Can you feel it? The sense that winter is past its midpoint, and spring is just around the corner (or at least, here in Chicago, that the risk of days in the single digits is behind us). For me, spring is always a time of renewed energy and creativity, while deep winter tends to be a time when my energy and creativity are a bit low. However, clearly, that is not the case for all of YOU, who brought your very creative best for this latest Practice Bakes Perfect challenge - mixed media! I was overwhelmed by the quality of entries we had this time around, and choosing just ten to spotlight was painfully difficult. And so, I would encourage everyone to go back and peruse the ENTIRE Practice Bakes Perfect clip set for this challenge and feast your eyes on ALL of the glorious works of cookie art, not just those featured here in this recap.
But, before we get to our spotlighted artists, I want to talk about the randomly chosen winner of this challenge's incredible prize, which was generously donated by Michele Hester, owner and founder of SugarVeil®: A Vacuum Pick-up Tool (retail value $135 USD) and about a bazillion dragÉes from the SweetWorks® Celebration line (so you can play with your new tool)!
And the winner of the super-cool pick-up tool is . . . Econlady! I am SURE Econlady could have used a vacuum tool for all of those little candy eyes in her challenge entry:
A Haunted House That is Now a Birthday House by Econlady
Congratulations, Econlady! And with that, let's look at our other spotlighted artists (in no particular order).
Valentine's Day Cookies by mintlemonade (cookie crumbs)In my own little mind, I tend to think of mixed media as being loud and bold and colorful - a mash-up of clashing elements coming together to create a discordant whole. But this set by mintlemonade really shook up my own thinking about mixed media. Here, she uses so many techniques so flawlessly, and in such a soothing, neutral color palette, that the mixed media process takes a backseat and the overall design shines through. And, can I just say, I am in complete awe of those royal icing transfer butterfly wings. I would have to make 100 of those to get two that survived the transfer process!
Love Is in the Air! by Le Monnier du BiscuitThis was another entry where I was floored by how seamlessly so many different techniques came together. That hot air balloon with its mixture of edible papers and lace, handpainted and sprinkled with gold sanding sugar, is absolutely beautiful. I love how all of the different patterns and textures on the balloon are tied together by the very carefully chosen, sophisticated color palette. Who says that love has to come in only pink and red?
Cupid Strikes by Cookie CelebrationThis was one of FOUR challenge entries submitted by Cookie Celebration, all of which were stunning! I chose this one to spotlight because, in her comments to this entry, she explains how this challenge inspired her to use wafer paper for the first time, and how, with each subsequent use and entry, she learned new ways to use it. In this case, she repurposed leftover printed wafer paper from her first challenge entry, and made it into wafer paper confetti using a hole punch, which she then used here as sequin-like embellishments. Talk about a fast rise up a steep learning curve! Finally, I want to point out that every single detail in the set (and upon closer look, there are many!) is perfectly executed.
Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall by Maggie MorrisonAs I stated in the beginning of this blog post, I feel like I am perched on the precipice between the first and second cookies of this set, with one foot on winter and the other on spring! I adore the vibrant colors here, and how they fade and blend seamlessly from one season/cookie panel to the next. Maggie masterfully accomplished the same effect with her mixed media techniques, using slight variations of a handful of techniques to blend one season/cookie into the next.
A Little Rain Never Hurt Anyone by Fernwood CookieOkay, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I have been a bit obsessed with birds of late, and so I cannot lie when I say this entry by Fernwood Cookie immediately caught my eye. However, upon closer inspection, I realized, birds aside, how brilliant this entry actually is. The vibrant watercolors are absolutely beautiful, and the 3-D effect that Fernwood Cookie achieves here is mesmerizing. (None of the Cookie Connection contributors could quite figure out how those birds could be perched so high above the background cookies.) Finally, we thought the use of a stencil for the raindrops was inspired - the pattern and texture are so appealing and provide a perfect contrast to the watercolors.
Valentine Cookie Card by Michelle west Sion
As one of our contributors noted, this entry looks just like a real scrapbooking card. The big advantage of this card, however, is that when Valentine's Day is over, you can eat it and move on to the next holiday! The layering of media and techniques in this entry is perfect: stencil, then stenciled wafer paper, then royal icing lace, then royal icing transfer hearts, then fondant rose. That's a LOT of layers (and media) for just one cookie! Everything about it says, "Be mine!"
I would love to have these two beauties propped on my nightstand to whisk me off to sleep every night and greet me every morning. They are simply exquisite. The amount of planning that must have gone into these angels is mind-boggling. There is the painted background, and perfectly painted faces, set off by textured (fondant) hair, and then embellished with printed wafer paper collars, more handpainted details, and luster. The overall effect is that of an artisan ceramic tile. So lovely!
Red Panda by Ryoko ~Cookie Ave.
I LOVE when people treat these Practice Bakes Perfect challenges as just that - challenges. In this entry, Ryoko really accepted the challenge when she created her isomalt reflecting pond. Pictures of the process can be viewed in the comments here, but basically, the pond is a layer of clear isomalt, with a second cookie (decorated with an inverted image) placed behind it so that you can see through. I think that the reflection effect she achieved is fabulous.
The Redhead by Libby Frankl
I will let one of our contributor-judges describe this one: "That sugar ice with snow and ice crystals is really effective, not just poured flat but pulled up into ice sculptures. And the swinging red hair is a brilliant touch of colour to lift the whole design." As a side note, we would all love to see this piece under a number of different lighting conditions so we can more fully appreciate the many different textures and tones of that ice.
A Golden Fan on a Red Velvet Cushion by manu
I love how manu worked so many techniques so flawlessly into this entry. The peek-a-boo effect of the floral design through the cutout wafer paper is striking, and I love how the same floral pattern echoes across so many techniques: background tone-on-tone stencil, cutout wafer paper, and piped flowers.
Something with Dolphins by LaegwenThere definitely IS something about this particular set of dolphins. They were so compelling, that after agonizing about it for days, I decided to add an extra, eleventh, highlighted entry for this challenge. I think that Laegwen did a masterful job of demonstrating perspective here, as the large hibiscus in the foreground give way to increasingly smaller dolphins dancing toward the horizon in the background. I also liked the mixing of materials here, using royal icing transfers for the dolphins, fondant for the shells, and gumpaste for the flowers.
And that's all for Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #14! Stay tuned for the next challenge, which will post on or about February 15. In the meantime, grab your sweetie, and maybe some chocolate (or cookies!), and have a lovely Valentine's Day!
Christine Donnelly began her professional baking career at 16, when she was hired on the spot at her local bakery to work the counter and decorate cakes. After detours to college and law school, she worked as a trial lawyer in Chicago for many years, ultimately leaving that career to become a stay-at-home mother to her two children. In her “retirement,” she continued to bake at home, at last finding her preferred artistic medium in decorated cookies. In February 2013, Bakerloo Station was born with a presence on both Facebook and Instagram. Christine makes cookies to balance her left brain, to inspire and share creative ideas, and to feed those needs that only art can satisfy.
Photo credit: Christine Donnelly
Note: Practice Bakes Perfect is a bimonthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Christine Donnelly that poses inspiration or challenges to get you to stretch as a cookie artist - for practice, for prizes, and for fun! Its content expresses the views of the author and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. Catch up on all of Christine's past Cookie Connection posts here.