Kind of... I am not really very wise :) Back when I started sculpting realistic babies, in 1997, I had no idea there were others sculpting them too, mainly because the internet was NOT like we know it today... Having an e-mail address was a miracle ;) I was studying in the University of Glasgow and we were "aboard" a network called SuperJanet... I was a Unix user ;)
In 1999 the internet was more similar to what we know today, you could Google things or more precisely, you could "Alta Vista" things because Alta Vista and Lycos were the search engines I used back then and that's when, I think in 2000 or 2001, I saw other artists too. My first were Linda Webb and Eva Helland..and I remember thinking "I SOOO want to be like them... but no chance, I will NEVER be this good".
But here I am 11 years later.. It's very hard for me to gage how "good" I am and it's not a race anyway. I'm happy, people like my work, win-win.
But, I would be lying if I said I wasn't tormented by my own thoughts of not beeing good "enough". Actually, I still am... but you see, my fellow artist, this is a GOOD thing, because the moment you step back and say "Wow I am SO perfect" you are done growing... and when you are done growing, others will grow taller than you, and block out the stars... and personally I am aiming for the stars in a way... I just want to reach a point Madamme Tusseau's would hire me :) Or The Creature Shop... or George Lucas... or I would FINALLY replace that stupid preemie doll used in Grey's Anatomy... IT DOESN'T LOOK REAL, STOP IT!!! I can do better!! :) (ok off my soap box)
So back then you dared not ask questions. "How did you do that?" "What clay do you use" etc. Nobody would talk!! These days things are more relaxed, and you can get info, tutorials... back then I bought Rortrat's Schrott's book and I was impressed but... it really EXPLAIN things.. it just showed how she sculpted a doll... and of course it left me thirsty for more. But alas, relief was not to come, I was left alone to struggle with trial and error until I found my own way. I am not sure if this made me wise but here is what I have learned and I want to share :)
* Always pretend the piece you are working on is your BEST-PIECE-EVER!! give it all you've got and if you are tired, take a break, don't push it and got Pete's shake DON'T bake it tonight... just because you are antsy!!
* Money is not a good way to judge how good (or decide how bad) your work is! You will be amazed when you see what people spend THOUSANDS of dollars on these days. Just because a baby got a better price than yours or an artists sells for $3000 doesn't mean YOUR work is bad.
* Don't cut corners... smooth out right NOW, not at the end. Clean up NOW, not at the end... do it as you go along, because in the end, it will all come together!
* Don't bake for more time in a lower temperature!! This is not food! This is chemistry! A certain temperature must be reached for clay to polymerize... seriously!
* Cracks and moonies are part of the business.. and a note to collectors, if you are looking for "perfect" buy machine made... these are hand made pieces... made by imperfect people :) it's what makes them unique!!
* I still cross my fingers before placing a piece in the oven... Remember, you are not done until it makes it out of the oven... "alive".
* Always use reference photographs... always... seriously, I mean it!
* Don't be afraid to experiment!!
* It's ok to lower your price if it means you can use the money to buy more clay and try again... For a few years I was working in a regular 9-5 job and I sculpted. I used the money I made from the dolls I sold just to buy tools and clay, I made NO profit whatsoever, in fact my day job was supporting my sculpting.
* you don't need fancy tools or a fancy studio... I use maybe 6 tools and two of them are knitting needles!
* Study..every chance you get. It doesn't matter if you've been sculpting 10 minutes or 20 years...
* Don't give up. The ONLY way to become good is practice.. NOTHING else.
* Lastly, don't rush into producing your own vinyl yet... Be fair and critical, look around you. Spend the money to train more, do a class, buy more clay and practice more, take stock again in 6 months. And in all honesty (and this goes to me too!) having a kit out does not make you a successful artist. The opposite. A bad kit will tar your reputation because kits never look as good as the OOAKs and more people will see the vinyl not the OOAK and they will judge you based on that...
Just my two cents :) Take it or leave it... take it with a pinch of salt even... take some of it :) I wish someone had told me all this when I first started :)