Gingerbread has a bit of an old fashioned association but your designs have turned that assumption on its head. How have you modernised gingerbread?
Although of course I like the tradition and history of it, I just wanted to create something totally new. When I first started out I did rely on quite a traditional approach, but soon found that the designs I wanted to make were being restricted. For example, I often use quite delicate, small components which would be lost if I used a traditional amount of icing, so I experimented with different recipes and techniques in order to create the things I really wanted to make. I’ve developed my personal style gradually over time, and I’m hoping that by showing this modern gingerbread look others will see that gingerbread doesn’t have to mean a traditional Christmas house – it can be anything you want it to be.
From wedding cakes to corporate commissions to window installations, you consistently challenge traditional design. Where does your inspiration come from?
I’ve always been drawn to interesting pieces of design, especially intricate patterns or unusual details. (I started photographing tile patterns, flooring and iron gates long before Instagram existed…) Nowadays I find inspiration in a lot of different places, often from just wandering around London. For example, a few years ago I spotted a coal plate in Bloomsbury; I really loved its circular, symmetrical design and thought it’d make an excellent cake design. So I made one and then kept spotting more amazing coal plate designs. I’ve since translated quite a few of them into cakes or gingerbread. I find inspiration everywhere really; there just aren’t enough hours in the day to turn all my ideas into gingerbread realities.
We love your wedding centrepieces and the way you combine cake with gingerbread. Do you have a favourite design you’ve worked on for a bespoke wedding commission?
Thank you! I really like working with wedding couples who are passionate about design and have an amazing idea, or who just want something really different for their big day. My favourite wedding commission to date is from last summer. It was a 3D sculpted landscape cake (with waterfall and lake) adorned with intricately decorated gingerbread landmarks from the couple’s three favourite cities. And their brogue shoes with bright red laces were featured on the wedding invites, so I included these using red strawberry lace sweets to trace their journey throughout the landscape. The reason this is my favourite is that unlike many wedding cake designs, this cake just couldn’t have been for anyone else but them, which made it really special to work on. I love creating one-off pieces that reflect people’s personalities.
You created an amazing centrepiece for Harrods Christmas display. Can you tell us about the inspiration for this piece?
For Harrods I created an elaborate working gingerbread clock, which was the centrepiece for their bakery display over Christmas 2016.
I was really inspired by the textures and details found on traditional Black Forest cuckoo clocks, so I took some of those elements and added my own twist to create the snowy bird-filled scene that decorated the clock.
We’re interested in how our clients might work with you to use gingerbread to help bring their brands to life. Can you give us some examples?
Of course. I work on both small and large scale projects, so anything from a highly detailed gingerbread replica of a product, to a huge interactive edible installation. I like to create truly one-off pieces, so everything is always focused on what the client would like it to achieve, and reflecting their brand’s personality. And it’s not just restricted to gingerbread; I build using lots of flavours of biscuit, and incorporate cakes & sweets to bring an idea to life.
You recently worked with Bompas and Parr producing a stunning reproduction of Castle Howard. Can you tell us a bit more?
That was one of my favourite commissions to date. We created a magical gingerbread landscape featuring several buildings from the Castle Howard estate, including an epic recreation of the main house which had light up windows, and a working gingerbread train winding through the snowy hills.
It was so much fun to translate Bompas & Parr’s architectural drawings into 3D gingerbread replicas, and I love piping icing details so I got really into the finishing
touches. The installation was on show in the main house in the run up to Christmas and proved really popular with visitors.
Presumably gingerbread is all about straight lines & angles; is there anything you couldn’t make out of gingerbread?
I am certainly drawn to things with flat sides as they naturally lend themselves to gingerbread so well, but I wouldn’t want to say I couldn’t make something out of
gingerbread. I’m really into trying out new techniques (for example laser-cutting, and using 3D moulds) so I’d definitely give any design a good go. Also sometimes it just needs a fun way of approaching the design to turn it into a gingerbread-friendly object. For example, a gingerbread pinata pony as opposed to a realistic one.
Your designs and construction must be pretty time intensive and it must be stressful working on high profile projects. How do you manage to relax?
It can be a bit intense at times, but once everything is installed it’s such a great feeling that I totally forget about the stress of delivering it safely! I also make sure I spend time planning everything really carefully to avoid any mishaps so I can enjoy the build itself. And to relax I tend to play music – I originally trained as a musician and still enjoy it in my spare time; it’s the perfect escape from anything work-related.
What’s next for Maid of Gingerbread?
I’ve just launched my first product, BISC KITS, which are baking kits for grown ups. I noticed that there were tons of baking kits available for children, but not for adults, and why should the kids have all the fun?! They’re now available on my website and Not On The High Street and I’ll be adding new designs to the collection in the next few months.
I’m always looking for bigger, more challenging builds and am currently taking bookings for large Christmas installations so I’ll be starting design work for those soon. And I’ve also just started working on a really exciting gingerbread collaboration involving storytelling (and moving parts). I can’t say too much at this stage, but it’s going to be really exciting.
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