Welcome to the Business of Baking. I'm so glad you're here! Every Tuesday I post something new, with a rainbow sprinkling of other posts through the week.  Please comment on posts that resonate with you, and become a part of the BoB community by signing up for the newsletter or joining us on social media. Happy Business Baking!

If 2015 is the year you start or grow your baking or cake business, I invite you to come along to the Business of Baking On Tour.

Interview: Rebecca Weld The Cookie Architect

Feather Cookie Mandala

I’m so exciting to be re-starting the interview series with an incredible cookie designer, Rebecca Weld – also known as The Cookie Architect. I’ve been stalking Rebecca on Instagram for a vvveerrryyy long time now. I’ve been wanting to add the cookie and cake pop communities to the blog because they have all the same concerns as cake makers do…only they have kick-ass royal icing skills and we don’t! (Okay, okay, some of us do.)  I’ve been really looking forward to inviting a few of them to showcase their work here and I’m beyond excited that Rebecca is the first one I’m going to highlight.  Her work is simply gorgeous (the above feather series is my personal favourite)- and her perspective on things is really interesting as well.  Enjoy the interview and go and check out her work – you’ll be glad you did!

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Hi Rebecca! Tell us a little bit of the back story behind The Cookie Architect. How did you get into this art form?

I got in to cookies via gingerbread.  When I first moved to the town I live in, I was starting my architecture firm, Renew Architecture & Design, from scratch, so I entered a local gingerbread contest.  The first year the week of time I spent on it made sense- I didn’t even have a job!  But by the third year I was six months pregnant and missing out on days of work, and my mom assured me that if I thought she was going to babysit two kids while I made a big gingerbread project, then I was sorely mistaken.  So when the holiday season rolled around the next year, I was itching for something to do, and nursing a little guy which meant I had a lot of time sitting around with my phone.  A baking catalog came in the mail with decorated sugar cookies, and I just started exploring from there.  Cookies seemed more manageable and less time consuming, which turns out to only be a tiny bit true.  But once I discovered the incredible online cookie community, I was totally hooked!

I know that by day you’re an architect. To me that’s comes through in your creations, because they are a beautiful mix of art and precision – but would you say that the skills you’ve acquired through your professional skills have carried across to your edible art? Certainly it’s on a much smaller scale!

Well, my gingerbread hobby was very directly related to all of the model building I did in pre-CADD architecture school. But cookies come more from the skills (and tools!) I got from gingerbreading, and from years of doing crafts like cut paper collage and quilting.  But I did have a five year college design education, and certainly I learned a lot from that. I also have a lot of skill and experience with manipulating images in my drafting program, with tracing paper and with a photocopier, all of which come in handy when designing cookies!  As far as scale, when I worked on Nantucket I was designing houses down to the trim profiles of the paneling and fireplaces, so I am used to thinking at a number of scales for my job!

Cookie Tile Explosion

Some of your cookies are minimalist in style – like the feather mandala series, which is beautiful but more ‘drawn’ in style (less icing overall), and others are fully iced from edge to edge – like the cookie tile explosion series (above.) Do you have a preference of one style over another, or do you let the subject matter dictate? Do you have a favourite from all the ones you’ve done so far?

I love trying out different styles, and I definitely set myself challenges and let subject and inspiration dictate my style.  That said, I do have a preference for look, style and material.  My first love is royal icing.  Not painting on a cookie, airbrushing, brush embroidery, etc etc.  All great techniques, but I love a graphic representation rendered in piped royal icing, not unlike the Cookie Tile Explosion set I just did (pic is above).  At least, the unexploded part!  I morphed that piped royal icing technique into an explosion of flowers decorated by painting with royal icing, for no other reason that I thought it would be fun to bust out of a very traditional design!

Of course, that said, my favorite set is handpainted.  It is the feather mandala that you referenced (at the top of this post).  The biggest reason it is my favorite is that I thought up the design very much from my own head.  I mean, I saw things that inspired me- in fact, it was from an inspiration board challenge that I was hosting on the Cookie Connection forum.  But from that inspiration I got taken somewhere new, at least for me!  AND, it was a set that I had a whole other level of additional detail planned, but when phase one was complete, I knew it was done.  Even the picture of it that was so popular was just taken with my phone!  Just an easy flowing from mind to cookie, which is definitely not usually that case!!

I am sure like most of us you’ve heard the “You should sell those! You’d make a fortune!” comments from family and friends. Do you ever feel the pressure to go into business with your cookies? Have you ever considered it? Why or why not?

Well yes, family have said that to me. Some of my family are big on business, but at least initially I did not tie it up with money at all.  The reason not is that really, cookies are my mid life crisis.  My real business is architecture, and it is how our family gets fed.  My hourly rate for architecture is not even comparable to what you could ask someone to pay for cookies, so for a long time I didn’t do that math simply because it would have meant being responsible and leaving cookies aside to get back to work.  Since that time, it has developed into a way that I keep my name out there for my business, and I’ve had opportunities to take commissions that, while my hourly rate doesn’t apply, at least are a little something to offset stencils and cutters and my obsession with luster dust!

Springtime Cookies 2000 pc box

I saw that you recently did a collaboration with Springbok puzzles – what’s next on the horizon for The Cookie Architect? Do we get a sneak peek into your next project or challenge?

The project for Springbok was truly exciting.  For one thing, I’ve been doing their puzzles since I was a kid! For another, I am paid a royalty for each puzzle sold, so for the first time might actually make money with some of my cookie art.  We are hoping for that relationship to continue, so that there will be a whole series of Cookie Architect puzzles, but of course that depends on how popular they are! I will say that I did two sets of cookies for them, and the picture they have of the other set is one of my favorite cookie sets of all time, so I am really really hoping that they get published!!! ( I will note that Springbok only ships to the US and Canada from their website, but here’s a link to my puzzle available on Amazon.)

I’ve got a few fun sets planned, and a few cookie appearances scheduled too.  I just was asked to teach a class as part of Cookie Con in Salt Lake City, Utah in September, which I am really looking forward to. I’m teaming up with a few cookie friends to put together a very hands on cookie design and decoration seminar!  I’d love to find a way to do a trial run of that seminar on the East Coast this spring or summer.

Nantucket1
I’d be remiss too if I didn’t mention that I’ve just put together a complete online portfolio, and have started a blog.  I’ve found Facebook’s new algorithms to be a real death sentence to a “hobby business” like mine, and I wanted a place where people could easily check out my work or chat with me, without needing to be a part of Facebook or Instagram!  Check it out at thecookiearchitect.net!

Thank you so much Michelle for asking me to be interviewed! It was an honor, and it is fun to share about myself and my cookie art.  I love to talk cookie!

Find me on my new blog (thecookiearchitect.net), on Facebook (The Cookie Architect) and Instagram (@thecookiearchitect)

Thanks so much Rebecca for sharing your story with the Business of Baking community!

BoBTV: Making Friends With Your Competition

This whole small business thing can be a pretty lonely place – especially if you run a cake business from home and your only company during the day is Dr Phil and Oprah. You can go a little stir crazy with only clients to talk to…and if you’re anything like me, you know the loneliness has reached epic proportions when a client calls and half an hour later you find yourself giving them recipes for meatloaf. In today’s episode we talk about reaching out to other people in the baking community, be those people your competitors or your heroes!  Watch and enjoy.

 

On My Bookshelf

OnMyBookshelf

This month I’m reading all sorts of interesting things….

CAKE RELATED

This is the first book from Elizabeth (Lizzo) Marek from the Artisan Cake Company – and I was fortunate enough to receive a copy to review. In the digital age, where it seems like YouTube and video teaching is all the rage, it’s really nice to see that new books are coming out and from young decorators. I learned all my initial skills from books so it’s heartening to know that this medium is still going along – there’s just something wonderful about being able to have a book in front of you to learn from. Lizzo’s book is one of the “new generation” cake decorating books, highlighting modern techniques like 3D sculpting, using silicone moulds and using a centre dowel to create a more complex design.  I was very glad to see some art-based elements discussed in the book, topics like line and pattern, colour theory and visual contrast. There were a lot of advanced projects or project ideas, this book probably would not suit a total beginner – but it’s a nice addition to my collection. Thanks Lizzo and Congratulations on your achievement!

NOT CAKE RELATED (but she eats a hell of a lot of gelato)


I think I’ve read this book a dozen times and every time I do, I find something new or interesting to think about. I think in life we are all on some sort of journey – for some spiritual, others emotional, some culinary! It’s one of those books which is a pretty easy, quick read and because it’s set up in short chapter style, it’s great to pick up and put down again when I just need a quick break from real life for a while. I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert’s books (not just this one) but one of the reasons I love them so much is because of their vulnerability. In this specific one she speaks so openly and so authentically about struggling with fear, anxiety, loving, and losing – there are some parts which we can painfully relate to and by choosing to share her journey she’s really saying, “Hey, we’re in this together.” (Maybe that’s why I like her – we have a similar philosophy about these things…)

BUSINESS AND MONEY


As part of my ongoing education around business and money I read several books on those topics a month, and this is one I’ve been meaning to read for years! So much of what is in here makes total sense to me, especially as I learn more and more about changing our thoughts around money and removing fear from the conversation.  It’s a hard read because the book is very male-oriented (it was originally written in 1937) and the language is not modern, but it’s well worth getting this one if you’re interested in bigger principles about money, wealth and thinking like an entrepreneur. This one should be on the bookshelf of entrepreneurs no matter what industry they are in.
Want to recommend a book for me to read -even if it’s one you’ve written? Send an email to michelle@thebizofbaking.com and if I can get my hands on it, I’ll read it. (I’m a bit of a bookworm. No judging!)