Yes, at long last, here's what you've all been waiting for - the announcement of the finalists in our 2016 Cookiers' Choice Awards!
First, before the big reveal, let me extend a sincere thank you to all who took the time to nominate candidates. As our mission statement says, Cookie Connection is a place to learn, share, and celebrate the art of cookie decorating, and, while "celebrate" appears last in that tagline, it's perhaps the most important thing we do here. I firmly believe that taking a moment to stop and appreciate those who have inspired us, shaped us, and taught us is critical to keeping the cookie-verse energized and thriving in the years to come. So, again, thanks to those who nominated for embracing this same philosophy. I know you had some tough choices to make, and, judging from the comments on your ballots, I also know you made those decisions quite thoughtfully.
Now, onto the honorees! In two of the four categories, Cookie Educator and Cookie Innovator, the nominations process indicated clear winners. These winners will be announced by the end of February after our judges (see below) have made their determinations in the other two categories. In the meantime, let's get to the finalists in those categories. By way of introduction, in the Cookier of the Year category, I'll be sharing some of the reasons why our members selected these candidates, as well as each candidate's personal favorite photo from 2016 - i.e., the piece of work that each felt best represents herself. In the Collaboration category, you'll learn a bit about why the cookiers organized, and around which causes.
* 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 2016 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 set the decorating standard this year . . .
Evelin Milanesi of Evelindecora
Evelin's mini food, her favorite creation from 2016.
"Beyond beautiful designs in general. Her signature style is noticeable at first glance. Her miniature food displays always capture my attention, and I marvel at the details. Her techniques are ones to be copied as they are sheer perfection."
Teri Pringle Wood
It's fitting that our very own "Queen of Hearts" chose a heart as her personal pick of 2016, right?!
"Teri is a true inspiration! When you look at her cookies, . . . you feel like you're in a happy, warm, loving place."
"She's got amazing piping skills, and she also makes an amazing amount of great quality cookies!"
Aixa Zunino of Dolce Sentire
This charming 3-D creation from one of Aixa's many "Get Inspired" blog posts topped her personal fave list in 2016.
"Me gusta mucho su trabajo; la personalidad que le da a sus galletas es espectacular."
"Aixa's work is incredibly beautiful, creative, and unique. With each piece that she creates, it is easy to see that she clearly has a mastery of numerous mediums and techniques. She is truly a gifted cookie artist."
* Cookie Collaboration of the Year Finalists *
The Cookie Collaboration of the Year Award will be awarded to the group of cookie artists whose collective work, in the form of a group collaboration, most impressed the Cookie Connection community and awards judging panel in 2016. Cookie collaborations will be evaluated on originality, cohesiveness of presentation, technical merit, and overall design appeal/artistry. (Please note that any judges who contributed to these collaborations will not be judging this category.)
And, now, here's a bit about the purpose of each collaboration, the cookiers who contributed to the effort, and links to the entire collaboration (where possible) . . .
Organizer: Melanie Burns (Killer Zebras)
Cookie Contributors (ordered by calendar month!): LilaLoa, Sweet Sugarbelle, Killer Zebras, Fernwood Cookie, Dany’s Cakes, The Baked Equation, Sugar Dayne, The Painted Pastry, Honeycat Cookies, You Can Call Me Sweetie, Funky Cookie Studio, and Emma’s Sweets
Statement of Purpose: To share beautiful cookies with the world while making a difference! Proceeds from the 2017 calendar go to two charities: (1) OUR, Operation Underground Railroad, which assists governments around the world in the rescue of human trafficking victims, with a special focus on children; and (2) NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, which is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
Sneak peek and buy the calendar now!: Click here
Organizer: Zawadi Parizek
Cookie Contributors (in no particular order): Aixa Zunino, Cindy Best, Evelin Milanesi, Heba Elalfy, Karen Wiliams, Karen Zanker, Katerina Anagnostaki, Kristi Touchette, Marta Torres, Prachi Deb, and Toni Scott
Statement of Purpose: The United Nations of Sugar Art (UNSA) is a coalition of sugar artists from around the world who use edible mediums to raise social awareness. Acts of Green was a social media event aimed at supporting the National Geographic Society, an organization that has made a tangible effort to help reverse the damage that has been done to our planet and to educate future generations about how to protect it. Acts of Green has over 5,000 Facebook followers and, through this channel, UNSA continues to raise awareness and to inspire citizens to reuse, reduce, and recycle.
Full collaboration (including lots of cakes too!): Click here
* What Happens from Here *
Over the next two weeks or so, each of our five esteemed judges (below) will independently evaluate the candidates in each of the above categories across the criteria noted earlier, and will then choose a winner. 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 very difficult to make.
Now, for the judges: they are none other than our wonderfully talented and capable Cookie Connection contributors (excluding those nominated for awards, of course), as well as special guest judge Callye Alvarado, aka Sweet Sugarbelle.
Each of our judges is not only a terrific cookier, but also spends an inordinate amount of time, through work on this site or on other platforms, looking at cookies and thinking about what makes a cookie great. As such, I couldn't dream of a more qualified team for this difficult judging task. A huge thank you in advance to each and every one of them for their time and commitment applied to this important process.
Last but not least, congrats again to our very deserving finalists! I know I speak for all members and nominators when I say we are deeply appreciative of all they've done this year to help us learn and grow as cookie decorators, and to enjoy the art of cookie decorating that much more!
Now, everyone, cross your fingers, take a deep breath, or do whatever you need to do to calm your nerves () as you wait for the final unveiling of winners later in February!
P.S. ATTENTION, FINALISTS! If you are a Cookie Connection member, please check your private messages here to retrieve your finalist badges. If I have missed you (quite probable if you are a contributor to a collaboration, as I do not have everyone's contact info), please contact me at email@example.com for your badge, or contact your collaboration organizer. Thanks!