Most Premo has excellent consistency, which is why I recommend it to people with fingerprint troubles. Super Sculpey is even better, but it only comes in beige so you have to paint it.
How do you keep white clay so clean?
Throughout your sculpting, wash your hands a LOT. Seriously, every 5-10 minutes is best. Then when you are completely finished sculpting, you can apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to problem areas. It helps pick up lint and can even help smooth out fingerprints. Use a q-tip to apply it, but work very quickly. Too much and the alcohol will actually start to eat the clay! It also makes the clay completely unworkable, which is why you only do this after you are completely finished sculpting. I ruined several sculptures with this method until I got the hang of it, so try it on some simple sculpts until you get a feel for how the alcohol works.
I've also heard some people use simple scotch tape to pick up lint! I've yet to try it myself but it's worth a shot if you don't have rubbing alcohol on hand.
Do you ever use gloves?
I've tried a few times, but really they drive me crazy, so no.
What tools do you use?
Mostly my fingers actually. They are my best tools! Otherwise, an exacto knife, something to roll out sheets of clay, and a couple random tools I've picked up over the years. I've used the ends of paintbrushes, butter knives, pins, sewing needles, toothpicks… really you just need to try a few different tools to find what works for you!
Do your sculptures have an inner structure? An armature?
Yes. Most do have a foil armature. Mine are small enough that the foil is sufficient support. I do use wire on some parts, but in general, plain old aluminum foil works great!
Your dragons are so shiny…what glaze do you use?
It's Varathanes water-based polyurethane. You can find it at any home depot. It's normally used for wood floors I believe, but it is fantastic for polymer clay.
Will you make me a Toothless???
No. I get asked this A LOT. I'm flattered everyone finds him so adorable, but he was just made as a gift. I do not plan to make anymore. Ever.
I hear you don't make anything copyrighted anymore. Why?
Well, because I respect the word "copyrighted". I certainly don't appreciate people copying me, so what gives me the right to copy others? Just because a character is crazy popular doesn't mean you should profit off of it. It wasn't your idea. Many think that because big companies generally just let it slide, and we are just "small potatos" to them it is ok. But I don't believe it is. I used to make "fanart" for profit and always ALWAYS felt wrong about it, so I stopped. I am so much happier now and proud of making my own designs.
How does one go about commissioning you?
Sorry, but I no longer take commissions. There were simply too many requests to sift through, and it really stressed me out. I am much happier working on my own ideas and selling those. I am always open to suggestions though, so if you have an awesome idea and share it, it might get made eventually!
So then do you have a pricing guide for when you do sell stuff?
I did make a video tutorial of one of my dragons: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vCiPn… I'll make more in the future when I have some time.
Can you at least tell me how you make the curly pony hair?
There really isn't much of a trick to it... I roll out tiny strips, grab either end and twist gently. Then stick them on one by one. My first ponies didn't have perfect hair. It really just comes with practice!
But how do you make the hair stick? Glue? Mine always fall off!
Unless your clay is too hard, the clay should stick to itself just fine. I never use glue.