How This S’porean Went From Chancing Upon A Packet Of Clay To Receiving A Commission From John Legend

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Not many of us are capable of becoming overnight sensations globally – especially if it’s for something positive. Yet, Jocelyn from AiClay managed to achieve just that.

Her miniature food sculptures recently hit the headlines for being featured on supermodel Chrissy Teigen’s social media.

The 15 miniature replicas of dishes from Teigen’s cookbook, Cravings, were a birthday surprise to Teigen from her husband John Legend.

Jocelyn describes the experience as “mind-blowing”, and says that it is “definitely a learning journey”.

“It was the biggest project I’ve taken on (took me 3.5 months to complete) and consisted mostly of dishes I haven’t created before.”

Snowballing Opportunities 

For Jocelyn, her interest in clay sculptures first began in university.

While on a university break, she was searching for things to do with her then-boyfriend (current-husband) and chanced upon a packet of clay.

“We made some random items such as a teddy bear figurine and a mini hotdog bun, and I posted some of it on my personal blog then.”

She adds, “somehow word got around and I started getting emails from friends, and then strangers to customise gifts. Things snowballed from there.”

To my surprise, Jocelyn was actually in the media industry prior to AiClay. With a degree in Communications and New Media, she worked in the media industry for a year before deciding to work full-time on AiClay.

She shares with me the reason for her choice, which I imagine ring true for many entrepreneurs:

“My main motivation for leaving was to gain full control over all aspects of my life, which seemed only possible if I worked on my own business.”

Doing What She Loves

When it comes to clay sculptures, there are many possibilities – after all, nothing is impossible in the hands of the artist. I was curious as to why Jocelyn only chose to do miniature food sculptures.

It turns out that just like me, Jocelyn is a foodie.

“Food is very much a big love of mine, as with most Singaporeans.”

“The concept of food miniaturisation was very interesting for me as not only was the small scale very adorable, it also meant we could preserve the image of food forever.”

Jocelyn adds: “Aesthetics of food is now gaining more importance in the recent years, especially with food photography and social media, and I was keen on capturing that in my works.”

Handling miniature objects can be extremely difficult, but Jocelyn manages to master it and adds intricate details into her work.  She says that for each project it can take from a few hours to a week, depending on the complexity of the sculpture.

I decide to probe and ask for Jocelyn’s favourite project. She says that she has many favourites, and then points out one her little gingerbread house.

“It was very fun to make the little decorations and decorate the little house with it.”

Overcoming Struggles

However, it’s not always cute and fun times for Jocelyn. She shares a few struggles that she goes through, even today.

“It can get quite lonely sometimes, as it’s mostly just me, my clay and my laptop.”

“I do love spending time with other people and so having little social activity can get quite difficult at times.”

Being a one woman show also means that Jocelyn is running all of the activities behind AiClay, which means that the business is heavily dependent on her own self-discipline and management of time.

Lastly, she tells me a that putting a price on your own artwork, time and effort, is also a big challenge – something I believe other artists in the industry can empathise with.

Even so, Jocelyn treasures the memorable experiences that she’s had so far because of AiClay.

“It’s been lovely to work with brands out there, like McCafe and Volkswagen, for their marketing campaigns.”

She tells me about a recent overseas project.

“I went to the Rilakkuma Cafe in Taipei a few months ago to take photos of the tiny miniature sculptures I was commissioned to create by the cafe, together with their real life menu items.”

She adds, “I’m very blessed to have such opportunities.”

 Getting To Know More People

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If you're a Zendesk employee, I'm extremely jealous of you. I had the pleasure of hosting a surprise workshop for a colleague's farewell at @Zendesk last Friday (thanks Michael!), and I was BLOWN AWAY by the very well stocked pantry (all kinds of chips, biscuits, noodles and breakfast cereals!). Keep swiping to see the photos of the office, but be prepared to feel very envious. 😂 Little wonder why @Zendesk was voted as one of the best technology offices to work in! They currently have job openings too, so if you're looking for a employer who takes care of your tummy, you know where! Studio workshops will be resuming in June/July, but I've definitely not been idling! My work schedule in May is already full, so come make bookings/orders for the following months. 💌: buzz@aiclay.com #aiclayworkshop #zendesk #corporateworkshop

A post shared by Jocelyn Teo (@aiclay) on

Currently, AiClay organises workshops for clay sculpting enthusiasts and artists alike. Jocelyn says that this move made sense to her financially, and also gave her the chance for more social interactions.

“In Singapore, people were more willing to pay for experiences, rather than the actual artworks. So workshops provided me with very much needed income, plus I got to meet many lovely individuals.”

She recalls one particular external workshop where she forgot to pack in some necessary materials, and only found out minutes before the workshop was due to start.

“It was a mad rush in bad traffic back to my studio and back, and thankfully the participants were very understanding.”

Since then, Jocelyn always makes sure to check and “doubly check” her luggage of materials and tools for all her external workshops. She admits that this is not easy – it’s a very long checklist that she has to go through.

Bits Of Knowledge

I’ve always been intrigued by such cute art, but I’ve yet to try my hand at clay sculpting. Jocelyn gives me a tip for when I decide to start.

“Translucency is a very essential detail for mimicking real life food items, and this is also very tricky to perfect for making miniature food items.”

Lastly, she shares with me something about herself that takes me back by surprise.

“I’m not sure about other miniaturists, but for myself, I enjoy the process of miniaturising food sculptures, but I’m definitely not a collector of the artworks.”

She brings up an anology to help me understand better: “There is a difference there, it’s similar to how a baker might not enjoy eating cakes.”

To find out more about AiClay, click here.