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Live Chat with Shannon Heupel, CookieCon 2019 Instructor

Our chat with Shannon has officially started! Yay!
Welcome, Shannon! And thank you for joining us today! I know you've been super busy handling the various changes in your cookie businesses (which we'll talk about in a bit), so I am especially grateful to you for sharing your time and talents here with us!
Welcome, as well, to everyone joining us today! If you're new to these chats, please don't be shy. These chats are always better when everyone jumps right in.
But, before you do that , I have a few housekeeping rules to review . . .
First, questions are answered in the order received, but they will not post to the public/viewable area of the chat until Shannon reads and answers them. We'll work through questions that were logged in advance first; then start working on questions asked live during the chat. That said, please be patient and do not re-post the same question. It may take some time to answer your question, depending on where it sits in the queue. But I will personally make sure every question gets answered before we're through.
Second, please ask just one question at a time (per post); it's easier for our guests to keep up and others to read the chat transcript if they're not hit with too many questions at once. Thanks!
Hi, All Mixed Up!
Okay, so we're off to the races! I'm going to start by posting some images of Shannon's cookies to familiarize you with her work and stencils. Here's the first, a sparkly and striking overlay of two stencils . . .
Some stunning hearts . . .
Valentines Cookies
Also layered looks in those hearts!
Stenciled flowers, which would be lovely for Easter or Mother's Day . . .
And, lastly, a better view of the cookies in Shannon's chat banner . . . just gorgeous!
Mermaid Waves Starfish
So while others are formulating questions for you, Shannon, I'm hoping we could start with you bringing us all up to speed on the recent changes at Artfully Designed Creations, and what motivated you to make those changes.
JULIA: Timing . . . changes always comes down to timing. After CookieCon in Indy, it became clear that I needed to make changes. I was starting to have serious health issues, our family business was growing and needed more of my attention, and I was barely keeping up with the bare minimum demands of Artfully Designed Creations (ADC). I had to make a decision, which business was I going to let go of. It was a hard decision, but in the end I knew it had to be ADC that I was going to have to sell.
I am so sorry to hear about your health issues . . . I did not know . . .
Such a huge decision, but life balance and health come first.
JULIA thanks. It's been a rough 6 months but getting through it.
All Mixed Up, I have a few more advance question in the queue, so start teeing up yours! I'll get to yours next.
You mentioned in your recent blog post about selling Artfully Designed Creations that you had other opportunities to sell over the years, but had never encountered the right buyer until now. What factors were most important to you in determining the "right buyer"? How did you know this was the "right" time to sell?
JULIA: Last fall Jennifer, from Bee’s Baked Art, and I got to talking and it became clear that she was very interested in taking over ADC but I felt she would be someone that I could trust to continue to build the business and make it even more successful. Which made making the decision to sell ADC so much easier. Having someone in the industry already was no-brainer. But also giving her an opportunity to fulfill her dreams made it more rewarding. My health had a lot to do with this decision as well. I was burning myself out and, being diagnosed with a serious auto-immune disease, it was time to make some big changes in my life. But don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere just yet. I will be working with Jennifer with some new products, and working with Paasche to add some more products in our airbrush line. Plus a professional video of troubleshooting, tips, and tricks of airbrushing. ☺
Hi, DIYDiva!
I have one more advance question, then we're opening up questions to those online!
Now, let's get to that genius airbrushing tip of yours that I teased in your chat intro! What is it, and how did you come up with it?
JULIA While I was touring the Paasche plant and meeting with the employee that works on our guns she was testing each gun with color to make sure it was working properly. When she went to clean it after she ensured it was ready for selling, she used an air compressor to blow air into the gun and clean out any remnants of color in the gun. I wanted to be able to do that at home and came up with a can of compressed air, the kind you use to clean out your computer keyboard at home.
Makes so much sense! People were all abuzz about that tip at CookieCon!
I would love to hear more about airbrushing techniques (for beginning airbrushers).
Oooh, good question, All Mixed Up!
Shannon will now be typing live, so expect a little more lag time as she types. In the meantime, you can fill up her queue with more questions. I'll post them one at a time, typically as I get them and after Shannon answers the last one.
ALL MIXED UP the best advice I can give is airbrushing in light coats. Typically, everyone likes to pull that trigger all the way back but that can end up messy and causing color to bleed and run. You want the color to be able to absorb into the cookie and the best way to do this is to airbrush in light even coats to build the color up.
Is the compressed air for cleaning airbrushes different from the one for cleaning the computer keyboard?
ALL MIXED UP Nope, it's the same product.
So, while others write questions, more from me . . .
Can you tell us more about your other family business that you alluded to at the start?
What is it? How did it come about? What's your role there?
Launching new businesses is always the best part (at least for me; I'm not so great at maintaining and growing them, or handling employees!)
JULIA oh sure! We own an edible cookie dough shoppe in Green Bay, WI called The Dough Shoppe. My daughter and I were traveling for ADC and came across one in Buffalo, NY and decided it was something we wanted to pursue and bring to our hometown. She and I work together at the shop, I take care of most of the back end stuff and help staff when I can. She is a great business partner!
Do you manufacture and package all of the dough on site too?
All Mixed Up - Your question is up next!
Yes! Katelyn (my daughter) and I mix the dough on a daily basis so it's made fresh in store. Each dough is based off of our family recipes.
Wow! Well, it sounds like fun and I wish you well in that. I can't imagine running two businesses, so your decision to focus makes total sense to me.
Awesome. I just started using my airbrush which I purchased from a retiring baker. I assume there are other techniques for cleaning before you get to the compressed air step????
My daughter loves chocolate chip cookie dough but not decorating cookies so maybe that would be an idea for us! Right now she's too busy with school and ballet to think about cookies, except eating them.
LOL, All Mixed Up!
ALL MIXED UP it's always best to clean your airbrush with hot water when you are using a water based airbrush color. We recommend running hot water through your gun and then once you've finished you can use the air to get out anything that was missed.
Why don't you use the stuff marketed as "airbrush cleaner"?
JULIA we don't recommend airbrush cleaners because it actually contains alcohol which removes the water from your airbrush cleaner and leaves the color to dry out in your gun causing issues like clogging. Plus, hot water is free.
Ok. I read somewhere that you should use clear vodka for cleaning so I bought some but I'm guessing hot water would work just as well and the compressed air would definitely eliminate build up and clogging.
airbrush color* not cleaner
ALL MIXED UP when we suggest water over alcohol it's based on water based airbrush color like Chefmaster etc.
I use vodka to clean and have never had a problem. I like it because it does dry quickly, and doesn't leave pockets of water in the gun. But the compressed air trick would solve the latter!
Let's move onto some more airbrushing and stenciling questions . . .
If you are using alcohol based products definitely use alcohol when cleaning.
One from me . . .
Thanks, all of my airbrush color is water based so now I know how to clean my airbrush.
As a fellow stencil maker, I think I can safely say that stenciling can sometimes look cookie-cutter (but yours don't). What are your tips for making stenciled cookies look less mass-produced?
Yes, Julia, I'm ready to learn some cool techniques for stenciling with my airbrush. You have so many pretty stencils. I need to get busy deciding which ones I want to order first!!
Thanks, All MIxed Up! ADC has awesome stencils too! There are so many good stencil suppliers now, but the competition is one thing that helps keep suppliers creative!
JULIA adding depth and dimension. I guess my scrapbooking days helps with that. It's all about designing. Making sure you think about your colors when you start decorating. You can't airbrush a light color on top of a dark color etc.
Julia, you ready my mind! I was just thinking that I need to look at ADC stencils as I haven't done that yet. Maybe I will find some at both places. Also, at Show me Sweets in July. I can't wait!!
I'm sure you'll find great ones in both places! I will have most of my line at Show Me Sweets. It's so close that I can bring more stuff! Yay!
Underspray and overspray are perennial issues when airbrushing with stencils. How do you avoid those troubles?
Yes, it's nice to have a show close to home. I know you will have some great products along with expert tips on how to use them. I'm anxious to attend my first cookie conference.
Show Me Sweets will have more than cookies - they've got cakes and cupcakes too. But it's a great show, especially considering that it's relatively new.
We're expecting a larger than usual turnout too, because my 3-D competition is getting televised. But that's another story . . .
JULIA overspray helps by doing those light coats... color is coming out at a slower speed. Underspray well that's a thorn in everyone's side including me. It's all about having even, smooth icing and making sure your airbrush is making a 90 degree angle with the cookie. This allows the air to push the stencil down against the cookie.
Hi, Jennifer! Welcome! Any questions? If so, please log into the site, so you can enter them.
I know, I saw all the great classes and events but I'm sticking with cookies!
What about techniques and tools for weighing down stencils so they don't blow up and contribute to underspray? What are your favorite approaches - Stencil Genie, tape, magnets, other?
JULIA I really like the Sugarbelle Stencil Snap for airbrushing. But for royal icing I lay extra cookies around the cookie I'm decorating and lay the stencil down. That way I have a bigger area to work with when I'm scraping the RI over the stencil. And the extra cookies allows the stencil to lay flat.
Great tips!
All Mixed Up, DIYDiva, Jennifer and others - any questions? I don't want to dominate this chat!
But I am full of questions myself!
What are your thoughts about alcohol-based airbrush colorings, Shannon, like Spectrum Flow, for instance? Do you use them, and, if so, when and why?
Julia, you go ahead and ask those questions. I'm here to learn. lol
JULIA I like them however, I feel that they are a bit more expensive for most cookie decorators budgets.
Hard to type quick enough on my phone. But, back to the air compressor tip, do you spray it into the ink cup? I've never watched any videos on how to use an airbrush, just picked it up and figuring it out as I go - lol.
DIYDIVA exactly! Right into the color cup.
I like alcohol-based quite a lot for certain applications - especially the white. Water-based white can be so watery and pool up so easily, but the alcohol-based ones dry so fast and cover more easily. Also, less blending of colors once they hit the cookies, which sometimes I like - and sometimes I don't.
Alcohol based certainly does have it's advantages.
Now, airbrushing with stencils is one thing, but working with royal icing and stencils is a completely different animal. What are your best tips for beginners when stenciling with royal icing?
That's one of those tips that I hear and think, "Why didn't I think of that, it seems so obvious." haha
I know, DIYDiva, what a great tip, right?!
JULIA first practice what you want to do on a notta cookie to get the hang of it. Also not all stencils are made for RI application. It always comes down to icing consistency. To thick and it won't go on smooth. To thin and it will seep through the stencil.
So, for those not in the know, a Notta Cookie is a fake (plastic) cookie produced by Karen and Mike Summers of CookieCon. You can ice or airbrush on it; then wash it off and start all over again.
That was the most I read about on IG from those at CookieCon!
DIYDIVA yes when I taught classes everyone was like "Why didn't I think of that." LOL
Shannon, what do you mean by some stencils are made for royal icing, and some are not? What would one be looking for in a stencil to make sure it works well with royal icing, or with both mediums?
I had never heard of a Notta cookie. What a great idea.
Here's a link to more Notta Cookie info:
I usually just practice on less than perfect cookies and then eat my mistakes! Thanks for the link. Will save me some calories.
So here is a screen shot of a stencil you wouldn't try with RI. The white lines is the plastic. There isn't enough plastic and it would cause the plastic to move.
Screen Shot 2019-04-13 at 10.40.56 AM
I also airbrush on regular white paper. I always test my color palette (and triggering) on paper first.
Ahh, yes!
Coloring pages work great for practicing airbrushing too.
Though if the stencil openings are too tiny and closely spaced, I imagine that can cause problems too?
Yes Julia. You have to look at the stencil and see will it work how I want to do it etc.
I think I've seen people mix colors in their gun by covering the tip and pulling the trigger. Is that how it's done?
I love the coloring page idea - to help with more precision!
Yes, another great idea from Shannon!
DIYDIVA we always suggest mixing the color before adding to the cup. It works great with one of the cups that come with cough syrup.
The reason we don't suggest mixing color in your well and "back pressuring" (where you cover the tip and pull the trigger) is you can cause color to go to the back of the gun where you don't typically clean it. Which can cause issues in the future.
DIYDiva - I think what you might have witnessed is people suffocating the airflow to cause back-bubbling in the coloring cup. This is often done to clean coloring out of the front end of the nozzle. I always do this with vodka, and it works great! I rarely take my gun apart for cleaning and have never had coloring end up further back in the gun.
As you can perhaps see, one of the biggest lessons in cookie decorating is that there is more than one way to do most things!
Another great idea. I've often wondered how people match their airbrush color to their RI color palette?
DIYDIVA if I'm making a custom RI color I remember that when I'm making a custom Airbrush color to match. Remember when you are airbrushing on white that your color will always be lighter.
DIYdiva - I also often mix coloring in the cup itself. Just by adding the coloring directly, capping the cup, and swirling the coloring around. But this can really only be done with a large capped cup, and is only really helpful if you're doing a small run of cookies. If you're making a lot, the custom color will be more reproducible if mixed separately in larger quantity as Shannon said.
So if you used 2 drops of blue and 1 of geeen in your RI, you'd do that in your gun?
DIYDIVA Yes but remember your color into your RI is going into white icing. It would depend on what you are airbrushing. Play around with it. Practice on some extra cookies, paper etc until you have the color you want.
It's all about figuring out what works best for you. There are different ways to do things and no set way is right. You learn as you go and do what you feel most comfortable with.
And, it may go without saying, but if you use the same brand of airbrush and regular soft-gel coloring, color matching is much easier.
Now, I want to hear more about the cookie dough business. Is that a home-based business too? What hoops did you have to go through to get that started? I imagine more (??) than with stencils due to food safety and health inspection requirements??
Makes sense
Last call for questions, chatters! We have five minutes to go, so we could take one or two more!
JULIA nope we have our own store front for that. It's the cutest little dessert shop in the area and we also have a food truck.
Hi, Heba and PUDING FARM - Any first (and last) questions from you?
Oh, it sounds so charming! If you have photos of the store and truck, do share!
Hi all, was just catching up with some of what I missed I've had a question about airbrushing for Shannon, and that is besides vodka to clean out, what else can be used?
Here is our website.
Heba - She recommends water for water-based colorings - covered cleaners a bit earlier!
HEBA hot water works best. You can't go wrong with that and the canned air.
Oh my! GORGEOUS, Shannon! Love it! No wonder you've been so busy! That's a serious space!
ah ok! thanks... i didn't go far back enough, thanks Julia.
What a fun idea for a dessert shop! One of my biggest challenges in my cookieing, is not to eat all my raw dough!
ooh canned air?! I haven't heard that one before, is all that info on cleaning with it on your website, Shannon?
The compressed air tip is also above, and the transcript will be saved under this same link so you can read it after the chat closes.
HEBA we will have a tutorial, troubleshooting etc coming out on the site in a few weeks. Otherwise just email me.
With one minute to go, I want to thank Shannon for taking time out of her weekend to chat with us!
This chat has ended.
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