Meet Xin Man, an experimental artist, whose passion for arts & crafts have propelled her to turn a niche hobby into a thriving business. We’re putting her (and her tiny art works) under the microscope to find out just what it means to be a mover and shaker in the scene.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” You were most likely asked that question when you were way too young. And while most of us naturally looked towards the subjects we were ‘good’ at for the general direction, there were some others who had bigger dreams. These are the people we’re spotlighting in the community, good folks who fought against herd mentality to do what Frank Sinatra crooned about — life, their way. These entrepreneurs built their unique empires to what it is today, while also using YouTrip. We hope this series will inspire you to chase your passions boldly; to know that you, too, could turn a simple hobby into a profitable business if you’re willing to take that leap of faith!
First up, miniature art.
I first chanced upon the concept of miniature art in Ari Aster’s 2018 masterpiece Hereditary. The main character was a diorama artist who turned traumatic events of her life into tiny detailed reproductions as a form of catharsis. Yet miniatures far precede the 2000s, with proof of its existence dating way back before the early 16th century. Before it became a staple for sci-fi movie settings and tattoos, it was simply used in tiny photo-realistic paintings where they were described as “life-sized work in little” often kept in lockets or ‘covered portrait boxes’.
Intrigued? Well, so was Xin Man as a child. Imagine her glee when she found out that she could actually make these miniature art pieces herself — and made them she did, into everything and anything. In that vein, handxmade is essentially a unique product of Xin Man’s dabbles into the intricate art of sculpting miniatures, illustration, making stickers, and video editing. Due to her curiosity, she has dived into various mediums, such as polymer clay, and ended up with a wealth of knowledge that she enjoys sharing with others.
Journeying Into Miniature Crafts With Polymer Clay
Founded right after her graduation from polytechnic, handxmade was a product of Xin Man’s curiosity with polymer clay as a medium that she had discovered during her music and audio technology studies. This led her down the rabbit hole of research on YouTube, as well as experimentation to make the medium work to her advantage. Through trial and error, she figured out that polymer clay only hardened after baking. Thus, she made use of the malleability prior to baking to do all her sculpting before sealing it all in with the help of her oven.
Turning Art Into Business
“To be honest, I didn’t actually think about making art into a business — I just wanted to be able to sustain myself while I create.” That has always been, and remains, Xin Man’s main goal. Her passion for creating content fuels her, and being able to do it through art is “just cherry on the cake”.
She hopes that her miniatures and videos will be able to inspire others to explore and take the plunge too, creating something fun for themselves. She herself fell in love with the process of creating something, and therefore believes that many people will do so too.
Inspiring The Local Art Scene Through Her Work
Xin Man worked with the National Heritage Board for UNESCO to raise awareness for Singapore’s Hawker Culture by recreating a scene in this miniature hawker centre diorama. Done in collaboration with two other content creators, @aiclay & @msparkpark, the team made sure to use their individual specialisations to their advantage. While Xin Man focused on furniture and non-food miniatures, including but not limited to the cooking utensils, chairs, tables, plastic bags, @aiclay made the food replicas, and @msparkpark created the human figurines.
Yet dioramas aren’t all that Xin Man does. Of her varied collection of illustrative stickers, she singled out the band blob sticker pack as her favourite. Drawing inspiration from her years of playing the clarinet during secondary school and the alumni band, this pack was a tribute to her days in a concert band that also turned out to take up most of her formative years.
Hence, this project was a tick off her bucket list and a love letter to one of her passions. More importantly, it was a milestone for her. “Being able to illustrate anatomically correct musical instruments — I never would have thought it possible a few years back when my illustration skills were basically non-existent!”
Acquiring The Tools Of The Trade
While Xin Man attains most of the essentials for her miniature art, like polymer clay, in Singapore, there are times when she would have to expand her search overseas for more niche (and expensive) objects, such as pasta machines and glow-in-the-dark pigments, because they aren’t available locally.
That’s where she pulls out her YouTrip card, which she connects to PayPal, to seize significantly better exchange rates! As someone who dabbles in illustration, getting merchandise manufactured usually involves overseas transactions that could come up to US$200-300 per transaction. And when you’re a budding artist or entrepreneur, every cent counts.
“With YouTrip, I can knock up to five bucks off each purchase -— this adds to a significant amount over time!”
Patreon, Podia & YouTrip
Like all savvy content creators, Xin Man uses support-based membership platforms to sustain her miniature art brand. These platforms require subscriptions and all forms of support to be paid in USD — and so do her web store purchases, for ease of financial tracking.
“That’s where YouTrip’s wholesale exchange rates come in handy! Most of my patrons are actually in Singapore, so I’m very glad that I could introduce them to YouTrip and help them keep their processing fees as low as possible — whether that be supporting me on handxmadeFAM monthly, or purchasing from my webstore.”
To All Young Artists Chasing Their Dreams
“I used to tell people to just “YOLO! Try first, especially when you’re young! However, I’ve recognised the privileged position I was in — unless you have consistent monetary support, it’s going to be really tough to even get the business up and running.”
Xin Man’s 3 Tips To All Young Artists In Singapore:
- You don’t need to work on it full time to “make it work”. If you already have something done, create an Instagram or TikTok account and do your own marketing by sharing these Work-In-Progress projects!
- Connect with other local and international artists who can help to spread the word without you having to jump headfirst into financial perail.
- Once you have a decent following and a clear business direction, you can figure out if working on the business full time would make sense for you.
“You can take away something from every experience and decision you make — you just have to treat all successes and failures as learning opportunities.”
Support handxmade’s Miniature Art!
If you’d like to connect with Xin Man and find out more about her miniature art, find her on social media: Instagram, YouTube and TikTok! Remember to support her by checking out her support-based membership platform, handxmadeFAM.
As always, when you support Xin Man, don’t forget to check out with your YouTrip Card. If you still haven’t gotten your free YouTrip card, use our special promo code <BLOG5> to sign up and receive a free S$5 in your account!