Hello! My name is Courtney Chapman, and I’m here to talk a little bit about how I got started with my clay business and offer some advice for anyone who is interested in starting their own small business with clay! I am a self taught sculptor. After watching a few sculpting tutorials on the internet when I was 8 years old, I asked my parents for polymer clay and they bought me a variety pack of Sculpey Clay. From then on until now, 12 years later, I sculpted every free chance I got, making trinkets and jewelry for friends and family.
Sculpting with polymer clay was my way to destress, I loved the feeling of clay in my hands and getting to create small recreations of images in my mind was incredibly gratifying. I loved making canes as well as any sort of miniature food items I could think of.
For many years, sculpting was just for fun– however, I was a very entrepreneurial child and I remember as young as 12 years old attempting to start up a small business to sell my sculptures. I had my parents open a shop online for me to sell through and attempted year after year to build my social media sculpting presence, posting pictures of my creations online. For a long time, my only customers were friends and my parents. There are a handful of social media accounts online that I have started and moved on from after failed attempts that still exist today.
I would try and rebrand my online presence every time I started a new account, moving from food sculpting to jewelry to figurines. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I found a bit of success with my business. I started sculpting small keychains inspired by Broadway musicals and advertised them to fans of theatre. Here, I garnered attention from these fans as well as the performers in the current Broadway shows at the time. I was then inspired to send free keychains and sculptures to multiple shows to spread the scope of my artwork around the community. Through this, I was able to start commissions, sculpting over twenty personalized keychains every single week for a few months.
Now, I have reached a higher level of success in my business to the point where I can make comfortable money sculpting what inspires me at a pace I can keep up with while being a full-time college student. Through social media advertising and perseverance, it is now a matter of expanding my ideas of what I can make with clay beyond jewelry while maintaining my business. I have recently started model making and figurine sculpting in an effort to continue to improve my clay skills while running a business.
My advice for anyone looking to turn their clay into a business is to always keep trying. I felt discouraged at times while trying to start up my business over the years, but the excitement I got from sculpting always kept me motivated enough to try just one more time, over and over. Also, always keep practicing your sculpting skills, as this is what will sell your items more than any advertising or subject. A way I stay excited to practice with clay is to give your practice sculpts away as gifts to people you care about: seeing the joy on their faces at receiving a handmade item will always keep your passion for creating alive.
What inspires you to sculpt? Please share what excites you about creating with Sculpey oven bake clays using #HowDoYouSculpey when you post your art to social media. I would love to see what you create, whether it's for your small business or your hobby work!