"What do you do?"
me, with a weird smile on my face: "I am a cookie artist."
As you can guess, this usually leaves the asker mystified or laughing because they think I'm joking, which turns into a conversation about: what does that mean? So, I thought I'd try to explain what being a cookie artist or "cookier" means to me.
a person who produces cookies as a profession or hobby.synonyms: baker, maker, shaker, dream maker, cookie designer, sugar master
"a cookie artist"
a person who creates edible art on the chosen canvas of cookie
a person skilled at transforming flour, butter, and sugar into something beautiful AND delicious and portable.
My cookie journey started in October 2010. I decided to make monogrammed cookies for my daughter's birthday party favors. Cheap. Personalized. Easy? Armed with a trusty little cookie decorating pamphlet that came with a set of decorating tips, I was about to find out... What the what is meringue powder? After hunting down that mysterious ingredient I bravely set forth baking and decorating.
The results were delicious and if I do say so myself: pretty cute! Those polka dots are quite tidy, but I see some bubbles in the flood and that piped scallop outline is sort of atrocious, and they took much longer than anticipated. Sounds like I should definitely make it my life calling, right? Well, that part was an accident, but I did walk away from this experience learning several things:
- People LOVED them.
- I loved the process.
- The possibilities seemed endless.
- I had to do it again.
I soon found lots of excuses to bake and decorate cookies. Baby showers, birthdays, funerals... yes funerals. Each event or holiday was a new opportunity for experimenting with new color combinations, different decorating tips, and thickness of icing to create different textures. I was completely enamored with trying to capture themes and emotions in sugar!
My cookie path changed a bit when people started requesting I make cookies for them. I enjoyed the challenge to make cookies that fit someone else's vision. I learned a lot along the way and found decorating cookies for others very rewarding. My favorite part was when customers would pick up their cookie orders because their reactions were priceless. No matter how hard I was on myself or how much I wanted to point out every little detail that didn't work out like I planned... their looks of astonishment and delight made the sleepless night worth it.
And yes... there were nights, as I was learning how to juggle my real life responsibilities and cookie orders (not to mention my proclivity to procrasti-bake) when I was decorating while the sun came up because there were dozens due later that day. Why do cookiers do it? For the strong forearm muscles that come from piping? For the brilliant hued food coloring stained fingertips? Maybe it's the great hours? Great pay?
Cookies take hours and hours to create, bake, decorate, and design; sometimes days. dayS. The pay is only as good as the cookier is willing to ask for, which is usually WAY less than they should based on how much time is put into them. Cookiers pour their heart and soul into their cookie-making (not literally, that would not taste good). Cookiers are the most creative, humble, artistic, generous, and beautiful humans I have ever met, and I have met a lot of them; but (and it's a big BUT) there is a glaring lack of confidence within the community. People are willing to shill out $3.00 for a cupcake that takes 2 seconds to make and yet many talented cookiers are afraid to ask for $2.00 per cookie. But that's a whole post of its own! All this to say: It's not the hours, it's definitely not the money, but those colorful fingertips and bulging forearms are pretty sweet.
I suppose the why is different for everyone, but for me cookie decorating fulfills so many things. A desire to create something beautiful. A desire to connect with others. A desire to make people happy. I don't know why I've settled on an art form so ephemeral. So fleeting. It takes a special kind of crazy to create a masterpiece that will be eaten, but there is something so beautiful in that we can appreciate this art form with our eyes, with our noses, with our mouths. I'm waxing poetic... that means it's time to wrap this cookie up.
My cookie path changed again when I was asked to teach. I have found teaching cookie decorating the most rewarding of all. It is one thing to create something and have people enjoy it and it is another to show someone step by step and empower them to create it for themselves. Teaching has allowed me to meet so many amazing people and to travel to the other side of the world. It has also allowed me to virtually teach in Russia, Germany, Brazil, and Japan with my online McGoo U lessons. There are moments as a teacher that bring me to tears just thinking about them. Now I'm getting soggy... it's really time to stop.
Cookies for me in a word: joy.
I am Cookier. Hear me roar.
Italy 2013. My first time teaching.