I know, I know, you've all been waiting with bated breath for this announcement! Yes, the nominations for the 2015 Cookiers' Choice Awards have been cast and tallied! Hurrah!
But before the big reveal, I wanted to take a moment to thank those Cookie Connection members who took the time to submit nominations as thoughtfully as they did. Too often here in cookie-land, we see a cookie photo, gasp with delight, and then promptly move onto the next amazing cookie feat that crosses the computer screen. But behind many of these works of art are real-life cookiers who pour their hearts into every cookie crumb and icing flourish, and who consistently, day in and day out, put themselves out there, providing us with inspiration, innovation, and knowledge. These cookie leaders deserve far more than a fleeting glance; they deserve to be singled out and applauded! In my estimation, there's no applause more meaningful than the opinion of accomplished peers - so, again, thanks to those who contributed to this very important nominations process.
Enough with the pins and needles of anticipation . . . what do you say we meet our finalists - finally?! By way of introduction, I'll be sharing some of the reasons why our members selected these candidates, and in two of the awards categories (Cookier of the Year and Cookie Educator of the Year), I'll also provide each candidate's personal favorite photo or tutorial from 2015 - i.e., the piece of work that each felt best represents herself. For more personal views of each candidate, you'll find links to their Cookier Close-up interviews on this site, and I'll also be live-chatting with anyone we haven't yet interviewed over the coming months.
* Cookier of the Year Finalists *
As a reminder, the Cookier of the Year Award will be given to the cookier whose collective portfolio of work posted to Cookie Connection in 2015 most impressed the Cookie Connection community and awards judging panel. Cookie portfolios will be evaluated on technical difficulty, number of techniques used, mastery of techniques, originality, and overall design appeal/artistry.
And here's why the Cookie Connection community thought these three candidates raised the decorating bar this year . . .
Evelin Milanesi of EvelindecoraEvelin's hedgehog set, her favorite collection from 2015.
"Evelindecora's work shows a breadth of imagination and level of skill so accomplished it manages to look deft and easy."
"Evelin has proven her artistry, creativity, and originality with every posting. Her work is flawless and beautiful."
Teri Pringle Wood
An intricately piped heart, one of Teri's signature cookies and also her personal pick of 2015.
"Teri is a talented cookier who shares her beautiful work and spirit almost daily. Her dedication to her craft is just amazing."
"Her work stuns me every single time. From needlepoint piping and gingerbread houses to . . . character cookies, her work is virtually flawless."
See Teri's complete Cookie Connection portfolio here, and be on the look-out for a live chat with her in the spring.
Lucy Samuels of Honeycat Cookies
Given its dreamy color palette, it's no surprise this set is Lucy's fave from 2015.
"I can't think of another person more innovative and original with precise and perfect technique than Lucy."
"Lucy's choice of colors is sublime; her touch is precise and elegant; and each of her sets has been clever or unique in some way. A case in point: her fairy light box - just spectacular!"
See Lucy's complete Cookie Connection portfolio here, and be on the look-out for a live chat with her in the spring.
* Cookie Educator of the Year Finalists *
The Cookie Educator of the Year Award will be given to the cookie artist, blogger, instructor, or other entity who is deemed by the Cookie Connection community and awards judging panel to have contributed most to advancing cookie decorating instruction in 2015.
And here's why this community felt these four cookiers were so deserving, along with links to their Close-ups and favorite tutorials . . .
Hani Bacova of Haniela's
"She consistently (and frequently) puts out incredibly high quality and user-friendly videos, and her YouTube channel has grown accordingly this year."
"Haniela has been doing several videos every week for years now. She has recipes and techniques and it's fun watching her!"
Watch Hani's favorite tutorial (Harry Potter Gingerbread House) above, and read her Close-up here.
Georganne Bell of LilaLoa
"In 2015, Georganne branched out beyond her excellent blog tutorials to create a Craftsy class and a book. She teaches cookie skills, cookie designs, and carries out experiments and surveys in order to determine better methods."
"[In addition to] her book and Craftsy class, LilaLoa is a consistent go-to blogger for everyone. Her explanations are clear and easy to follow. [Her] colour mixing help and recipes are outstanding, as well as [her] creative use of cutters."
Amber Spiegel of SweetAmbs
"Amber continues to offer high quality how-to videos on so many cookie designs, which many people worldwide appreciate."
"I would like to nominate SweetAmbs for being a COMPLETE cookie nerd, [and] for having endless vivid imagination, great artistic taste, and willingness to record it all and share with us!"
Aixa Zunino of Dolce Sentire
"Her tutorials are awesome, very well structured, [and] easy to understand, and introduce a variety of techniques. I have learned a lot from them."
"She doesn't dumb down her tutorials, either on her blog or here on Cookie Connection, but instead presents really sophisticated and often complex work in a very understandable way. Plus, her photo step-by-steps leave no detail unexplained. They're outstanding!"
Read Aixa's favorite 2015 tutorial (Handpainted Rose Cookie depicted above) here, and stay tuned for a live chat with her sometime in the spring.
* Cookie Innovator of the Year Finalists *
The Cookie Innovator of the Year Award will recognize the cookie artist, retailer, business, or business person who is deemed by the Cookie Connection community and awards judging panel to have most positively changed the cookie industry through a product or technique innovation introduced in 2015.
And here's why you thought our finalists were so worthy of this distinction . . .
Angela Nino of The Painted Box
Angela was nominated for her popularization of watercolor and wafer paper techniques on cookies, as displayed in the set above, as well as for her pioneering use of Periscope to convey her methods.
"I think Angela's stunning watercolour cookies and creative use of wafer paper have really made an impact this year - where I am seeing more and more cookiers using elements of her style."
"Angela is always pushing the limits, and although she doesn't make herself the center of attention, she is constantly coming up with innovative ideas to expand the artistic abilities of all cookiers - and even cakers look to her for new ideas!"
Learn more about Angela by joining us for her live Cookie Connection chat on February 20 at 10 am central. In fact, her chat room is now open to receive advance questions; just click here!
Karen and Mike Summers of CookieCon
Karen and Mike were nominated for their creation of CookieCon, the world's first and now largest cookie decorating convention, and their continued expansion of this event through 2015.
"Karen and Mike have created a great environment for learning, for sharing, and for making cookie friends."
"They ventured into cookie events before anyone else thought they were a possibility, and now CookieCon is the talk of the industry, calling out to cookiers across the globe to join the extraordinary opportunities there for learning and fun. There isn't a cookier among us who doesn't covet a ticket!"
Learn more about Karen and Mike in their recent Close-up, and also about CookieCon in our Event News and Recaps blog category, where the 2015 event was covered, day by day, in a series of blog posts.
* Cookie Philanthropist of the Year Finalists *
In case you thought that the glaring void in this area meant I forgot the finalists in this category, I didn't! What's happened is that your nominations indicated a decisive winner here! So rather than name finalists, I'm going to make you wait a bit longer for this reveal, and declare the winner when the others are announced at the end of February.
* What Happens From Here *
From here, our illustrious panel of judges (below) will spend the next two weeks or so carefully evaluating the following: (1) For Cookier of the Year: the personal favorite cookies provided by each candidate, as well as each candidate's complete 2015 Cookie Connection portfolio; (2) For Cookie Educator of the Year: the candidate's body of 2015 educational activity on and beyond this site (i.e., videos, written tutorials, classes, books, or other teaching outlets); and (3) For Cookie Innovator of the Year: personal statements provided by each candidate about the innovations for which s/he was nominated, as well as the innovations themselves.
Each of our four judges will evaluate the candidates independently, across several different criteria, before making her final determination. I will personally tally the judges' votes and serve as the tie-breaker if one is needed. We've tried to make the process as systematic, fair, and objective as possible, because we know - based on the caliber of these candidates - that these decisions will be extremely tough ones to make.
Now, for the judges: they are none other than our esteemed Cookie Connection contributors (excluding those nominated for awards, of course), as well as special guest judge Callye Alvarado, aka Sweet Sugarbelle.
A huge round of applause to the judging team for taking the time and care to give this process the attention it deserves. I am honored to have their participation.
And congrats again to all of the finalists. It's a huge accomplishment to have been singled out by your peers, and to have made it to the finalist stage! I know I speak for everyone when I say I am deeply appreciative of your cookie contributions in 2015.
So, now it's back to sitting on pins and needles as our judges deliberate! Stay tuned for our winners announcement, estimated to make a splash here around the end of February!