Anna lives in Gloucestershire, England where she is a student and loves art, music, crafts, animations and video games. She’s an animation student so most of the time she’s working on her films and projects. She makes charms to fill in bits of idle time along with playing some video games. Check out her store!
How long have you been making these tiny charms?
Not very long to be honest! I’ve always made random bits of sculpture from various types of clay over the years but I didn’t take it too seriously until I discovered how to make cold porcelain clay. It’s only been…about a year!
Why did you start?
I used to make loads of Chinese knots with thick rattail cord and wanted to make my own cute beads to decorate them so I started to sculpt them out of DAS air drying clay. Unfortunately, the clay was very difficult to work with and I couldn’t get a very smooth finish or very much detail. That’s when I went on to find a recipe for cold porcelain. The finish of the dried product is very smooth, the colours are very vibrant and I can make tiny TINY details. I was very happy to have discovered this clay but it had very elastic properties so my sculptures kept deforming when I wanted to put bead holes in them. That’s when I thought I could just turn the beads into charms and decorate my knots with charms instead. I make these for the sake of giving my friends and family some original gifts :)
What are the mini Japanese kokeshi dolls made of?
As mentioned before, they’re all made from cold porcelain. It’s not really porcelain, it’s actually a paste made from PVA glue, cornflour (or cornstarch in the US) and baby oil. There are various recipes on the Internet but sadly it’s not a very well known medium yet. I’m still relatively new to cold porcelain and it’s very rare to come across any tips or tutorials for using it on the Internet.
Where do you get your materials?
The ingredients for making the clay are very easy to get a hold of in your everyday supermarket. Other things like the glazes, paints and silver plated wire I get from specialist art shops or I look for good deals on Ebay.
Can you tell us a little of your process?
With the cold porcelain, you mix in small quantities of paint to add colour to it but this also makes the clay dry quicker so I always mix the colours when I need them. For the kokeshi I make the bodies first and mix up lots of different colours for that. When dry I mix up a bigger batch of beige clay, break them into smaller balls and push them onto the bodies. Making hairstyles is always the last stage :) I don’t normally work from designs – I just mix up what colours I like and play around with the clay. I don’t even think too much about the sizes either. I tend to have lots of incomplete kokeshi dolls at various stages and then add bits to them when I have the time.
How long does it take to make one?
I can’t give a very accurate answer for this because the drying time varies a lot and I rarely make a whole charm in one sitting! However, for custom orders I can’t complete them properly until after 5 days. This is to make sure the clay is completely dry and also for drying times between coats of varnish. Otherwise, the actual sculpting part only takes about 15 minutes (guestimate) and then a further 20 minutes on painting the details. Obviously the times change depending on the size of the charm and the amount of detail in the painting.
Do you have a dedicated work area/room?
Nah, here at [the university] I have a tiny little room as my entire living space and at home I still live with my family so there’s not a lot of spare space. I just work in the lounge or my bedroom most of the time.
Is it hard to work on something so small?
Luckily I was blessed with thin, tapered fingers which makes things a lot easier for me! I also play a few instruments which I hope are improving my finger dexterity! Oh, and my vision was 20-20 the last time I had my eyes checked which I assume helps too!
Is this your full-time job? Hobby? Fun?
For now it’s only a hobby. I enjoy making them and at the same time I make gifts I can give to my friends and family, sell to people to give to their own friends/family and to make a tiny bit of money on the Internet to fund this hobby further :) Chances are, it’ll always remain a hobby because I hope to work in video games in the future…
Where do you get your ideas for new charms?
I’m from an Asian background and I like a lot of Asian things so I end up getting inspired by those things too. I make whatever comes to my mind but I like making kokeshi dolls the most because I can choose different colours and paint different patterns on them. As a creative student I get ideas from all sorts of art and media – mainly from watching animations and playing video games!
Do you have a best seller?
Not really, I haven’t sold that much [or sculpted that much either] and all my charms are different so it’s not really possible. However, I did notice that the red/pink/purple coloured charms always go first…
Do you do other kinds of crafts?
All sorts! It’s not good to be creative because it costs so much but almost all types of craft interest me and I wish I could learn all of them! I like general arty things like drawing and painting and I dabble in some Chinese knotting too. Would baking cookies count?
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?
There’s a difference between what I HOPE to be doing in 5 years and what I expect! I hope I could be part of a creative team working on the latest video games or on an animated film. I hope I will have enough time to continue with my crafty hobbies too.
Have any advice for people trying to start their own handcrafted business?
Sorry, I’m not really turning my crafting hobby into a fully fledged business so I can’t say much. However, I’d say with all creative people they should be realistic but believe in what they do and have fun doing it :) Yeah, it’s not very helpful advice! Sorry again!