Does My Cake Career Have a Shelf Life?

ConfusedInCakeland

Confused in Cakeland is where you get the chance to ask whatever you like – submit your question to Michelle

This question was posted in my Facebook group and I found it fascinating so I’m sharing it here and diving a little deeper into my answer:

She asked: Who thinks our time as cake decorators has a limited time span?  I don’t mean that the world will wipe us all out in an asteroid. What I mean is because we are artists do you think our time is limited until the next kid on the block comes along and everyone who used to love our work 5 years ago, has now moved onto the next freshly baked cake lady/man?”

I freaking LOVE this question. I have often wondered this about cake artists I see who have an easily copyable style – or who explode onto the scene faster than popcorn at a fair. Are they one trick ponies, or will they be able to reinvent themselves? Is their style going to become timeless (like Sylvia Weinstock)?  It’s a reasonable question when you think that cake styles (like fashion) can be VERY trendy, often with design concepts coming in and out with lightening speed and yet other things come in with great fanfare, stick around for a while, then ssslllooowwwllly fade (hello cupcakes and cake pops, I’m talking to you.)

One part of this equation is artistic – artists are creators. Period. Creativity races through their bloodstream like sugar races through mine. Trends don’t mean much to them because they will continue to refine, redefine, and reinvent trends themselves.  I think for artists in any medium, their work evolves over time. Authors get better at writing, painters change their style or have styles they dabble in, etc. I also think that if your aim is to be an artist, the medium is irrelevant – such as, some people start in cake but move to cookies. Some start in cake pops and more to making a new product for others to use. Some move mediums – such as, Calli Hopper (of Callicious Creations)  is going back to painting. I believe all artists want to do is CREATE, so they are not hemmed in by popularity, for them the driving force is creation. That being said, I can think of several cake artists who style has stayed fairly consistent (Debbie from Debbie Does Cakes, Ron Ben Israel, Bronwen Weber, Debbie Brown) and who are still succeeding in the industry.

Bbbuutttt….the number of us in the cake industry who are true artists is very small compared to those who are technicians. Technicians are those that are well able to create but are not artistic by nature. (That’s me too – I’m no artist.) So if you are someone whose heart beats in colour and design, this question has probably never occurred to you. If however you’re like me, then it’s a reasonable concern, especially when we think about the “cheap cake lady” and how people seem to care more about price than ever before. If you don’t have your own personal style (and I never did) then yeah, who knows who those customers will go to next?

First let me say – customers do NOT only care about either price or style. For most people buying cake, cost and style AND a bunch of other things go into it (service, location, ease of communication, etc). So it’s imperative that you are running your business based on SEVERAL pillars of awesomeness, not just one.

If you’re still worried about the trend thing, your choices are:

1) Stylistically, evolve with the trends so that you’re always producing what’s on trend. Make sure the other parts of your business are on very solid ground – your recipes are good quality, your customer service is at a high level, and you give people reasons to come back which are not only style related. You don’t need to be Picasso.

or

2) Become completely so known for your style so that what you do becomes timeless and almost untouchable by design trends. You still have to produce good product, give great service and so on, but the look and feel of what you do don’t need to change other than perhaps some modernisation. Put another way, rare is the call for plastic white pillars these days, but the beautiful floral romantic style isn’t disappearing anytime soon.

The last thought I have on this is … I think we get bored (or frustrated, or plain old tired) and choose to move in a new direction (for many reasons, which will differ from person to person) long before we’ll ever get overtaken by the new kid on the block.

3 comments on “Does My Cake Career Have a Shelf Life?

  1. Fabulous article!!! So well written and inspiring to continue with timeless creations and the reassurance to adapt to the times. “I believe all artists want to do is CREATE, so they are not hemmed in by popularity, for them the driving force is creation.” Fantastic.

  2. I never really thought about the life span/shelf time of a decorator in this sense. When I read the heading I thought it might be about carpel tunnel or shoulder problems etc. But as always, I loved reading this post!

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