When Anna Melnikova found her passion for polymer clay, she played with this material in her free times, as something that made her happy to create from. Since that, sculpting from polymer clay began her profession and also the main income for living. Anna sells her artwork, runs own Patreon site and inspires her followers on social media under own brand Panterius.
We talked with Anna about many interesting topics that might be helpful for you if you think about becoming a professional polymer clay artist. Enjoy the interview!
How many hours does it take to create one sculpture on average? I create toys and sculptures, for example creating a toy takes approximately 16 days. If I make sculptures, it can take a very long time. From 1 month to half a year. It all depends on the complexity of the order.
You also accept commissions. However, you temporarily suspended this option. How long is your customer list and how long is the waiting time?
I started taking orders on the Patreon website. There are special tiers for those who want to order toys. These toys can be paid for in parts. It is easier for the customer to pay a little bit each month and then get what he/she wanted. I have a 5 month wait and a 7 month wait. I take orders for figurines when I am free from a previous order. This also happens in different ways. I try to get a queue of 2 - 3 people. But very often these people change their minds or they have no money at the time of their turn. So when a person supports me on Patreon, I already know that he will not leave and wait for me to be free and take his order.
What options people have when commissioning? Can they choose just a colour, a type of character, or is there something more in it? For example, a character or a story hidden behind a piece?
I set myself the task of doing what the client wants. We talk about absolutely all the details at the start of the order. It is very important that it was not plagiarized or forbidden video games films or cartoons on which you can't make sculptures. In a word, I would not violate copyrights. If in the process of work the client wants to change something and I can do it, it will be an additional payment because at the beginning of the order was another contract.
Do you remember the character that gave you a hard time to create? Whether it was its design or the creating itself?
At the moment I have a sculpture that I've been working on for a year and a half. I am constantly fixing or changing something in it. And I try to take a break from it so when I'm back to it again I can see my mistakes and correct them. I try to make it perfect, so I spend a lot of time on it. This is a character from the pc-game World of Warcraft. It's a worgen (werewolf) in armor. With very intricate detailing. This is probably my most complex project.
Is there a subgroup, apart from the polymer community as such, that is interested in making fantasy characters and where members can inspire each other?
There are quite a few such groups. For example, we have a chat room with other masters who do very different crafts and we share our experiences and help each other to grow faster. If there is a new material, we discuss it immediately and everyone shares their experiences. This speeds up the development process and helps save a lot of money.
Do you have a favourite author who inspires you?
Of course there are so many masters who can inspire me. But my favorite is Ellen Jewett. Seeing her work really energizes me and makes me want to create more!
Do you also teach polymer workshops?
Yes, I shoot video of the processes and tutorials of my orders. And I share my experience on the Patreon website. There I can be asked any question I am even ready to help in creating a sculpture or toy. It takes a very long time, but I see that it is interesting to many. There are not so many good quality lessons and teaching on the internet. And I want to show how to do this or that in the right way. So that later the master does not redo his mistakes.
How would you introduce this online platform to those who have not heard of it yet?
If you want to teach and share your experience, I think this is the best platform. There you can set up what services you offer. You can just share photos, write articles, tutorials, record video lessons. It is also possible to help another master implement his project (if for example the master has little experience). You can conduct surveys like: What would your patrons like to see? For example, a specific lesson or they would like to know something about a new material.
For me, this is the best platform in terms of learning and helping newbies. Also, you can talk to everyone in discord and have a nice time. It's new acquaintances and opportunities!
How much does Patreon help you do what you love in your life?
Thanks to Patreon, I bought a lot of equipment that I couldn't afford. I bought myself lamps, a camera, a compressor, lenses, a removable disk, materials and many tools. It has helped me a lot in my development.
Where can people buy your art?
They can contact me personally or buy in an Etsy store.
Do you make anything else from polymer than these original characters?
Sometimes I also make trinkets, pendants, brooches and earrings. But it's pretty rare. Mostly I make orders. Unfortunately it is difficult for me to implement my own ideas. I get inspiration from computer video games.
You often create various structures and materials. Which material do you think is the most difficult to imitate?
You can learn how to imitate stone or bark over time. It takes a lot of practice. For me, a perfectly flat surface is still a challenge. Smooth and without dimples. For some reason this remains the biggest challenge for me.
Do you think there is still a space to improve your work? What would you do to achieve it?
There's always room to grow. There's something new every day. New technologies, materials, types of directions. I definitely have something to strive for and develop. As experience has shown, I need a lot of practice. And then there will be progress. My plans are to study 3D modeling. I believe that this is the future. And sooner or later we will all come to it. But I do not plan to give up hand modeling. Because I really like to feel the material and work with it.
Does anyone help you, for example, with photographing your sculptures, or do you manage everything related to marketing and promotion yourself?
My husband helps me. He takes photos and retouches them. He also translates my texts into English. Unfortunately, my language skills are very poor. I do everything else on my own. And I want to say that it is very difficult. So I am starting to look for help so I do not have to think at least for social networking or video editing.
Thank you so much for a lovely interview Anna!