Unless you’ve been living on a desert island without internet connection for the past twelve years, you must have heard about Cindy Lietz and her Polymer Clay Tutor project. Cindy is an accomplished polymer clay artist but she is much more than just that. She is a teacher, constant experimenter, a successful businesswoman and, above all, a constant source of inspiration for the international polymer clay community. We wanted to find out what is behind Cindy’s undying enthusiasm and creativity, so we asked her to share her ample experience and insights with our members.

You are very well-known in the polymer clay community. How would you introduce yourself and what you do to someone who is not familiar with your work?

Well that can be tricky, since most people don’t understand careers in the creative world and especially one in polymer clay. So usually with an older stranger I will just say, “Doug (my husband) and I have an online business teaching jewelry making.” If they ask more, I tell them it’s with a colored art clay called polymer clay. They often say, “You can make money at that?” I say, “Yes actually, but it’s a lot of work.” And the conversation either dies there or they start asking more questions. Older people often think it’s not “a real career” and that it would be impossible to make any money at it.

For younger strangers I say, “I am a YouTuber with a Polymer Clay Channel and we just got verified” They know what that means and usually pull out their phones and look us up on the spot!! They see we have over 100,000 followers and are sometimes impressed. Young people often think it would be cool to be a YouTuber, similar to being a celebrity. Many also think that you must be pretty famous and make lots of money as a YouTuber, which can be true but not for everyone and it’s way harder to do than they think. But in the claying world I just say, “Hi, I am Cindy Lietz, your Polymer Clay Tutor”. Most clayers have watched at least a couple of my videos on YouTube when they were beginning, so unless they don’t go online, or don’t speak English they will usually have heard of me. We’ve had a consistent presence in the polymer clay community since 2008 and although not considered one of the earliest polymer clay influencers like Donna Kato and Judith Skinner, we have been around for a very, very long time as far as online businesses go in this niche.

When and how did you get the idea for Polymer Clay Tutor?

From 1998 to 2008 I had been teaching night school craft classes in multiple mediums at over thirty locations. We had very young children and would work from home prepping craft kits for my classes during the day and teaching during the evenings. It worked out well because my husband Doug worked in sales for a television show and later an investment firm but had his office in the house. That meant he was always around and could take care of the kids when I left for the evening. We did that for ten years until a few things started changing.

Doug was laid off from his job - he was beginning to hate it anyway, so that was fine - and he wanted to start a business. The internet was growing, was becoming easier to do and people were moving away from taking classes at night school. Plus raising kids, prepping kits all day and teaching all over the city at night was getting exhausting. We needed something else.

We started a business called “Look What I Drawed!” Kid Art Company where I would take children’s original drawings and blow them up and create original acrylic paintings with their designs. It was a really cool concept. We sold a few paintings and participated in a couple of large community art projects, but it was an idea that never really took off like we wanted and needed it to, so we decided to focus on what had worked and went back to teaching, only this time we did it online.

When teaching crafts in person I had seen trends come and go. I taught paper making, punched tin, paper folding, painted wine glasses, broken china mosaic, painted ornaments, silverware door chimes, card making, what have you. But you could only teach some of the popular topics for a while, before people weren’t interested anymore and then you’d have to come up with something new. After building a website for the Kid Art Company, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy to “change topics” all the time. We needed a craft that had been around forever and wouldn’t go away any time soon. So, we picked Beads and Beading as a company name and started with polymer clay bead making tutorials for beginners.

I don’t remember the year exactly when we realized that we weren’t really about beads and beading. What we really were was a tutor for people wanting to learn everything they could about polymer clay. A polymer clay tutor - so we started calling ourselves that. Our url on our website still says Beads and Beading but we are currently in the process of re-building our website. It will soon become Polymer Clay Tutor, which should clear up any confusion.

How did you start working with polymer clay? Are you self-taught or did you attend a lot of classes?

Back when I was teaching classes, around 1997 I think, I watched The Carol Duvall Show. It was a long running TV series all about crafts, every kind of craft. One day she had a guest - Donna Kato - and she made this thing called a cane out of polymer clay! I had a couple of blocks of Fimo lying around that I had never really done much with. After seeing her make that cane, I pulled my clay out and made a simple cane and some cane slice beads. I was quite pleased with myself and used the beads in one of my Silverware Door Chime class kits.