Based in San Jose, Tiny first entered into mechanical keyboards as a hobby, as she collected keycaps from other artists online. “It’s an extremely male-dominated pastime, and a great deal of the styles that people were making were guy-ish designs, like robots, skulls, and zombies,” she says. “I like cute stuff, so I simply wanted to make my own.” She started practicing clay sculpting and streaming her process on Twitch as a method to remain consistent, and ultimately started taking commissions. Wanting to turn making keycaps into a sustainable profession, she started resin casting, which enables her to develop and offer batches of keycaps at a time. It’s now been two years because Tiny stopped her job as a software application engineer, and she’s given that ended up being a Twitch Partner in addition to an increasing star on TikTok. I caught up with Tiny to talk with her about the niche mechanical keyboard community, how keycap sales resemble streetwear drops, and business of being a developer.
This interview has been modified and condensed for clarity.
You have a huge following on TikTok and you have actually been pretty active with it. How do you think that’s assisted you with your business?
TikTok is this brand-new frontier that a great deal of people, maybe the older generation of individuals, don’t truly understand about yet. The audience there, a great deal of them are teens who don’t have money to purchase keyboards, let alone a keycap for that. I’m not attempting to sell my items on there, I think Instagram is more tailored towards that. TikTok, I simply have a good time with it and I believe it gets my name out there. I believe I have actually gotten a great deal of limelights from TikTok due to the fact that people have been reposting my videos, with or without my approval, on art channels on Instagram and on YouTube. And then I’ll get a bunch of followers on Instagram due to the fact that of that.
I think it’s great to bring awareness to what it is. I’m always interested in informing people about mechanical keyboards and why they’re so terrific. For some factor, TikTok has actually been my most significant and best platform, although I feel like the stuff that I do there is kind of crazy and weird.
Yeah, it’s funny how follow count doesn’t really equate to sales.
Yeah, I have over half a million, and I haven’t tried selling. It’s difficult because [the process of] offering artisan keycaps is really weird. Individuals simply do drops, type of like raffle sales. Most of the time, artists don’t make enough for people to purchase it. It’s not like people just have them on stock all the time. In some cases there are group buys so you can sign up to purchase a keycap and you’ll get one for sure, however I would say a large part of the neighborhood does these raffle-style sales, where people make X amount of keycaps, and you enter to win a spot to buy it.
I personally can not make enough for people that want my designs. And because of that, I can’t really inform if there is actually an increase in people purchasing my stuff because I don’t have it readily available.
This raffle sale sounds very competitive, I’ve never heard anything like it. Is there a specialized website for this?
Individuals just do Google Forms. I think someone tried making a website for it, I do not understand if it’s released.
A lot of individuals are hobbyists, even people who make keycaps. They don’t do it complete time so some people simply make their own sites and run it through there.
It sounds extremely profitable for a developer, if you’re pretty popular and you make quality products. Generally everything you make is going to offer out.
I think if you’re one of the huge makers, that is true. It is likely that you will sell out, or there’s simply people who are wanting to buy your keycaps all the time.
However I believe that’s still since it’s a little thing and you know who the developers are. Like if it was commercialized, in a way, I believe that would reduce the cost of the keycaps and the need for it. And due to the fact that it’s small amounts of art that someone is launching. I believe that’s why it’s type of financially rewarding like that.
How much of what you make originates from sales, commissions, or from being a Twitch Partner?
I have actually cut back on Twitch a lot, I believe you have to be quite constant about streaming to make a decent amount off of Twitch nowadays. Specifically since it’s so variable in terms of how lots of people are subbed to you and if you stop streaming, individuals simply stop subbing, which makes sense. I mostly rely on sales nowadays just to make sure that I can make sufficient cash.
What are the sort of business and brand names that sponsor you?
I have a business that sponsors me and I’ll promote their stuff, it’s a mechanical keyboard business. That one is more like a month-to-month thing. And then there’s one-time sponsorship deals that I’ve done and are seeking to do. Business like Logitech, I worked with last year to do a free gift. And I’m trying to deal with gaming business to see if I can do little runs of keycaps that relate to their video game. It ranges from companies like Corsair, I’ve likewise worked with in some small capability, and companies that make keyboards, and video gaming business.
What would you say is your dream sponsorship?
If I could make, like, authorities Animal Crossing keycaps, that would be incredible. I’ve made Discord keycaps in the past– I haven’t sold them, simply provided to individuals who work there, however if I can formally make them keycaps, I would enjoy to. Or for big business like Riot. If I made like a Teemo keycap or something, that would be quite remarkable.
What’s something you want individuals learnt about mechanical keyboards?
One of the huge things that drew me into it was that I can customize this keyboard however I want to, like I can do different colors for the keycaps, I can make it whatever layout I desire it to be. I worked in an office, I typed on a computer system like 8 hours a day, so it made sense for something that I utilize so frequently, for me to personalize it, decorate it, and for it to actually have really useful advantages.
It does not just use to people who are developers, obviously. There’s a lot of individuals who being in an office every day on their computer. It’s a pastime that anyone can actually gain from or delight in. And also they don’t have to be loud. I think that’s a typical mistaken belief. There are some loud ones–
I’ve sat beside a pretty loud one once.
( laughs) And I’m sorry for that. But there are some really peaceful switches that are meant to be quiet and smooth. Individuals are like, “I do not desire a mechanical keyboard because it’s too loud.” I resemble, “it does not need to be loud.”
What is among your favorite commissions that you’ve done?
I did one that was of somebody’s feline, sitting on top of a keycap. They actually utilized it as a wedding present. So they sent me photos of them at their wedding event, the bride and groom really opening up the little keycap present. They have main photos of that. I felt truly flattered. I do get commission demands like that, as gifts for anniversaries to get a substantial other or something. Those are significant to me because it seems like I’m making something that becomes part of their life.