Laura Edwards [chiccakelady]
What is your specialty?
Designing and creating bespoke sculpted and stacked cakes which are both striking to look at and delicious to eat.
Where can we view your portfolio online?
I have a website which is currently under development www.chiccakes.co.uk not all of my cakes and details are on there at the moment; so in the meantime my full portfolio can be seen on www.facebook.com/chiccakes and www.flickr.com/photos/chiccakes/
What made you interested in design?
Design is just in me - I love looking at patterns and seeing faces and figures appear in them. These used to be starting points for cartoon illustrations I would draw as a child now they tend to be leaping points for cakes and sugarfigures.
Drawing, creating, doodling and experimenting with materials is second nature to me - I love the endless possibilities that art and design has. There are no limitations and I love the way in which I can explore the deepest recesses of my imagination - it's much like being a kid again :)
What has been your professional career path?
Lol - not really art based at all tbh. I completed my art and design a levels and started my art and design foundation degree but I was bit uninspired by the lecturers we had and I guess going out and having wild times with my friends was far more appealing back then.
My ambition back then was to take a degree in theatre and set design, that was until I met my husband and fell pregnant with my now 9 year old son. Life then became consumed with being a mum and taking on an admin job for a hobby and craft store.
My mum and I had always baked when I was a child, and my earliest memories were sitting watching her create stunningly delicate and classy wedding cakes as a hobby, I had often made sugar figures and flowers whilst she worked on them. On my son's first birthday I made him a teletubby cake and continued to make cakes for him and my daughter on their birthdays. About 2 years ago I decided to push myself further and offered my services to friends and family making them sculpted cakes etc for just the cost of the materials.
It was only a couple of months ago that I decided to strike out in business as a cake designer. I am proud of the fact that I am entirely self taught and continue pushing myself to adapt and experiment with new techniques in the cake design world.
Have you received any awards for your work in the field of design?
I have only entered one cake competition so far at the NEC CAKE international exhibition. I entered the sculpted novelty cake class and can proudly say that I recieved a Gold award for my design entry of a sculpted coiled corn snake: an entirely edible display with no internal supports, we christened him with the name Eric and he has gained quite a following on my flickr and facebook pages. You can see him in the picture I've used as my tag image.
What is your motivation? What makes you get up in the mornings?
My 2 kids and wanting to show them that with a dream, ambition and dedication you can live your life doing what you really enjoy and make a living from it.
How would you define your design style?
Quirky, bold and a little bit retro with an edge.
How do you promote and move your work?
Facebook is an invaluable tool and I have received the highest amount of enquiries via my FB page. Simply uploading my pictures and updating regularly with new designs and news on the business has helped my page to grow.
I see competitions as being a good way of getting my name out there more as this Gold win has enabled me to do a local newspaper and radio interview, I have also been featured on food'n'drink's blog.
Word of mouth always speaks volumes so I always ensure my work is of the highest standard to ensure the reviews are always good.
In which new areas would you like to experiment?
Airbrush - most definitely!! That is next on my (long) equipment wish list to buy. I love handpainting the cakes and have perfected my skills in this but I think for some animals and designs an airbrush would elevate them to the next level let alone save valuable design and making time.
I also want to get my cakes bigger and add more fully standing figures to my portfolio, this means getting my husband to make more stands for me (oh how he loves me (!)), I need to order cake skeletons from the US as there is currently nowhere in the UK that stocks them, I think this may please my husband more than me coming to him with more design plans for him on what to build me next :)
Shapes, color, concept: where do you usually begin when conceiving a design?
Unless it's a cake for my own family then the design conception has to start with the client. They tell me what they're after and what the recipient's taste is like. Also the occassion it's for, the age and the sex of the person offers clues as to what type of cake we'll create.
For sculpted cakes I search through google images, magazines and books for images of the chosen subject; I save all eye catching images and then use one or some of them from which to work. Having a 3D model often helps a lot more but is less fun in a way as it restricts you to copying and scaling up a model so less artistic license can be used.
Stacked cakes rely more on composition and colour to create a balanced and striking centrepiece. The recent rockabilly cake worked best as a simple white background to highlight the simple but striking tattoo designs, primary colours worked well in this design as it created a fun and vibrant cake reminiscent of the vibrant 1950s fashion.
It really is a case of looking at the whole style of the occassion and the person to create their dream cake.
What are your sources for documentation and to generate ideas?
Whoops answered this already in the last question lol. Google images, Flickr, nature programmes, kids books, cake design sources, design trends catalogues, fashion magazines and houses, the high street, illustrations, retro designs and images everywhere, everything and anything really.
Which festivals or awards in your field do you find most interesting?
Without a doubt it has to be threadcakes! A brilliant international web based cake competition open to professionals and novices alike. It enables the designer to have an entire catalogue of bizarre and wonderful t-shirt designs at their disposal from which to create a unique cake. I love the fact that it challenges your design skills on how to create an intricate 2D image into an edible 3D cake.
What is your favourite type of customer?
One with style and great design ideas but they have to be just that: IDEAS. A customer who comes to you with a picture and says they have this image that they want recreating exactly and nothing will sway them is the worst IMO. A picture that we can adapt to their own colours and style is fine but when it's an EXACT recreation in can get tiresome. I am a cake designer not a copier so I like to work with the customer and get a real sense of who they are and be able to convey this into the cake.
A customer with a quirky and unique sense of style and ideas from which they want you to work from is fab as it makes for a good final design.
Customers who say just do what you want may seem good on paper but I find them just as frustrating as the inflexible customers. I want to create individual cakes tailored to the client as they have been able to input their own style too.
To a certain point, is copying justifiable?
I wouldn't say copying someones work verbatim is ever justifiable. As I said before designers are designers not copiers! I often look at other cake designers work for inspiration but I make sure it stays as that. I would like to think of my own work inspiring people but I wouldn't necessarily want to see it copied entirely by fellow cake designers.
List some things you dislike seeing in design.
In cake design it has to be 1970s style floral sugar displays. My mum will kill me if she sees this haha - it is the style she used to create all the time. But then again that was back when it was fashionable and now it just isn''t.
Sugar flowers are beautiful exquisite works of art and placed in a chic and simple way on the cake they can still look modern, striking and elegant. It is when they are made into Victoria Plum style bouquets that they just turn me off!
Also ridiculously over ornate pink glittery fairycastles made 10 tiers tall with waterfalls cascading and butterflies flying - far too bling and dare I say it quite chavtastic!
Do you believe the newer generations are better at designing?
Not at all, I think designers new or old are as skilled as their imaginations, materials and design sources allow them to be.
Throughout the history of design there has long been a penchant for harking back to previous design classics and incorporating them into new design trends.
I would say designers of today are more diverse because there is so much more design material accessible to them than there has been in the past.
But I think having less sources available (as in the times of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Pop Art and Modernism to name a few) produced a strong iconic collective design which is somewhat lacking from the designs of today.
With which type of client would you decline in working for?
Probably one that wanted a 10ft tall pink princess castle with flashing lights haha. Or one that was stubborn and unappreciative of a design process.
How do you calculate budgets for a design project?
I am still getting to grips with this myself. It has to be a starting cost for the ingredients of each cake with a percentage mark up to cover basic wages and overheads. Then a further amount has to be applied to calculate payment for skilled labour on cakes which requires more intricate and in depth design and craft processes. I have to keep reminding myself that I am offering a unique product and skill, if people try and haggle and want it cheaper then they should go to a high street baker.
Which professionals in your field -contemporary or past- do you most admire?
Mike McCarey of Mike's Amazing Cakes, Debbie Goard of Debbie does Cakes, Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes, Michelle Wibowo of Michelle's Sugar Art. All amazing cake designers who create intricate realistic cake sculptures and stunning modern cake designs.
Which software applications do you most utilize in your work?
I don't really use any software packages in my design work it's all done with good old fashioned pens and paper.
Up to what point do your designs reflect your personality?
Some designs are not reflective of my personality at all as they are a true reflection of the client instead - they are after all created with them in mind. But I do like my cakes to look bright, eye-catching, fun and definitely unique. They need to create an impact. I like to think I have a bright, fun and unique personality and i definitely like to make an impact when possible ;)
How do you distinguish passing fads from mainstays in new trends?
Passing fads tend to saturate the market for a brief episode and then fade away, mainstays seem to be instantly more accessible to a broad spectrum of people and hold a more stylish presence.
If you weren't a designer, what would you be doing?
I would be working in an office hating every minute and doing lots of art work and baking with my children at home. Oh and I would also be redecorating each room in my house every couple of months as it seemed to be the only creative outlet I had before I started doing cakes.
At this moment, what would be your dream job or project?
I would be working in a well equipped studio in Warwick, Kenilworth or Stratford providing classes to cake sculpting novices. To have written a best selling book on cake design and sculpting, had appearances on This Morning television and other TV programmes and to be designing Prince Williams Grooms Cake for his upcoming nuptials.
(well a girl can dream can't she?) :D
Can you see yourself in this field twenty years from now?
Absolutely most definitely YES! I LOVE this job at the moment I am only a couple of months into my first year so it's a long hard slog but if I look 20 years down the line I know I'll have achieved my dreams in this field. I am so passionate about what I do and I want to learn even more and push myself to reach to the best of my ability and then some.
It is my goal to have a family business which my son and daughter can work in if they want to (although there ambition is more important and I will support them in whatever they want to do - within reason lol) and a career in which me and my husband can both work together in.
Which design resources online do you frequently visit?
Mudpie MPD click. Fashion houses. Dwell. Interior design pages.
coventry - west midlands