I’m back - finally! My apologies for getting this interview turned around so slowly. It's been a challenging year so far with many disruptions in what I thought were well-laid plans. Anywho, on to more interesting stuff! How many of you are eager to learn more about our talented November 2021 site artist? [Imagine a short pause and a resounding and eager response. ] Lots – I thought so! Onward we go! Here’s a reminder of what her site art looked like:
So lovely! And who was this artist, you ask? This talented cookier was none other than Edyta Kołodziej who harks from Poland and has been a regular contributor to Cookie Connection since June 2018. In her earlier site artist forum introduction, Edyta relayed that decorating cookies is her passion. It all started for her in 2013 with the construction of a gingerbread house for Christmas. For the next three years, she made gingerbread houses for friends and acquaintances; then things changed in 2017 when she met Ania Komisarczyk. During a course with Ania, Edyta learned the secrets of royal icing. Only a year later, Edyta took part in her first ŁÓDŹ you like cookie? decorating contest and won in the 3-D cookie category. Following that win, she participated in Cake Festival Poland and in the Słodka Misja (Sweet Mission) Facebook group, and affirmed that 3-D constructions are her favorite field. Edyta loves to learn different decorating techniques and to play with royal icing. She explores the secrets of decorating through both courses and independent study of tutorials and materials provided by the Cookie Connection community. When making cookies, she always follows the golden rule: make what you would like to get yourself.
In this interview, I look forward to learning more about Edyta’s typical cookie week, why she loves 3-D cookies and her tips for making them successfully, cookie trends in Poland, and her future cookie dreams.
Phew, that's a lot! Let’s get cracking, shall we?!
JMU: Hi, Edyta! Thank you again for so generously contributing your wonderful fall-themed cookie photos that graced the banner and backdrop of our site at the end of 2021, and also for your enthusiastic participation in the site over the last three years. I love having you in this happy online cookie community!
In your forum bio, you described yourself as a “hobbyist cookie decorator”, mostly serving your creations, like the one below, to family and friends. But do you ever sell your cookies, and do you have any aspirations to sell cookies in the future? Why or why not?
EK: I started with hobby decorating but, over time, I started showing my cookies on my Facebook page and selling them. Currently, I work professionally in an industrial ceramics factory that makes tiles and terracotta. After my full-time work, I develop my cookie business, both producing and selling.
JMU: Oh, your full-time work sounds interesting. I have a tile fetish myself! LOL. It must be a source of some interesting cookie ideas, no?
EK: Most of the tiles in the factory are produced by machines, though I arrange mosaics and other decorations. I admit that the tiles have some interesting patterns, both modern and classic, and it is possible to be inspired by some of them.
JMU: So what’s your typical work week in Poland look like? How many and what types of cookie projects do you usually work on, and for what types of occasions or events? And how do you juggle it all with full-time work?
EK: Due to the fact that I work in an industry other than cookies, I have to divide my time between these two areas. Throughout the year, I make cookies for lots of occasions: birthdays, children's parties, Grandma's and Grandpa's Day, Mother's Day, and first communions. I have the most work before Christmas. I work eight hours in my ceramics job and then two to three hours a day on gingerbread. However, I always try to work in such a way to balance work and free time. I never work at night, and I do not accept orders that I will not be able to fulfill due to lack of time. There are times when I don't make cookies. For example, I don't sell cookies for Valentine's Day. From an economic point of view, that's a bad idea, but it's a time when I go hiking with my friends. This is my time.
JMU: I admire your discipline in protecting your personal time. I sure wish I was better at that myself. You also mentioned in your forum intro that your cookie decorating life changed after you learned the secrets of royal icing in a course with Ania Komisarczyk in 2017. For those of us who don’t know Ania and her work, can you tell us more about her? And what were the most eye-opening lessons about royal icing that she taught you?
EK: Ania is a wonderful and wise person. She communicates wonderfully about icing, and shows students several icing densities and the possibilities for their use. She encourages you to experiment and play with the icing. During the course, several cookies were made using different densities. For me, the greatest value that I learned from her lessons was knowing the properties of a given density and how to recognize it just by how the frosting behaves. Thanks to her instruction, I was able to recreate the icing and use it successfully in my own work.
JMU: It sounds as if many a cookie decorating teacher could learn a lot from Ania!
Congrats on your win in the ŁÓDŹ you like cookie? decorating competition – and in your first year of cookie decorating no less! Can you tell us a little more about this competition – who runs it, how long it has been in existence, how often it takes place, and so on? Can you also share a photo of your winning piece? I’m sure everyone would absolutely love to see it!
EK: There were two editions of this competition: one in Łódź in 2018 and another in Wrocław in 2019. The organizer of both was a wonderful woman named Katarzyna Ratajczak, Kasia for short. In Łódź, she was helped by Martyna Popiołek-Dębska (a lawyer and confectionery enthusiast), and, in Wrocław, Weronika Łączniak (the producer of FloWerka molds) was the co-organizer. In Łódź, the theme of the competition was music, and, in Wrocław, it was a return to the past.
As I mentioned earlier, I was also involved with the Słodka Misja (Sweet Mission) Facebook group, which was also run by Kasia. It was a place where she organized internet cookie contests and decorating madness. Decorating enthusiasts could present their work there. Unfortunately, for private reasons, Kasia suspended the activity of Sweet Mission, but I think that all of its participants remember it with joy and are very grateful that they could be a part of such a community. Me too. Without it, I wouldn't be where I am. There I learned to look for inspiration and to create my own works.
This year, Kasia reactivated the Sweet Mission page. I keep my fingers crossed for it to succeed.
JMU: It's wonderful that Sweet Mission gave your cookie creativity a kickstart! Every beginner (and any evolving decorator, for that matter) needs a place like that. But let's get back to your ŁÓDŹ you like cookie? 3-D entry, the piano picture below. Please tell me, what was the most challenging part of creating this entry and how did you overcome those challenges and go on to win? It's beautiful, BTW!
EK: The most difficult challenge was creating the quilted side of the piano. It had an irregular shape. I made it in two parts. I created the metal molds myself, which is how I shaped the parts. I ordered a metal sheet and bent it until it had the shape and curvature I wanted. Then I baked two mirror-image parts on them. I gradually iced each part by arranging and supporting it with various home appliances so that it was horizontal the entire time (so the icing would not drip). This process took several days. When the two sides were completely dry, I glued them to the bottom of the piano and filled the joint between them with frosting.
JMU: Yep, without a doubt, icing curved cookies smoothly is one of the more challenging things to do in cookie decorating, but you did it so well!
Your bio says that, after this first competition, you entered a couple of other competitions, which affirmed that 3-D constructions are our favorite field within cookie decorating! Gosh, I wish you had entered the 3-D cookie category in my recent cookie art competition! Please promise me you'll take part in 2022! Anyway, I digress . . . What is it about 3-D cookies that makes them your favorite?
EK: It's hard to say. It just happened that way. I see 3-D constructions, and I know they are what I want to so. I didn't plan on this. Sometimes designing the molds and the whole structure is very tiring, because everything has to fit and be even, but I do it anyway. Besides, participation in competitions is a wonderful adventure for me. Thanks to competing, I've met many wonderful people. I miss these meetings, talks, and the great atmosphere. Online connections just cannot replicate this wonderful atmosphere.
JMU: True, in-person competitions and classes are hard to beat, but, in this day and age, I am so glad we've got virtual alternatives to help stay connected and to continue to challenge ourselves.
Can you share a photo of the most challenging 3-D cookie that you’ve done, and give us a mini tutorial of how you made it? Also, what aspect of it was most challenging, and how did you get past that challenge?
EK: Each of my projects has been different and, with each, there have been different challenges. As I mentioned in the case of the piano, it was the construction and icing of the sides. For my ferris wheel above, I wanted it to be movable, so I had to adjust the size of the wheel to work well with the height of the base supports and then prop them just so to keep everything upright. I improvised and used a whiskey bottle as my prop, as you can see below! With each job, there are different problems to be solved. I enjoy learning new things, and I often work through the challenges by trial and error.
JMU: Yes, that is indeed some resourceful propping!
What are the top tips that you’d give to people who want to get into 3-D cookies, to ensure that they get the best results possible?
EK: First, it is important to make a clear commitment to what you want to do. And at the very beginning, consider what decorative technique will be used for each element. This planning makes the work much easier. It is worth looking for extraordinary, new ideas and sometimes to other fields for them. I often use modeling websites or children's toys for project inspiration and guidance.
JMU: Interesting use of reference items!
Your project designs are indeed quite varied, as is your use of techniques. Just curious - do you have a cookie Achilles’ heel, meaning a technique that you just can’t seem to master? If so, what is it? And what strategies, if any, do you have for conquering that technique?
EK: I can't create intricate lace or small dots. I admire everyone who can do these things. Despite trying, I don't have the patience to create them. I'll stay with my 3-D vision!
JMU: Not a bad strategy - it's always a good idea to do what brings most happiness! Now, let’s talk more about your personal cookie journey and experiences in Poland. What moment, if any, has been your highest point (or greatest accomplishment) in your cookie decorating history, and why?
EK: I am still to this day very proud of my phone project above. It turned out exactly as I wanted. I made it to scale, in a wonderful black frosting with a movable dial. Even though I have no technical education, I calculated everything to fit perfectly. I am satisfied with both the decoration and the design itself.
JMU: As you should be - it's very precise, clean work, which is hard to achieve with 3-D cookies when there are often many seams to hide.
And, now, for the converse of the previous question: What’s been your most trying or challenging moment in your cookie decorating history, and how did you get past it?
EK: Sometimes things go wrong. We believe that we could have done something better or different. However, I am of the opinion that you cannot be too hard on yourself. If you do your best at the moment, that's enough. I have to put distance on everything I do. I know I gave my best and that's okay. If something didn't work out, that's not a big deal.
JMU: I just have to stop a sec to exclaim about your blue bicycle bells above - so very sweet, and I love how perfectly smooth they are!
Now, back to our interview! I’m always curious to learn about cookies and cookie decorating in other countries, so let’s turn briefly to that topic. Are there particular cookies or cookie traditions in Poland that are especially original or interesting, and that you think our readers ought to know about? If so, what are they? Please elaborate so we can all satisfy our sweet tooths virtually!
EK: Decorating cookies, especially gingerbread cookies, takes place in Poland during the Christmas season. Old Polish gingerbread is also baked. Raw dough is aged for five to six weeks before baking. I am faithful to this recipe. There is one more cake, our cheesecake, that is a favorite for various holidays and more. Poles love it. There is even a funny saying: "I can't fit anything more into myself, but the cheesecake will." Cheesecake is the king of cakes and desserts here.
JMU: It certainly looks delicious from what I can see in that link. I wonder how it varies from American-style cheesecake, which is also a big favorite here. As soon as we're done with this interview, you can bet I'll be off to explore various recipes. Please share your favorite in the comments here if you'd like.
Next up: the topic of cookie decorating in your country! As you probably know, interest in cookie decorating continues to grow insanely in the US, with new products and services popping up to serve cookie decorators nearly every day. Is cookie decorating as popular in Poland as it is in the US? Is interest in it growing or waning, and what market or other factors lead you to say this?
EK: In Poland, the decorating industry is developing very dynamically. Especially now during the pandemic. Online courses and webinars are particularly popular. By observing social media, you can see how many new people are trying their hand at decorating.
JMU: It's great to hear of the increased interest there. Soon cookiers will dominate the sugar arts world! LOL.
What’s your favorite part of belonging to the online cookie community, and why? And I’m not talking just about Cookie Connection; I’m talking about “community” in the broadest sense of how you experience it everywhere online. Conversely, what’s your least favorite part about it?
EK: I love watching and admiring cookiers from all over the world. Each of them brings something new. You can get a lot of inspiration and learn the ways of others by seeing their work. Thanks to the internet, I got to know the work of artists I love. I am a huge fan of @Manu biscotti decorati! And it is thanks to your videos that I learned to cover hemispheres with frosting. Sometimes the language barrier causes problems, but somehow I cope with the translator.
JMU: Yay - I'm glad my videos were helpful to you! And, yes, I agree wholeheartedly that Manu is wonderful - not just as a cookie artist but as a human being. We are very lucky to have her on the team of Cookie Connection contributors!
Last, my usual (and very predictable) parting question! Where would you like to see yourself in the cookie decorating world three years from now? Do you envision doing more or less of anything, or taking on any new cookie-related activities, such as competing even more, teaching, creating or selling products, or something else? Why would you like to go in this direction?
EK: Now I work in my small home kitchen. I always laugh that, when I do a renovation, I will buy an oven to make a really big 3-D project! Despite the fact that I now sell cookies, decorating them and creating new projects are still constant fun and a challenge for me. I don't have specific plans, but I would like to enjoy whatever it is I will be doing.
JMU: Well, I certainly admire your balanced approach to work and how you put personal happiness first and foremost! Thanks again for the great interview, and I look forward to seeing more of your 3-D - and 2-D - work here on Cookie Connection!
Cookie and photo credits: Edyta Kołodziej
Cookier Close-ups is the place on Cookie Connection where we celebrate the change-makers of the cookie decorating world. Whether forging new enterprises, inventing novel decorating techniques, or consistently charming us with their cookie decorating prowess, each of our featured thought leaders has redefined in his/her distinctive way how we interact, create, or otherwise do business here in cookie space!
If there are other cookiers you'd really like to get to know, please post requests in this forum. We'll do our best to round them up for an upcoming Cookier Close-up! Thanks!