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NON-LIVE CHAT: Cookie Storytelling with Ryoko ~Cookie Ave.



    As so many of you know, @Ryoko ~Cookie Ave., aka Ryoko Hayashi, has been a longstanding member of Cookie Connection, a fearless and faithful contributor to our Practice Bakes Perfect challenges, and an artist who consistently delights us with her cookie "storytelling" abilities. Her cookie sets are undeniably lovely, but they always go further than surface beauty. Whether they teach us lessons about Japan (Ryoko's home country), expand our skills by showing us techniques, or simply capture a whimsical scene from everyday life, each and every one is a heartfelt expression of Ryoko's passion for cookie art.

    For all of these reasons (and more), I've wanted to chat with Ryoko for forever, to give everyone the opportunity to get to know her and her cookie design process even better. But, alas, the 15-hour time difference to Japan and the fact that I don't speak Japanese have prevented us from scheduling a chat - until now, that is! 

    I'm thrilled to announce that, this month, we're finally going to give a chat a try! However, please note, that this chat will NOT be a live chat. To ensure maximum participation across time zones and to allow Ryoko time to translate questions, all questions and answers will be fielded in advance, in a non-live mode. From now until February 23, we will be accepting questions for Ryoko in this chat room. As Ryoko receives these questions, she'll be translating and answering them, and on February 28, rather than opening the chat to more live questions, we'll close the chat room and post all of the questions and answers entered up to that time.

    I sincerely hope you'll join us for this chat. Again, questions can be entered here any time between now (January 27) and February 23, 2018

    To help fuel questions for Ryoko, please read her brief bio below and visit her Cookie Connection portfolio here.


    Ryoko Hayashi, aka @Ryoko ~Cookie Ave., lives with her husband in Fukuoka, Japan, about 1,100 kilometers (690 miles) southwest of Tokyo. Four years ago, after an early retirement from her own overseas trading and retail company, Ryoko began exploring things she had always wanted to try, including knitting, crocheting, sewing, making bags with paper tape, making beaded accessories and clothes, swimming, and decorating cookies, of course. 

    Having finally overcome her needle phobia, Ryoko can now sew a button without sweating! She also does the crawl stroke, back stroke, breast stroke, and butterfly quite competently. And, having consistently pushed herself in Cookie Connection’s Practice Bakes Perfect challenges, she enjoys regularly decorating cookies for her family and friends. One of her biggest cookie milestones was having a set of her cookies printed in a cookie book about how to make icing.

    Looking forward, Ryoko wants to learn how to draw and paint, handle drawing apps with her iPad, do basic embroidery, and make stained glass accessories. She would also like to one day publish children’s story books illustrated with her cookies. As her cookies are distinguished by their attention to detail and often playful storytelling, the latter goal seems well within Ryoko’s reach!

    Photo credits: Ryoko ~Cookie Ave.

Hi, Ryoko! I am so glad we were able to figure out a way to do this chat so that you wouldn't have to be talking to me in the wee hours of your morning!
Thank you for also agreeing to conduct a chat in English; I'd never be able to do the same in Japanese!
Hi, everyone! Welcome to our chat with Ryoko ~Cookie Ave., aka Ryoko Hayashi! Just a reminder: This chat was not conducted live. Because Ryoko lives in Japan (a 15-hour time difference to me) and, because English is not Ryoko's native language (nor is Japanese mine), we decided it would be best to conduct all of the question retrieval and answering in advance in order to allow time for proper translation. So, what you see in the transcript below was "previously recorded", so to speak. That being said, I do hope you'll read through every bit of this transcript. Because we had the advantage of more time to answer more advance questions, we've got an especially thorough and rich discussion below. Now, onto who you've been waiting for . . . Ryoko!
As so many of you know, Ryoko has been a longstanding member of Cookie Connection, a fearless and faithful contributor to our Practice Bakes Perfect challenges, and an artist who consistently delights us with her cookie "storytelling" abilities. Her cookie sets are undeniably lovely, but they always go further than surface beauty. Whether they teach us lessons about Japan (Ryoko's home country), expand our skills by showing us techniques, or simply capture a whimsical scene from everyday life, each and every one is a heartfelt expression of Ryoko's passion for cookie art.
So, naturally, today, we'll be focusing on Ryoko's storytelling with cookies - how she comes up with her ideas, how she plans (if she does) to translate the images in her mind to cookies, and how she creates such wonderful dimension and expression in her final cookie pictures, among other things.
To give you a better idea of what I mean by her cookie storytelling, I'd like to kick off with a few of Ryoko's cookie pictures . . . This first one was done rather recently, this past Christmas, and is entitled "Dear Santa" . . .
Dear Santa
Here's another comical one entitled "Summer Holiday" . . . Santa's now taking his much needed break! (LOL)
Summer Holiday
In this cookie picture, Ryoko tells the story of a summer festival in her hometown of Fukuoka, Japan . . .
Summer Festival in My Town
And some of her very first cookie stories (posted here on Cookie Connection anyway) were part of her Flower Girl Series. Here's the first picture in that oh-so-charming three-part series . . .
Flower Girl 1
And #2 in that series . . .
Flower Girl 2
And, last but not least, #3 . . . (I can't help but to smile with each and every picture )
Flower Girl 3
Now, one last thing before we dive into the Q&A - Ryoko's bio, for a little more background info: Ryoko Hayashi, aka @Ryoko ~Cookie Ave., lives with her husband in Fukuoka, Japan, about 1,100 kilometers (690 miles) southwest of Tokyo. Four years ago, after an early retirement from her own overseas trading and retail company, Ryoko began exploring things she had always wanted to try, including knitting, crocheting, sewing, making bags with paper tape, making beaded accessories and clothes, swimming, and decorating cookies, of course. Having finally overcome her needle phobia, Ryoko can now sew a button without sweating! She also does the crawl stroke, back stroke, breast stroke, and butterfly quite competently. And, having consistently pushed herself in Cookie Connection’s Practice Bakes Perfect challenges, she enjoys regularly decorating cookies for her family and friends. One of her biggest cookie milestones was having a set of her cookies printed in a cookie book about how to make icing. Looking forward, Ryoko wants to learn how to draw and paint, handle drawing apps with her iPad, do basic embroidery, and make stained glass accessories. She would also like to one day publish children’s story books illustrated with her cookies. As her cookies are distinguished by their attention to detail and often playful storytelling, the latter goal seems well within Ryoko’s reach!
Now, for the Q&A!
JULIA: Hi, Julia, and hi, everybody! Thank you for having me here. I appreciate all of the questions you left me, and I thank you for being here to read this chat. I am very excited but a bit nervous at the same time. My husband thinks I'm a star now that I've told him about this chat. So today will be a memorable day for us.
JULIA: Yes, yes, of course. I'm just imagining people here, staring at Japanese language and wondering what’s going on. That would make me giggle.
Just a little roadmap. Some people asked many questions, so I will be presenting all of each person's questions in one batch, before moving onto the next person. Onward!
Your work is beautiful. Do you sketch out your stories before you create with cookies?
MADELINE: Thank you, Madeline. Yes, I sketch one thing on the same piece of paper many times. Since I never learned how to draw or sketch properly, I sketch with a pencil and use an eraser until I reach something I like. Then I trace the penciled sketch with a pen, erase all penciled lines, and then color it. I take a photo of my sketch because what I sketch on paper often looks different to me in a photo. With the help of a photo, I am often able to see parts or things that need more changes.
Hi. This is such an interesting topic. To whom do you present your storytelling?
MARY WILLIAMS: Hi, Mary! It really depends on to whom I am giving the storytelling cookie. For example, when I made “The Elephant in Far-Far-East Goes to Zara-land” (Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #18), I thought about Zara who likes colorful things and Zara’s children. My “Dear Santa” cookie, which Julia posted earlier, is to whomever happens to look at it. Instead of expressing an exact story in my head, I just left that scene to the viewer to imagine what’s going on. I hope I have answered your question, Mary. The following photo is what I made for Zara for Challenge #18.
Hi, Royko! I'm always amazed by your unique designs and ability to translate stories into cookies. Do you have any legends or folktales you are still looking forward to cookie-ing? Also, what is your favorite cookie technique and what are some tips you have learned to make that technique easier for you?
KIM: Hi, Kim, thank you for your compliment. Right now, I do not have any legends or folktales in my mind to make into cookies. I always need my own story to make cookies. For instance, from time to time, my uncle and my father peep inside from behind a door to make us smile. They remind me of the old man in my cookie story inspired by "The Grateful Crane”, pictured below. Of course, my uncle and father do not coif their hair like the old samurai's - actually, they are bald! HAHAHAHA! My favorite cookie technique . . . to tell you the truth, nothing is yet easy for me. Recently, I stamped on my cookies and now it is soooo easy and fun. I do not have the stamp pad that Julia uses in her video, so I used a brush. The first outcome was horrible, maybe because I put too much alcohol in my gel coloring. I put in less alcohol and used a sponge to put just enough coloring on my stamp. (I hope that’s a helpful tip.)
Grateful Crane
Hi, I am sorry because my English is not so good. I love cookies, and I am starting on this art. My question is: how can I get a perfect cookie? Thank you. NOTE: I have a silpain (silicone baking mat) and a good baking sheet.
BECA CAKES: What are you talking about? Your English is great!
BECA CAKES: Hi, Beca. I tried many recipes that people called “the best”, but not all of them were really the best to me. Toolbox Talk by Liesbet Schietecatte, here on Cookie Connection, tells us all about the function of ingredients, and I think results depend on many things: the different characteristics of the ingredients we pick, our ovens, and the temperature and humidity in each of our environments. After I cut out my dough, I freeze my cookies completely; then I bake them on a silpat as well.
As an artist, what inspires you?
BAKERLOO STATION: Hi there, Christine! Thank you for asking me questions. I have never considered myself to be an artist, but, yes, I can answer this one. What inspires me are: people around me, what they do, what they like, what they possess, what they say . . . something in my cookies always relates to the people who are around me. The unicyclists in my first entry to Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge (PBPC) #11 are my swimming instructors. That’s why those people are wearing swimming caps and old bathing suits. In another challenge (PBPC #12), my friend's daughter inspired me. This 15-year-old girl was too shy to say “hi” even though I saw her a lot. She did not move even a bit, and I used to worry if she breathed regularly! Surprisingly, she is a karate player and amazingly strong!
I know you have already done several collaborations of varying degrees for the Practice Bakes Perfect challenges. If you could collaborate with any cookie artist, who would it be and why?
BAKERLOO STATION: There are many amazing cookie artists who can create things nobody ever thought of, and the list of my favorite artists is very long. But if I could pick any one cookie artist, well, anybody can dream, but I would choose you. The reason is nobody picks you because you host the PBPCs; plus, you are very patient with non-English speakers. (The latter is very important to us, non-English speakers.) In my humble opinion, if you gave us a few of your cookies and we had to make matching cookies, that would be fun!
What a great challenge idea! Christine, take note!
How/why did you start making "icing" cookies?
BAKERLOO STATION: I used to give what I had selected and imported from overseas (as part of my business), or other things I had made, to my friends as occasional gifts. But I just start thinking, do they really use what I give them? While I was doing internet surfing, I encountered icing cookies. Eventually, I reached Julia’s wonderful videos, and also SweetAmbs’, Montreal Confections’, and Haniela’s videos, but I was still just watching what they beautifully did. Fortunately, I found a starter set for icing cookies, and I decided to bake cookies to cheer up my mother. Since then, iced cookies have become the best choice for me as presents, because I can make something original and special, and my friends might even eat them! P.S. I never thought I was going to consume so much powdered sugar in my life.
Hi, Ryoko! So glad to see you invited to Julia's chats!
I remember, as if it were yesterday, when you did a cookie collaboration together with Manu. I have the picture recorded! It was something about a car and a girl hopping into it, and the predominant colour was yellow, I think. You had a clear idea of what you wanted, so Manu drew it, and you, together, ended up with the most lovely cookie!
SIL: The cookie you are describing is #3 in Ryoko's "Flower Girl" series, which I posted at the start of this chat, above. Scroll back up to see the photo!
That car cookie was part of a Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge, in which two people had to make a cookie together. So thanks to both of you, and thanks to the invitation from Claudia Juarez in Mexico, who told me about the challenge. It was the first time I participated in a shared challenge. So your work is one I will never forget.
SIL: Hi, Sil! You make me feel very honored.
SIL: I could not figure out how to make the girl crawling into the car, but Manu helped me. I never thought a car door opened the way Manu thought.
Claudia Juarez was the person who actually helped me out with that challenge, through long FaceTime video chats about how to draw and pipe the character cookies that I love. It was the best experience I have ever had!
SIL: I remember your post to that challenge. Isn’t Cookie Connection a wonderful place to meet great people?
SIL/RYOKO: My heart is warmed, just hearing of these stories of connections made here on this site.
So because of that experience, I want to ask you about the drawings in your cookies that I love so much! How do you get inspired when you do the drawings? Do you draw them by yourself? Have you any tips for us regarding how to draw people? I love drawing cartoons, but I get so shy about cookie-ing them. LOL.
SIL: What inspired me was answered already (see above), so I will answer the rest of your questions. After I get inspired, the characters grow in my head for days. When they stop moving, I draw them out by myself. When I draw my characters, I mirror myself, especially using my hands as a reference. Sometimes I ask my husband to make a pose for me, or face this way or that way. But it is so hard to imagine how children move from his movement.
In your profile, you say that the very first cookies you made were for your mom, but she burst out in laughs when she first saw them, because they were not so nice. LOL. Have you got that picture? Please share! I cannot imagine you doing anything but terrific cookies though.
For those who don't want to follow the link, here's Ryoko's first set. I honestly can't believe her mom laughed at them. They are awesome, especially for a brand-newbie!
How did you learn cookie decorating apart from participating in Cookie Connection challenges, which I really believe are so challenging and help us learn so much. I really should participate MORE!
SIL: Craftsy! I can watch the classes repeatedly, and I can also ask questions directly to the instructors. The PBPCs definitely make us learn and let us realize our possibilities. It is also surprising to see that people can create so many different things under one theme. I really hope that not only you, but many more people, just try and participate in the PBPCs.
I was surprised to see that you are interested in making a book for children with cookies as drawings. My secret dream is doing something regarding children's stories and cookies too, and last week I confessed this secret dream to my children and husband. I also contacted an illustrator of kids' books to ask him to teach me how to draw the wonderful characters he does, but he actually does not teach. Months ago, I told a storyteller that I dream of someday making something with stories and cookies. But I have so many projects before it that I think it is such a distant dream! Can you tell us more about your dream? I just love the idea, and think perhaps you will make it true before I do, and so I got all anxious to hear your chat and what you could tell us about your idea.
SIL: Have you ever seen the book, “If You Give a Cookie Decorator an Order”? I saw it on YouTube. Twenty cookie decorators made cookies for the book, and it is really cute. I wish I had a copy. Ever since I saw it, I wanted to make a book someday. Right now, two stories are growing in me, but they are still only two to three pages, so I enjoy cultivating them for now.
The book of which Ryoko speaks was a collaboration done for a previous CookieCon (cookie conference and show), and was given to each attendee there. Karen and Mike Summers, the CookieCon organizers, were responsible for coordinating this project and bringing it to fruition.
Another question: where did you learn to draw so nicely?
SIL: Oh, thank you, Sil, but I have never learned how to draw because it was banned (oops) by my parents. When I was 9 or so, I heard about an oil painting class, but my parents said it would cost too much. When I saw boys were drawing naked women and giggling, I was astonished because they were really good. I tried what they did at home, but it was not beautiful at all. I just left the paper, and my parents found it. "No more drawings!," they said. Looking at 漫画 manga (Japanese comic books) was not allowed either. Our famous Japanese culture was kept from me. I was also prevented from imagining characters, but that is another story.
Ryoko, I do not know how to write it, but I will tell you first of all: Konichiwa, watashiwa Silvina desu!
SIL: What Sil said is, “Hello, I am Silvina”. Konnichiwa, Silvina.
And, I would like to ask you if your name Ryoko has a meaning in Japanese, and, if so, what does it mean?
SIL: We Japanese use Chinese characters for our names, and each character has some meanings. Mine means “divine ascendancy” and "full of nature”. The characters actually sound a bit strong for a girl’s name, but I like how it looks and I feel comfortable with it. It is this: “稜 ryo 子 ko”.
Ryoko, my last question: this chat is called cookie storytelling. What can you tell us about storytelling? Any tips for great storytelling with cookies? Thank you!
SIL: To me, there are two kinds of storytelling. One is when people get exactly the same story just by looking at the cookie. The other is when the presented scene reminds each person of his/her own story.
Arigató, Ryoko, for your time and always sharing your experience with the techniques you use on your cookies in the challenges!
SIL: Arigato, Sil! I will see you at the next PBPC!
And cheers to all these cookie lovers attending the chat! Have a nice day! Sil
SIL: As always, thanks for all of your great questions. Now, onto our next questioner!
Hi, Challenge Goddess* 😃, you already know how much I love your work, but let me say it again: I absolutely ADORE your cookie art and your storytelling. ❣️❣️❣️ And here my questions for you: I think it was Noriko (mintlemonade) who once said that Japan prohibits the import of certain food colorings. Are Japanese in general very health conscious? Would they eat iced cookies, if you were to sell them? And why don't you sell? Where do your cookies end up (I sure hope not between teeth!!!)? Any plans to teach? I feel lucky to be able to enjoy your art, and am looking forward to a long lasting cookier friendship, and to meet you in person some day! *Just love this title/term coined by Julia Usher 😃!
SWISSOPHIE: Yes, I coined the term to convey Ryoko's commitment to our challenges - and her omnipresence there. I don't think she's missed a single one (of 26 and counting), and has entered many challenges more than once!
SWISSOPHIE: Hi, Sonja! Challenge Goddess (giggling) . . . Julia, can’t I be an angel? Sonja, thank you for telling me you love my work. I really thought that it was one-way love from me to your work. Now let’s see, yes, Japanese are health conscious in general. We have the second highest average life expectancy in the world. A health checkup once a year is mandatory if we are hired. There are many health-related TV programs. I am sure Japanese eat iced cookies, but they are not common things here (I am far from Tokyo). I do not think I am going to sell my cookies, because I need to have a separate kitchen just for cookies to get permission to sell. I think it does not pay, and I do not want to work that hard. Most of all, I am not good at making the same things repeatedly. People who get my cookies eat them; they say they keep them, but eventually they eat them. One of my friends ate one-year-old cookies - that’s so scary! (Didn’t I just say Japanese are health conscious?) I do not think I am going to teach, because I have never been asked to do so. Sonja, I am so lucky to have found your work here on Cookie Connection and I definitely want to see you some day!
It is quite hard to think of questions for you, Ryoko. Since we met here on Cookie Connection almost two years ago, we have been PMing (private messaging) at least every week through Cookie Connection (1225 texts!), talking cookies, techniques, hobbies, and traditions of our countries, or just seeing how each is doing. And since you are also very crafty, we have often wished we could have lived closer, preferably next door! At least through Cookie Connection, we erase distances and time. (Okay, and this was not a question . . .)
I love your cookie sets, because they tell stories and they show traditions from your country. I think you started down this path, thanks to the PBPCs, with your collaboration with Zara (@carouselselsel) in 2016, when you also wrote a story. Since then, we have seen more and more of your cookie "stories". Now that you have made quite a number of them, have you ever thought to turn your art into a project? I mean a story book, or a book describing Japan through cookies . . . or do you just make cookies for the pleasure of making them?
MANU: Hi, Manu! Including Zara, we talk more! Living next door to you is a dream, but I think I would be at your house most of the time because I want to learn many things from you, including Italian dishes.
MANU: Thank you, and I really like when you say "your cookie talks". I already talked earlier in this chat about a book with cookie illustrations. Once I start imagining people, they just occupy my mind until I make them on cookies. It seems like they want to come out from me. I am having fun with them in my head and on my cookies.
Your work is very neat, and during our PBPC collaboration in 2016, you gave me tips on how to weave with royal icing. It was my first time and I went to buy the tip. Have you ever thought about giving, or been asked to give, cookie classes? Would it be something you would be happy to do?
MANU: That weaving* was the first trial for me too. I have never been asked to give classes in person; moreover, I enjoy the PBPCs too much to think about anything else. I definitely love looking at participants’ cookies. How can people think of so many different and beautiful things under one theme? That’s amazing. (*NOTE to others: The weaving is on the lady's scarf, pictured below.)
RYOKO: Oh my, I hope you wouldn't pass up an opportunity to teach because of the PBPCs. But if you ever missed a challenge, our lives here on Cookie Connection would not be the same!
You have many different hobbies. Is having many hobbies something that helps you in cookie decorating (like applying techniques from other hobbies)?
MANU: As far as techniques from other hobbies, nothing has affected my cookies so far, especially not swimming! Though people at the swimming pool inspire me a lot.
LOL - I love your sense of humor, Ryoko!
I admire the way you challenge yourself, trying and experimenting with every technique and material. And that you don’t hesitate to make connections and reach out to fellow cookiers whenever you need advice. My favourite set of yours is the hydrangea set, which I consider the best hydrangea made with cookies EVER. I love the perfection of your piped flowers and the way you mixed colors. Which is your favourite set of yours, and why if I could ask? [EDITOR'S NOTE: Attached are Ryoko's hydrangea cookies just mentioned by Manu.]
I absolutely love those hydrangea too!
MANU: Honestly, every cookie I've made is my favorite even if the lines are crooked and ugly in shape. This is because each cookie conveys my thoughts about the person for whom I've made that cookie. Somehow all of my cookies have been taken by people, even if I've said “that’s too old to eat”. But I keep one cookie, with a sunflower and a girl in a blue dress. I framed it.
So sweet - both the cookie and embedded sentiments for Manu!
Hello, Julia and Ryoko! Here are my questions: (1) Which is your favorite set/cookie of yours so far and why? (2) Do you have an Achilles' heel, meaning something in cookie decorating that you think is not your thing, and, if so, why? (3) And is there something you really want to do/try but you haven't for some reason? If so, what is it and why haven't you tried it yet?
CAROUSELSELSEL: Hi, Zara, welcome! What a coincidence! Your first question was JUST answered (see the question from Manu directly above). Yes, I do have Achilles’ heels (plural)! There is one thing I really avoid doing. I try to think that it does not even exist, and that is S-scrolls. The round part is difficult for me to pipe, but the real problem is I really do not know where to start and where to end. And a combination of S-scrolls is just a nightmare. I cannot create a well balanced layout, or sizes, of them. What I want to do, but haven’t yet tried, is miniature decorations. I wonder how I am supposed to hold such tiny things while I am making them, and when I cannot see well even with my glasses, and when magnifying glasses make me dizzy.
LOL - again!
Hi, Ryoko! I'm glad to be able to chat with you about your wonderful cookie art! First, I want to say that I admire the creativity of your work. Your cookie characters are not the typical "cookie cutter" style cookies (pardon the pun) that you see out there, but rather they are all uniquely handcrafted. I think that this is what really sets your work apart from the others.
I would love to know - how did you discover the world of cookie decorating?
SWEET PRODIGY: Hi, Christine, thank you for your compliments. You make me blush. Once upon a time when I was a little Ryoko, I got an iced Cookie Monster-shaped cookie from the States. (My first encounter.) Four years ago, I saw iced cookies during net-surfing and, just like others, I reached a dream land, Cookie Connection.
Aww, shucks!
I love how so many of your cookies tell a story. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and your cookies are no exception. With each scene, I feel as though I am invited to imagine what is going on - without the need for words or an explanation on your part. Where do you come up with the ideas for your designs? Do you have any influences?
SWEET PRODIGY: Once I was a dreamy kid (giggle), and I used to imagine teeny-tiny people around me: they were inside our record player and, when the record was set, the signal went to them to play music. I told my younger sister this story, and she, with sparkling eyes, told it to her friend who revealed they did not exist. My sister got furious with me. Since then, I just banned thinking about them. I became more realistic and, instead of my small people, I imagine happy faces when they get my cookies. Each person’s preferences and character influence me.
I would love to learn more about the cookies that you had printed in that cookie book about how to make icing. How did that come about?
SWEET PRODIGY: A company planned to publish a book of icing cookies, and they advertised for cookiers to make entries. I made seven entries, and one set was taken. I got instructions later, such as the colors I should use. I was asked to provide procedures and to send out all of the requirements to make them. Other things were taken care of by them. Occasionally I go to a bookstore to make sure that the book still exists and to check that my pages have not been omitted.
When I was a new mother, I was given the book, "Read Me a Book" by Barbara Reid (, and I fell in love with the illustrations, which were done in modeling clay. Later, when I saw your work, I was immediately reminded of this book, and all I could think of was that your cookies NEED to be made into a storybook! Not just because you create characters and stories with your cookies but also because you somehow manage to bring them to life. (I'm still trying to figure out how you do that.) Of course, I've never bugged you about this but I hope that you do work on creating a storybook, because I seriously think that you have the talent to be able to create something wonderful.
SWEET PRODIGY: Thank you, Christine. When I am ready for a book, I will start bugging people around me, definitely.
SWEET PRODIGY: I just went to see "Read Me A Book", the book illustrated with clay figures that you mentioned. It's cute! I actually do not read picture books and books with illustrations. People might think I read a lot of them to get inspired. But I prefer visualizing my scenes - my favorite part of the process - without too much outside influence. I prefer to read books with only words, and love to imagine scenes for them. If I happen to see adorably illustrated books, I do not read the words, but I make up my own story by just looking at the illustrations. So now you know that the clay figures of "Read Me A Book" may make me write my own accompanying story!
Also, I think there are ways that anyone can publish a book (my cousin did this), but maybe Julia would be better able to advise.
I am happy to advise if Ryoko or anyone else wants to email me ( I had two cookie books published the traditional way (by first securing a literary agent who helped me find a publisher), but that was back in 2005 or 2006, and there are many other ways to get published now, including user-friendly methods for self-publishing.
I love all of the details and techniques that you use to create your cookies. How long does it typically take for you to create a set of cookies? Do you sketch out your designs first?
SWEET PRODIGY: Oh, more than long enough! I just enjoy the process. For example, with my flower girl series, there was a story in my head. I developed it enough so I could feel the details and surroundings of where she would be. Nothing pushes me to hurry except deadlines of PBPCs and birthdays.
I want to compliment you on your ability to make things look so three dimensional. Your cookie, "A Day of a Flower Girl 1", looks so real - it does not look like a flat cookie at all! How do you know how to make this (and all of your other cookies) look so three dimensional and lifelike?
SWEET PRODIGY: After I draw out my design on a sheet of paper, I always think I do not need to make the same flat thing on my cookie. But, I have never thought technically about how to proceed, such as, "if I use this color, things might look far away from us" and so on. Christine, now I clearly know why I do not teach . . . I am doing just what I feel comfortable with, and I do not think theoretically.
How did you learn all of the other techniques that you use to decorate your cookies?
SWEET PRODIGY: Books, YouTube, by asking people directly on Cookie Connection, Craftsy, and I went to classes a couple of times.
What do you do with all of the cookies that you create? (Please say you don't eat them.)
Oops! I think Ryoko forgot to answer this question, or perhaps I deleted her answer by mistake. I do not know, but, from reading the previous Q&A, I know that Ryoko does not sell and gives most of her cookies to those friends and family for whom she's made them.
Do you ever get requests from friends and family to make cookies for special occasions?
SWEET PRODIGY: Just twice. Mom wanted to give some cookies to her friend, and my sister needed sample cookies. I can say I do not get requests because I make and give away my cookies, before they can tell me.
I would love to watch how you create your cookie designs. Maybe one day you will write a tutorial or, even better, make a video so we can see how it is done. What do you think?
SWEET PRODIGY: Oh, I am so clumsy, and I cannot draw symmetrically. I draw half and transfer it to the other side many times. I am not doing magical things, Christine. People are going to see I use an eraser many times. Once I asked my husband to buy some erasers on his way home, and I was told to do it by myself. I did.
Thank you, Ryoko for answering my questions and sharing all about yourself. I can't wait to see what wonderful cookie stories you come up with next!
Thank you, Christine. Again, thank you to all who left questions for me and who read this chat. I really would like to thank Julia, who gave me this chance. I have never thought so many were interested in me. By answering questions, I realized a lot of things. (Let’s imagine happy and funny things!)
RYOKO: Hold on! We are not done yet! I have some questions for you first!
RYOKO: You seem to do a lot of the initial imagining of your stories in your head, but when in your design process do you begin to sketch out a design? What determines when you start sketching, and also when you feel you have sketched enough and can start decorating? And what types of things do you include in that sketch - just the drawing, or also notes about the story you are trying to convey, or the colors or techniques you plan to use? If you can share any sample design sketches, I am sure everyone would love to see them!
JULIA: Most of the time, I plan colors and techniques in my mind before I sketch anything out on paper. By sketching everything out, I determine whether I can actually make the design on a cookie or not. When I cannot do it with a pencil, I am sure I cannot do it with icing. In that case, I change the design. Basically, this is how I typically develop my design: rough sketch →color →change some colors and add some more. While I am sketching, I develop the story. For PBPC #18 with Zara (which corresponds to the sketch below), the story can be read here: http://cookieconnection.juliau...-by-ryoko-cookie-ave
JULIA: To follow through with this design example. Once the basic sketch was done, I colored it . . .
JULIA: Next, I changed some colors and added one more design to correspond to my story. The memo at the bottom in Japanese says "color and name of the flower".
JULIA: Here are a few other design examples, with some discussion of transferring methods. In this case, I sketched a kewpie doll but it was not symmetrical. I erased half of it (right part, you may see) and transferred one side to the other side with tracing paper.
JULIA: Then I put on a kimono!
RYOKO: As a followup to my design sketch question, can you take us through the typical approach you use to get from a design sketch to the final cookie? For instance, how do you transfer the design to the cookie, or perhaps you just draw it onto the cookie while looking at the sketch? How do you decide which parts of the picture to ice first? How do you decide which techniques to use in which parts? When do you select the color palette and techniques - back at the sketch stage, or as you are icing? And so on. Again, if you have any work-in-process photos that would help to clarify your process, please share!
JULIA: In this example, I had different layers of icing, starting with bottom layers and those poking out in the foreground (like the parts of the dog). Here, I added numbers to tell me where to start icing (with the larger numbers being the layers applied last).
JULIA: To wrap up my answer to your design process question: I learned that, if I start decorating cookies without enough preparation, the outcomes are horrible. When the sketch comes out as I imagine, and the colors and techniques are decided, I am ready to decorate the cookies. Also, more on transferring my designs to cookies: My husband made a projector with paper and a mirror (see photo) for me to transfer my images to cookies, but, as you may have guessed, there were many problems with it. The biggest problem was it was too big to put on my table; I had to lie on my stomach to decorate cookies! Fortunately he gave me a modern projector. I use the projector when the designs are complicated, but, if not, I just cut out the paper containing my design and use a scribe tool to trace the shape onto the cookie.
RYOKO: WOW! Thanks for that inside look at your design process. I really appreciate all of the photos - they bring your process to life!
RYOKO: And I have to add that I truly admire your husband's resourcefulness. Mine stays very far away from my cookie business! :0
And, so now, sadly, we are through our terrific Q&A with Ryoko . . . I hope everyone who participated enjoyed this NON-LIVE format. I know I certainly enjoyed working with Ryoko on it behind the scenes!
And thanks to everyone for contributing such wonderful questions to this chat! Moreover, thank you to Ryoko for answering so thoughtfully and thoroughly, and for interspersing her terrific sense of humor along the way! I also want to applaud Ryoko for being so fearless in all she does. She tackles each and every Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge with verve and vigor, even if it's one that pushes her out of her comfort zone. And she took on the challenge of this chat, translating every word in English to Japanese, writing her responses, and then translating everything back to English just so I and everyone else here could read what she wrote. I am so grateful and completely impressed. And, of course, Ryoko's cookie work is a true delight, always guaranteed to bring a smile to my face! THANK YOU, RYOKO!
'Til next chat, live sweetly!
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