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Sneak Peek of Julia's New Stencil Line - Including Her "Prettier Plaque" Series!


Hi, everyone! If it seems like I've been hiding lately, that's partially true! I've been in the throes of final design testing of my new cookie stencil line and the premiere of my first layered stencil series, which I am affectionately calling (for now, anyway), the Prettier Plaque series! This series is aimed at resolving the persistent and pesky issue of backgrounds getting in the way of words on message cookies, while making plaque cookies prettier than ever before! Here's a quick video of how they are designed to work, including some of my latest design samples:

The Prettier Plaque series and a host of other cookie stencils will debut later this fall, in plenty of time for the holidays. But, in the meantime, I wanted to give you all an insider's view into what I and my wonderful partner, Stencil Ease, have been doing! Of course, since we are still in the midst of fine-tuning designs, any specifics discussed here are subject to change.

Genesis of the Prettier Plaque Series
As with every good product development effort, this one has been a hugely collaborative process that has spanned many months (no, I take that back, years!) and involved many people, but particularly Jim Randolph, Catherine McKern, and Stephanie Olmstead of Stencil Ease!

It all began for me back in 2014 when I and other cookiers seemed to be in search of a better way to make stenciled plaque cookies - one where there wasn't so much interference between the words in the center and the backgrounds. I was using painter's tape to mask off areas of background stencils; other were (and are still) using paper masking templates. But neither of these approaches was ideal, for reasons you can well imagine.

Now, let's get this straight: masking stencils have long been in use in the larger craft world, and they've worked great there. I can't claim any credit for that idea. But their use in other applications got me thinking: Wouldn't it be a godsend if someone could give cookiers something similar, either (1) background stencils with voids in the center or (2) masking pieces to cover parts of the background? And, wouldn't it be EVEN better if those pieces were assembled in sets with pretty words and frames that were designed to fit popular plaque cutters seamlessly?!!

In May 2014, I got to asking my Facebook friends and also the community here on Cookie Connection what they thought of some of these ideas (in this forum post and related survey). The ideas seemed to resonate with people, including some of the community's most avid stencilers of the day. More ideas were generously bandied about in the forum, and the Prettier Plaques concept was further crystallized in my head - thanks to everyone's input!

At the time, I knew I wanted to make this idea happen - somehow. But I also knew I needed a partner. There was no way I could keep up with my cookie classes, my YouTube channel, and Cookie Connection and launch a new product line singlehandedly.

Meeting My Partner
Well, time came and went, and I got distracted by other projects until . . . as luck would have it, Stencil Ease found me in late 2015! Stencil Ease has been making stencils for 36 years and is the US's largest manufacturer of craft, household, and other stencils, but . . . they didn't yet have a culinary line when we first spoke, and . . . they wanted to work with me (yes, me!) to help create one! Bingo - I had found my perfect partner!

Since then, I've been able to tour their facility in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, which, BTW, is pristine and outfitted with state-of-the-art laser-cutting machines. (See inside the facility and read about that tour here.) I've also had the distinct pleasure of working closely with Jim on the overall scope of the line, and with Stephanie and Catherine on our first set of cookie stencil designs. Typically, I provide these talented ladies with rough design concepts, and they work hard to translate (often simplify) them into gorgeous sets that cut well on their machines and also read well on cookies. Then I test them on actual cookies, and we go back and forth like this until we're all happy with the end results.

In the words of our latest Practice Bakes Perfect challenge, the team at Stencil Ease completes me! I am honored and grateful to be their partner.

What to Expect
As I said, we still have some fine-tuning to do - and more designs to add - before our official launch later this fall, so expect me to continue to be buried!  And, again, don't be surprised if some details change!

More importantly, here are some factoids about the Prettier Plaque series and broader Stencil Ease culinary line that I hope will whet your appetite:

  • My branded stencil series are designed by me for you; I will always welcome and appreciate your input!
  • All of our stencils are made of 10 mil food-grade acetate, flexible yet durable enough to ensure a long life!
  • They are also made in the US, where our US-based team can closely monitor product quality.
  • We use dedicated food-use only laser machines that cut complicated patterns 4 to 5 times more quickly than the usual knife-cutting machines, allowing speedier responses to those inevitable last-minute orders!
  • Prettier Plaque sets are designed to fit well on many of the most popular plaque shapes.
  • Background, frame, and masking layers of Prettier Plaque sets are interchangeable from set to set, meaning lots of versatility.
  • Prettier Plaque stencils will be sold as sets and separates, meaning even more versatility!

Again, my sincerest thanks to all who wittingly, or unwittingly, contributed to the evolution of this line and the plaque stencil concept. I am most appreciative!

Please stay tuned for further announcements here and in my social media channels! And don't hesitate to spread the word!

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Comments (15)

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Thanks, ladies! One of the things I like most about them is their versatility. I'll be making some demo videos about their use, to display some of this versatility, after I get back from the Philippines later this month. Stay tuned!

pip posted:

Terrific news Julia!   Looking forward to the stencils and videos. 

There will be regular videos as we introduce extensions of the line and new series! So many people are visual learners so I think the videos will really help.

Oh thank you Julia for giving us this rare opportunity to view your new stencil line they are beautiful I know the final outcome will be a great success for you and your partners and yes I think video are way to go today you do them so well I'm looking forward to their completion

Bakerloo Station posted:

Wow, these stencils are really fabulous looking!  Congratulations on the new venture, @Julia M. Usher !

Thanks - I'm really pleased with how they've been shaping up too. We've got about 30 really elegant sets ready to launch in a few weeks, with many more ideas on the way!

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