Monday, April 3, 2017

Interview with Aniko of Mandarin Duck

Hi everyone, today we have an interview with Aniko from Mandarin Duck!!!

Tigers Love Journal by Aniko

If you have never seen her tutorials, her work is brilliantly colorful and incredibly detailed and charming. If you love polymer clay you must see her work! Here are her tutorials

I love your accents, you go from Eastern European to very British also. Where are you from?
I AM FROM LATVIA originally , but now I live in UK. By Nationality I am Russian. So kinda a big mix :)
Could you tell everyone what it was that inspired you to start creating if you would please?
I was always an artist in my soul. But what inspired me to make the things I make now? It was a trip to Spain, to a small town called Mataro ( a district in Barcelona). I have never been in such lovely and peaceful place and in my head I had a dream ( while passing by one of the small streets), that it would be so amazing to have a small artist shop on such a small silent street and sell small gifts and pretty stuff made from whatever I could find on the beach, like shells, driftwood or seaside glass. It was over 9 years ago and this dream has evolved into something completely different, but this one moment in Spain was a first push. Before that I  studied architecture and Interior design, didn’t like what I was doing for living and didn’t know where I wanted to go. Recession in my country made me loose my job and after graduation I had to move with my partner to London, UK. Without being able to find a job there at first, I started making craft projects. Slowly during 7-8 years it turned into a professional craft business.
How long have you been designing and making polymer journals & jewelry?
I made my first journal 6 years ago :) Jewelry - 8 years.
I really enjoy how nice your tutorials are. What software do you use to edit your tutorials, and how do you prefer to film your tutorials, like a video camera or a smartphone or iPad on a tripod?  Do you have a favorite tripod that makes filming yourself easier? 
I film my tutorial with a professional camera Canon 550D. I edit in Final Cut Pro. I don’t have a good tripod, the one I use is crap. I would love to invest into a good one, but still haven’t done it. 

Now that you are selling your creations, which ones are your best sellers, or most popular?
My best sellers are Owl journals, but I stopped making custom orders as well as I stopped making owl journals. Right now I am finishing my last 5 custom order journals and selling a lot of tools, supplies and materials for crafting, which nicely sustains my living. After custom orders are all dealt with, I will work on a collection of "Amazing Birds" journals. 
Have you tried other platforms outside of Etsy? How did you like them?
No I haven’t. No need.
Do you ever get a creative block?
Every one can have it, it’s just a normal part of an artist’s life.
How do you move past it?
I just rest and do things I love. Even if it means watching movies for a week in a row, going for walks, taking photos, searching for creative posts on Instagram on Pinterest. I have noticed, when the mind, heart, spirit is tired, it doesn’t want to create, no matter how many beautiful things you show it. So just rest and it will come back to you. Can’t be creative all the time. We are not Gods, right? :) 
How do you inspire yourself before designing a piece if you're not feeling it?
See the answer to the previous question. 
Before making a large piece, do you do detailed sketches? or just jump into the clay :)
Not detailed, more like a main composition, or sometimes a Photoshop montage. Detailed elements (even if I would sketch them) would still look different on clay, as I love to go with the flow more than make a sketch and then copy from it. Sometimes what is sketched on paper, doesn’t work on clay. SO... improvising is best for me. 

Here is one of her time lapse Journal making videos!!! So beautiful!!!

Is this your part time job? Or is this full time for you?
Full time now. 

If this is full time, how long did it take for you to be prepared to quit your old job to work for yourself?
8 years from the very start. I quit my job 2 years ago fully!
Or/ (if not working for yourself?) How do you find time to make tutorials and design jewelry when you work a full-time job?
When you work a full time job, it is not possible to have a full time craft business on the side. Crafts will be a weekend treat for you. Then you gradually transition to part time job and do more craft as a second part time. Then when the time for transition is right, you just drop your outside job and do the crafts full time. I tried to do it at first 4 years ago, but it never worked, as I wasn’t experienced enough , so I had to come back to part time job again ( as a fashion retoucher. Hated that job). Also sacrifices must be made. Time sacrifices or money. Sometimes you have to give more time to creativity but earn less. This is Okay as long as you are pushing hard to make your craft business a full time business. Then having less money doesn’t bother you too much, because you know that you are working towards a higher purpose, which will pay off in the long run financially and emotionally. But you need time, don’t rush it. Nobody becomes successful overnight, not in craft business anyway :)))))



I have a hard time figuring out how to price my super nice pieces that take days or weeks to make.  When your creating a piece like the Secret of DeathValley journal, that requires a lot of time, how do you arrive at a price for the item but keep it affordable?
I don’t really care anymore if it is affordable or not. But you also have to reach this stage in your career. I remember I was selling my journals for £20 and people were asking for a discount. And I gave it to them. I have even been told off by a senior artist friends for doing so. At the beginning of your career you are trying to establish sales so much, that you don’t care about money. But you should never undervalue yourself just to sell a product. With time I got lucky enough to see that people are ready to pay big amounts of money for your art, and no matter how much I raised the price, there always are clients who are ready to pay. But of course all that said, the quality of your work should constantly grow and improve as well. If you are on your first year of creation and you are putting crazy high prices, then you might get disappointed and have no sales. Be reasonable, compare your art to other fellow artists who sell similar stuff on Etsy or other shops, talk to older more experienced artists e.t.c  I even asked some of my older friends to take a look at my shop prices and my products and tell me if they think I should drop or raise the prices. The advice of an experienced friend is always very good thing. Also sales don’t come over night. First it can be 1 sale per 1-2 month. Then 1 sale per month. Then 2-3 per month. Then 20-30. It is a growing process. Accept it. DON’T STRESS about it. If you need money, get a part time job. And keep yourself focused. Even if you come home tired, still dedicate at least an hour a day to your craft business. With time you will see that it won’t be just crafting. There will be packaging, retouching, photography, accounting and many other functions. So if I am not in the mood for claying some day, there are still tons of things I can do to make my business grow even of 0.001% . Just as long as you do it every day!

MANDARIN SPARKLE MICA - cosmetic grade mica powders, 45 colours, sparkling, shimmery
mandarin-sparkle-mica-cosmetic-grade Mandarin Duck Brand

I find that my best items I have created I never sell, and end up being gifts for loved ones rather than going into my shop. I just can’t resist, I love seeing someones eyes light up when they open their gift lol.  Do you do the same? :^)
No I never do that. :) I don’t gift my art to anyone at all, for some reason. And my friends do order things from me and pay the full price out of respect and because they value my time. It is nice to make a little gift for a friend and of course it is nice to make something amazing and freely give it to someone you love. But you will never make any money like that. Decide what is more important. If you do business, then do business. If you do presents, then do presents. Just as well, you can always make a copy of the best work for your friend if they loved it so much, but also you need to live, eat and pay your rent. So how will you do that if you give away all your most valuable possessions? :) We're not saints, right? :))))

I have watched so many of your time lapse videos, I really love your tutorials.  Are you working on a new tutorial?
I have 4-5 tutorials filmed, but i am too busy right now to edit them. Maybe in Summer. 

And finally last but by no means least… what words of wisdom do you have for other budding sculptors/designers who wish they could make tutorials as polished as yours?
“ It doesn’t matter what you do in life, as long as you do it with love”.  This is my life moto and I follow it fully. I am a professional. I have a 17 years of Photoshop editing experience and 5 years in Final Cut. Also I have established a clean style of my videos.  I guess use good lighting, don’t do videos that are too boring, show only important part.  Speed up what can be sped up and cut out what is not essential. Comment over with a voice over ( it will make it personal and easy to follow), or if you can’t then at least do subtitles. Do them in English. If you can’t in English, learn it. :))) Been there, done it! :) 

All that said.. remember, I had a lot of help from fellow artist who guided me, and helped me. They didn’t spoon-feed me, but they did assist, suggest, express their oppinion, showed me some tricks I didn’t know and so on. On this journey we are never alone. There are always angels in the form of a friend, neighbour, mother or father who can come and advice us things. Be patient while on your creative journey. Every story of a successful person is always full of struggle. Every story without a struggle is a boring thing. So be prepared to struggle :) It’s actually cool :) Then when you look back you will say: I CLIMBED THIS MOUNTAIN!… It’s huge! And there is still so much more to climb... but I know I can do it, even if it will take all I have!!! Bring it on! :D Give me Everest to climb!! :D

Also, creativity is God’s gift. Not everyone is creative or crazily creative. So if you are, then you are special and you are gifted. Gifts are usually given to serve a purpose. Like a gifted doctor will get an education and go heal people ( he won’t use his skills to please himself), talented musician will graduate from Music academy and will dedicate his music to his audience, a taxi driver will never drive himself around for pleasure, but will drive passengers to where they need to go all of his life. Each profession is a service to others. So walk your artistic journey step by step as a service to others. What doctors do? They heal people. Art also heals people, their souls. Therefore we are obliged to make beautiful things for others to stare at in Awe, no matter if we get paid for it or not. It might be hard to do so, but we should. NO MATTER WHAT. Then everything else will add up. God is not blind :) And he loves you. That is why he gave you a gift of being able to make art. Cherish it, be grateful and work hard!

Thank you so much,
Love & Peace.

Aniko Kolesnikova (Mandarin Duck)
Sculptor & Story Teller
London, UK