The recent Maker’s Faire in June 2016 may be over, but my memory of the awesome works by many local DIY makers held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design never left my mind. Had I not trotted up the stairway, I would not have encountered that day’s most amazing find – miniJon.
Nope, it’s not the world’s tiniest man.
I’m referring to the works of Jonathan Seetoh, an approachable and friendly first-year multimedia and animation student from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, who has done a fine job in making the world a much, MUCH smaller place.
I almost missed his booth of tiny wonders had I not change my mind to pause my steps and inch closer with a curious, hard look. Displayed was a tiny cottage-themed kitchen containing doll-size utensils and equipment that would make little girls coo over, and realistic food miniatures that almost transformed me into a hungry Gulliver. Each piece is a testament to the hours of meticulous craftsmanship dedicated to the smallest of details.
The self-taught sculptor recalled his much earlier days when he first experimented with air-dry clay to create fun-looking figurines. One fine day, finding himself tethered to boredom, the young student reached for his gadget and browsed online for clay inspiration. His eyes widened when he chanced upon miniature making with polymer clay on YouTube videos. Curiosity and excitement soon converted into passion, and has now evolved into a thriving part-time business.
Regular practice in his new found hobby made him an intermediate expert within a year. By then, Jonathan was making many kinds of mouth-watering pieces – avocados (his favourite and very first realistic polymer clay food creation), waffles, ice-creams, fruits, cakes – just to name a few. So impressed were his schoolmates that they suggested that he sell his miniatures. Thus, miniJon was born in 2013 on Etsy and Instagram, selling cute miniatures in the form of wearable jewellery, appealing to both children and adults.
Raised in a traditional home where the typical ambition to pursue white collar professions is encouraged, Jonathan found his love for the arts instead at a kindergarten age. His dive into his clay business at first received quizzical looks of concern from his hesitant parents who insisted that pursuing the crafts should never extend beyond the hobby line. Eventually, they relented and supported his decision to chase after his artistic passion after seeing the results of his hard work. When asked if it is his wish that miniJon would one day be a full-time commitment, Jonathan’s surprising answer was a firm no. Not because he does not have faith in it, but rather his current Polytechnic course would one day fulfil his other dream of blossoming him into a full-fledged graphic designer. “Handmade clay sculpting is not as easy as it seems. Your hands get tired and dry, and after those long hours, they feel awkward when handling other chores,” he added. miniJon will remain his side business which he still runs alone.
miniJon has become Jonathan’s rite of passage to entrepreneurship, comfortably supplementing his pocket money, with close to a thousand orders both from and outside Etsy within a year alone. Not bad for a student juggling both his studies and his income. “It’s pretty rewarding. It’s a form of art that helps satisfy your soul and it calms your mind down,” he remarked.
The lowest negative Jonathan ever gets about his works are the stupefied expressions from people whose prejudice pigeonhole females as experts in such field of work. Rather than getting pulled down by their remarks, he relishes the hilarity of shocking people how the opposite sex is just as capable of cute miniature-making. Ironically, according to his encounters, females make up the majority of those airing such stereotypical views as compared to his male counterparts. Nevertheless, he treats such reactions positively as a true reflection to the uniqueness of his crafts. People who have seen his work remain overwhelmingly supportive, regardless of the reactions he got from them. “This kind of work is still not really established in Singapore yet. There are guys from Western countries who are actually doing this,” explained Jonathan. He is optimistic about the growth of the miniature movement locally, though he lamented it is slow compared to other countries.
This year’s Maker’s Faire was Jonathan’s first foray in setting up a booth outside the online world, where meeting and engaging with customers face-to-face has generated greater exposure for his store and given the fledgling entrepreneur fresh perspectives in business marketing.
Apart from food, miniJon will expand its collection to include game characters and animals. Due to popular demand, plans to provide miniature-making workshops at the end of this year are currently under way.
A motivating character of talent, hard work and perseverance, Jonathan’s journey is an inspiration to those finding their way to achieve their goals in life. His encouraging words to fellow dream chasers: “If you have a dream, chase it! Never really care about what others have to say because ultimately, you control your own destiny. It’s better than not chasing after your passion and getting no where.”
Hear that, folks?
All photos courtesy of miniJon