All I can do is mod avatars, not make them. Blender is outright scary to me, and I'm jut starting to explore with Gimp to try to make my own skins and textures.
And yet I still have the same gargoyle from 4 years ago and I've managed to make it look good enough that people don't run screaming. That's good enough for me.
What people are doing nowadays in SL is still good as far as I know... possibly because I don't know anything about what really goes into making textures or sculpts or what have you. Some are better, and some are worse. The only thing I can mention about the "good old days" that I miss is the willingness people would show to make things simply for the enjoyment and challenge of making things. Now, you can make an announcement in the Furry Builders Guild group chat, and be told that you need to be painfully specific in order to even get a response.