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