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Take Your Skills to the Next Level

In this blog post, I will discuss the reasons why paid tutorials are more cost-effective for professionals than free ones. I will also share my journey of learning new skills from scratch without asking sensitive questions to professionals. Additionally, I will provide a list of my favorite artists who are the best in their respective fields and offer high-quality tutorials, classes, and knowledge for beginners as well as advanced learners.



As we soon welcome 2024, one of the best things you can do for your future is to commit 'learning new things' as a new year resolution.

Bright yellow polymer clay pendant
One of my pendant from my 'jewellery making' period

Spoiler alert! If you are seeking a quick and easy solution to succeed, that is wrapped in a protective bubble of pink, I regret to inform you that I am unable to provide that.


I strongly believe that the quality of our work depends on the effort and time we put into it. I'm that type of maker who, even when was working with polymer clay as a leisure activity, chose to invest countless hours in hand-polishing my jewelry, preferring this traditional method over the quicker alternatives of resin or acrylic finishes.



I'd like to create miniature replicas with great precision as well. My work is inspired by my background in working with antique artefacts and collectors. This approach is part of who I am and how I create. I pay attention to details, especially when it comes to the materials, size, shape, color, and so on, to ensure they are faithful to the original.

1:12 dollhouse stool
1:12 scale miniature replica of vintage wooden stool

Therefore, I do not use materials like resin or PLA, which are more and more common in the miniature world. I have a friend (Hello, Caroline! :) who creates amazing resin miniatures, and I admire her work. In fact, many people love and collect these kinds of miniatures.

But there is also a small group of collectors who appreciate the historical accuracy of miniatures.




Why I Buy Tutorials Instead of Making Them


After sharing my approach of setting high expectations for my work, you can probably tell that I see myself as a student of miniature making, not a master. You can also see the difference if you compare my work with the artists I look up to. That’s why I decline the occasional requests to make miniature tutorials. I doubt that my tutorials would add much value, since the internet is already flooded with mediocre tutorials.


But I do buy high quality tutorials to save time and money on researching the best quality materials, tools and knowing those tiny little secrets which makes the good even better. The really good results and smooth technique only come with practice, you can't buy those.


For me the tutorials are only guidance and I still have to figure out my own way of doing things.


Kiwi cane under process.
Buying a tutorial is a good base, then I work out the rest.

Copying techniques step by step has never given me the results I was looking for. Therefore, after I buy a tutorial or take a class I still make more versions with minor and major changes until I am satisfied with the results (a.k.a. practice).


1:12 scale kiwi slice
The final results after few weeks.


How A Paid Tutorial Saved Me Time and Money


Let me give you an example.

A tutorial I bought from Tanja Jensen helped me to fire my ceramic pieces successfully from the very first time - they came out of the kiln with no cracks on glaze or breaks. They were not perfect in shape, but that’s just something I need to practice more. The tutorial was a great investment, as it saved me much more money than I spent on it. If I don't buy that tutorial:

- I would definitely spend more on experimenting until I find the right clays for miniatures.

- I could spend more on a wheel and kiln or buy a less suitable option (these could easily go up to thousands of pounds to risk, so better to do the research properly).

- I'm sure I would buy some glazes too which are not recommended for miniatures.

- and of course the time I saved is invaluable, because I didn't need to search for at least this information on the web.

Dollhouse ceramic bowls, plates, vase and jug.
1:12 scale miniature ceramic



Building Skills From Zero


Regarding my pottery learning journey, that is my latest memory of being a beginner in something. I had no idea how to start. I had worked with ceramics decades ago on the other end of Europe, so my knowledge was really out of date. First, I collected information by watching videos of people throwing miniature pottery on the wheel. Although the videos were often repetitive (it’s sad how similar the “creative” content on social media can be) and rarely offered new or useful information, I occasionally found valuable insights.


I was part of a Facebook group where I remained a silent observer. I spent months reading every post and comments and learned a lot.


Even after watching the paid tutorial hundreds of times, I still had questions and had a very tough few weeks before I had the courage to turn the kiln on. I didn’t stop collecting information from more sources and watched those free videos every evening.


But this is the normal way of progress, there is no option of shortcuts.

Pottery waste
Failure is part of success.


Although I could have asked Tanja or any other maker on social media hundreds of questions about the type of kiln they use and the kind of glazes they prefer, I felt that it would be disrespectful to do so. They paid for their experience with their time and money, and if some of them are willing to share their knowledge in a paid tutorial, the least I can do is pay for it and not ask for information for free, wasting their time by replying to me. (I’d like to note here that I’m not sure if Tanja would even answer, as she’s the only one from the list below who hasn’t come back to me by the time this post has been published; however, I tried to reach her on more platforms in the last few weeks.)


Asking someone about their making process can be a sensitive topic anyway. If someone doesn’t want to share their process, they have every right to keep their making details as a secret.


And we all have secrets.



The Lone Wolf, The Padavan & The Narcissist


I want to clarify that my attitude is not due to an unwillingness to assist others. I always try to answer questions. I also created a “Tips for Makers” section in my Facebook group where I collect every useful post to help makers get knowledge more easily.


However, I found there are three types of people when we talk about 'questions for makers':


1. The Lone Wolf - These are people who, like me, never ask for help or when they do, they pay for the information.


I prefer to do the research myself because I want to double check everything and I don't want to disturb others with my questions. When I can’t find the answer or want to reduce the searching period, I buy high-quality tutorials or pay for classes.

Pros:

  • While doing research, we come across additional information that we didn’t expect. This method results in more knowledge in total than the other two types.

  • We don’t put anyone in an awkward situation by asking something that they may not be comfortable sharing.

  • We don’t waste others’ time.

Cons:

  • Slowest way of success

  • We don't educate others by our questions.

  • We make very few friends or none, and the professional community will know we exist much later because we are hardly visible.

  • We have to fight ourselves through lots of clutter in the research period.


2. The Padavan - These are people who want to learn and have the courage to ask, but don’t push it too far and are grateful for every reply.


Even when replies generate more questions, they stop asking and use answers as a base only to do further research themselves because they respect others’ time and they know there are benefits in finding their own way anyway.


Pros:

  • They find answers quicker.

  • They make more friends on their learning journey than the other two types by being the most useful members of the community.

  • Their questions educate others (usually Lone Wolves, who are collecting their knowledge only by watching these conversations and other Padavans).

  • Even though a Lone Wolf can gain more knowledge, Padavans are more efficient and successful because they have professional contacts at the end of their learning journey, and there is a very tiny group of people who can see the difference between the knowledge of Padavans and Lone Wolves.

Cons:

  • They can run into sensitive questions when they ask someone about their making process. However, they are able to accept and understand the "no" as a reply, so this is not a huge problem.

(I would like to be a Padavan, but unfortunately my personality will never let me.)


3. The Narcissist - These are people who want to learn but put in the least possible effort and think that everybody on social media exists for only one reason: to reply to their questions.


They don’t waste their precious time looking for information; they will ask literally everything. When I made the ‘Tips for Makers’ section in my food group, I wanted to save time for those who want to learn by keeping the useful information in one pack. It’s true that we have many posts there, but at least every single post has information and is still easier to search through. The Narcissist won’t read these posts.

Here is another sample of Narcissist: one artist makes very detailed tutorial videos on YouTube, and all of them are free. For beginners who need a very informative video about every tool and every movement, her long videos are priceless. However, she received feedback that her video is too long and she should make! a shorter version because the Narcissist doesn’t have one and a half hours to watch it.


Pros:

  • None

Cons:

  • They can’t ask properly, which is why they can’t collect knowledge efficiently. A broad reply for their broad question is not enough for them, however when they get a detailed answer, they don’t have the basic knowledge to understand and they ask even more.

  • They will run into sensitive questions, and they will usually feel hurt if someone doesn’t want to share their making process with them.

  • They are the most visible in the community but won’t make friends because they don’t respect others time and effort.



There Is No Stupid Question. However,...


We can mystify this, but I see in different groups or forums that they are trying to highlight their beginner pack to avoid the ‘How to start…’ questions.

Many people ask this every day instead of scrolling down a little bit or checking if there is any menu point or section for them. The ‘What is your best advice if I want to start making miniatures?’ or ‘What are the best tools to start?’ are broad questions that generate broad answers.


I usually tell everyone to start watching miniature making videos on YouTube and build a base of knowledge. I believe this is the best method because, in my experience, for beginners, it’s not worth giving a detailed reply because they won’t understand without background knowledge. Most of the time, they find my advice offensive, and the better scenario is when they leave without a single like. In this case, my problem is not the question but the reaction to my answer.


For those who usually ask questions like these, I’d like to ask you to do three things if you respect your community:

1. Check if they have any information pack for you, and

3. Write your question in Google or in the group's/forum's search bar. Probably hundreds of people asked the same.

2. If anyone respects you by giving an answer, no matter if you like it or not, say ‘Thank you.'


The problem with detailed answers for beginners is that no matter how hard you try, your reply will generate more questions.


"Q: - What are the tools I need to start?
A: - Blades, point tools, needles, different type of paints...
Q: - I have blades from my previous hobby, is that good? I have lots of paint, but what is a point tool exactly? Do I really need them? Can I buy a blade first and then the point tool later because my budget is very limited? Oh, and which brand would you recommend keeping in mind I have low budget? Do you have any list of these tools that I could use and tick it, so I don’t have to write it down one by one because I have very limited time for this?"

It is important to have a basic understanding of the topic we are seeking help with before asking questions from communities. The basic knowledge of the topic will help us ask clear and concise questions, which, in turn, will help us to get a more accurate and helpful response.


No matter how helpful you think you are, we all have a personal limit of questions. Personally, I tolerate three questions, and then I think that the questioner has enough information to continue their research on Google. I know it seems harsh, but that’s the case.


conversation from FB.
Pauline is a Padavan, only the first question is hers.

Why do I think this is important to talk about? Because the world has changed. We all collect our knowledge online, but nobody has taught us how to do it. We don’t have clear rules like we did in a real library, where the source of knowledge were the books. We don’t have a protocol to use the web as a source. ‘Learn how to learn’ wasn’t explained in the online world. It’s time to take this seriously because knowledge and sharing knowledge are the most important parts of the development of humanity. We should learn to collect knowledge by respecting the time of those who are willing to spread it.


Most of the free tutorials on YouTube offer a summary of the process and leave out the tiny details that make a huge difference in the end result. Especially short videos on TikTok, Instagram, etc. they are often created to bring traffic to their makers, rather than to spread real knowledge. That’s why free tutorials are good for getting started, but they may not be enough for professionals.


Here is an easy sample of what I mean under tiny details which makes a huge difference:

- Free tutorials/replies for questions on social media will tell you to use brown pastel to make a cake.

- A paid tutorial however will tell you to use Schmincke 32M as a base and then slightly Schminke 33H on edges, then...and so on.

Schmincke soft pastels
My secret weapon

As long as you are happy with the first reply, and it gives you new information, you don't need paid tutorials.


Building a strong base is possible from Google and free YouTube tutorials. Then when YouTube, blogs, articles (a.k.a. free knowledge) can’t teach you anything new, you can seek advice from others. And the best way to do this is to…




...Invest in Quality Tutorials to Improve Your Skills


By investing in quality tutorials, you can gain access to expert knowledge and real master tips that can help you take your skills to the next level. You can learn secrets that artists wouldn’t tell in public.


I want to introduce you to some of the masters that I look up to and learn from. They are my inspiration and my role models. Luckily most of them share their knowledge, and others can inspire you with their amazing work. The first two websites are basic for those who are new in polymer clay. The 90%! of thechnical or material related questions I get from beginners are explained perfectly on those two.


I am proud to have some artists from this list as our customers. If you follow them on social media or take their courses, you may come across PAC-PEN related posts and content. They are very creative people, and they may inspire you to use your PAC-PEN tools in new ways.




My List of Influential Artists

This list covers many aspects of art, however it is not comprehensive.




Polymer Clay As ART

(if you make miniature food, they are all "must" for you too)


Cynthia Tinapple - Polymer Clay Daily - She is a polymer clay artist, curator, and pioneer with decades of experience in the field. Her blog offers a wealth of tutorials and insights on polymer clay art.

I personally learned many technical tricks from her. Her decades of knowledge and expertise are invaluable.



Ginger Davis Allman - The Blue Bottle Tree - Ginger Davis Allman has a strong background in science, but her heart belongs to helping others understand how to use polymer clay as an art medium. She uses her experimental and observational skills along with her skills as a writer and teacher to help the polymer clay community understand the more technical side of creating with polymer clay.

This website is my go-to source for reliable and precise information about materials, because it has a scientific approach. Material knowledge is essential for our work, and I value that this website offers that.



Lindly Haunani - She's an artist, author and workshop leader with a vibrant style and extensive experience in polymer clay. Her name and work are well-known to those who work with polymer clay. My Pinterest 'jewellery album' is brimming with work inspired or made by her. It’s hard to find a jewellery maker who isn’t influenced by her work.




Fiona Able-Smith - PolyOriginals - She is the master of kaleidoscope cane (too) and a “must-follow and admire” for anyone who works with polymer clay, regardless of how often they make cane - but even miniature food makers meet with cane time to time. She makes detailed tutorials, so it can be very beneficial to everyone working with polymer clay. Her pieces are ART in capital letters. If you work with polymer clay, you must know her work. It’s that simple!







My 1:12 Scale Legends


Miniature Period Furnitures and Historical Objects:

William R Robertson - For me he is Leonardo Da Vinci in scaled miniature. My goal is to be like him in my work one day. I share his passion for historical objects and I wish I could be just half as good after decades of work as he is now. He makes every detail historically correct and has a passion for historical research like I do.


Miniature Silversmithing:

Mike Sparrow's miniature silverware is amazing in its accuracy and detail, crafted just like the real ones. He is one of those artists who inspire me to improve my skills and shows a level of perfection I'd like to reach one day. If you love miniatures, you will be thrilled to see his work. He is one of the winners of the Perfection in Miniature Award 2022.

I feel fortunate to own some of his exquisite creations, which are the pride of my collection.



Craig Labenz - Another artist I admire the most in the miniature world. I share his passion for period furniture and just love how carefully he chooses the materials and his attention to technical details amazes me. Those who live in the US are fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from him. All of my fingers are crossed that one day he will offer online classes too.







Miniature Flowers and Plants:

Yukari Miyazaki's miniature flowers are absolutely stunning and lifelike. The best part is that her tutorials are available in many forms, making it easy to learn the techniques from an absolute expert and create your own beautiful flowers.



Miniature Food:

Tanja Jensen - SugarCharmShop - I found her video tutorials are the best for advanced learners who want to take their skills to a higher level. I appreciate that she works exclusively with top-quality materials which is essential when striving for the best possible results. I bought many of her video tutorials in the past few years and all of them are worth every penny. Her free food tutorials may still be available on YouTube for beginners.





My list is meant to inspire you and your work. I want to clarify that I am not sponsored by any of them and I did not receive anything for promoting their courses or channels, few of these artists didn't even know that I exist. I am a fan of these people on social media for years and I have gained a lot of knowledge from them.


I encourage you to try new things and learn from others, as it will enrich your life and your art. Remember, self-education is the best way to invest in ourselves and our future.


I am grateful for your presence and I wish you a joyous holiday season and a relaxing break after a hopefully busy end of the year!


Happy new year and see you in a bright 2024!




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