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Sweet Sharing with Mike Tamplin of SemiSweet Designs

I’m thrilled to introduce Mike Tamplin aka SemiSweet Designs here on Sweet Sharing. Isn’t it great to have a guy, an aerospace engineer nonetheless, love cookies like us? I am sure this will be a marvelous informative hour! Thanks so much, Mike, for taking time out from your Labor Day weekend to be here with us!
Before we jump into Q&A, just a few housekeeping notes for newbies to our chats: questions are answered in the order received, but they will not post to the public/viewable area of the chat until Mike 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!
Is there anyway I can see the questions from the other participants it would help me to see where the conversation is going and what what I should be asking it would help me a lot please and thank you
Ann Marie Adams, and to all others. This is a good question. Unfortunetly only I, as moderator can see the new questions and post them according to the direction of the conversation. I suggest you just follow the chat and jump in and ask away. If there are two like questions posted around the same time I try posting them together. If you join us late, just quickly scroll up the chat to get an idea of topics that have been covered so you don't repeat questions that have already been asked.
Hi, Mike, I'm just stopping by to personally thank you for being here and donating your time and talents to Cookie Connection. I look forward to following this chat! I'm also posting some images of your character work to get our chatters' questions flowing! Have fun, everyone!
Another . . .
And another . . .
And, lastly, one of my faves . . .
Do you use wax paper for your transfers?
BeckyF - Wax paper would work great for royal icing transfers. However, my preferred method is using plastic sheet protectors. Just print out any template and place the printout in the sheet protector. Then pipe directly on the plastic. Here's a picture for reference.
Do you start filling in the small details first or the larger areas?
BeckyF - It depends on the design. I like to work in layers, from the bottom layer to the top. I usually start outlining and flooding the base layer, then add more smaller sections on top of that layer. Usually the small details are the last to be added to the cookie.
Do you freehand your writing or do you use a template for it ( i.e., on your pumpkin pie-happy fall cookie)?
BeckyF - Haha, my freehand is horrible! For writing on cookies, I always have to use a projector with a template to guide me. For the pumpkin-pie "Happy Fall" text, I've included the text guideline in the downloadable template I made available in my blog post for it. Here's a link:
Hello, Mike. Thank you for graciously accepting the CC interview request, and, Tina, thank you also for graciously setting it up. I first discovered SemiSweet when I read your tutorial about creating an Adirondack chair and beach umbrella using Sweet Sugarbelle's school bus cutter and the Wilton spider web cutter.
I know you've produced a great line of cookie cutters. Is there any chance that you'll do some repurposing with them? Thanks tremendously, Pip
PIP - Hello! Yes, I love it when a cutter can get repurposed! I'm always thinking of ways my cutters can be used in different ways. I've already come up with a few alternative designs to some of my current cutters. For example, with my feather cutters, in addition to being feathers, I also used them to as pine branches to create a Christmas wreath platter. You can see both examples here:
... and here:
Also, for my birdie cutter...
... I also made them into a simplified octopus.
One more example is my unicorn cutter.
I was able to transform it into a medieval knight's horse...
... and a princess horse.
Hi Mike! I love your cookies, the design ideas and colours! You make a lot of adorable animals combined with something else, like the otter holding a heart. How do you get inspiration for them?
Mintlemonade - Thanks for being here! I a huge fan of yours. Your question touches on a technique I like to use a lot when it comes to characters- have them holding things. I like doing this because often times you can hide intricate details behind a simpler object. Take my woodland creatures holding a pumpkin, sunflower, and acorn, for example. I did that because I could avoid decorating the body elements, leaving just the head to decorate and the tail, which is fairly simple. When it comes to cookies, I like to remove complicated elements where I can, for time-savings sake. As for inspiration, I have a list of animals I've always wanted to do. Otters were always a great subject for cookie gifts because of their pun-factor. I haven't seen any otter cookies before, so I thought it would be great to get some out there.
Mike - What is the source of the character art on your cookies? Do you draw it or does someone else? If the latter, how do you ensure that you are not violating any copyrights when using it?
Julia - Hello! Thanks for having me here! I draw everything for that same reason, to avoid any copyright violations. When I first started making cookies 5 years ago, I used to love recreating popular character cookies (TMNT, Curious George, The Simpsons, etc). However, after I went to the copyright talk at CookieCon 2013, I avoid them now. Also, that motivated me to recreate my own characters so I wouldn't have to worry about copyrights. I started to reach out to friends and family who are illustrators to see if they could teach me how to draw cartoons. They pointed me to a few books and online courses to take to get the method down. I wrote about whole learning process here.
Now I doodle wherever I can. Sometimes there's something I like that turns out good enough to make into a cookie. If you could see my notebook at work it's full of meeting notes, formulas, and to-do lists intermingled with doodles in the margin and on post-its.
Thanks, Mike! I'd love to see that notebook! I assumed you worked this way, based on what I've read from your site, but I wanted to ask the question anyway, since copyright is at the crux of this chat's topic. I also think it's important for people to know that it's not always legal to copy work/images, even if they seem to be freely floating around on the internet or look generic or mainstream. That said, can you elaborate on some of the key messages/lessons that you took away from that CookieCon copyright talk?
Julia - I left that CookieCon copyright talk a little scared. LOL. I learned that any resemblance to a copyrighted character can be in volation. Just because you don't do a complete character (for example, doing just mouse ears or gloves instead of the complete Mickey Mouse) doesn't make it okay. Also, we have to be cautious about trademark fonts as well. Basically, the main takeaway for me was if you are planning on doing copyrighted character cookies, it would be best to just avoid it altogether.
Que questions are almost over ladies.
Do you make your drawings available for free for others to copy if they want to replicate your cookies? Or are you licensing your drawings? What considerations went into making this decision?
Julia- yes all of my drawings and tutorials are available for free for others to copy. My goal for the blog was to get people new to cookie decorating to pick up a piping bag. And to do so, I wanted to make the process seem as easy and less intimidating as possible. I thought providing a downloadable template helped achieve that. Now that I sell cookie cutters, I include a design template for each cutter as a bonus. People can print out the template and use it with a Kopykake, or just pull up the file and use with Pico Projector.
Will you discuss pricing for beginners?
Dena's Sweet Delights - Hello! Unfortunately, I don't take customer requests for cookies. So I don't know where to begin when it comes to pricing cookies. All the cookies I make for the blog are given away to friends, family, and coworkers for free.
Did you previously sell cookies, Mike?
That is truly awesome!
Bakerloo Station- Hi! I did sell at the very beginning for about two months. Just to a few friends and family. However, with a day job, I just couldn't manage the time required for selling. I decided it was best just to do what I wanted for fun and not take anymore orders.
Hi Mike! I just stopped by to say hello! You do the cutest cookies ever. Colors are always so bright and vibrant, I wonder which color brand do you use? Thank you for answering ❤️
Evelindecora- Hello! I love your work!! Thanks for hanging out today. I use mostly Americolor, with Rainbow Dust Progels every so often.
How/why did you get into your cookie cutter business?
I found that my progels were getting dried out in the tubes, so I don't use them as much as I would like.
Great to hear you also use Americolor, they are my fav too! I had a lot of troubles with Progels instead, icing gets crazy, I cannot mix them together!
Bakerloo- It's kind of a depressing story. :-| My dayjob gave me a notice that I would be laid off in Seattle if I didn't move to SoCal. I was devastated! I figured, since I get asked a lot by other cookie cutter companies to use my designs on my blog, maybe it was time to start selling them on my own. I was thinking if I could get enough additional funds, it might help me move back to Seattle, which is where I would love to eventually live again.
Hello Mike! Forgive me if you have been previously asked this question. This particular issue is a challenge for me. How did you to price your cookies? I just have the hardest time with this.
Necessity is the mother of invention!
Jimmy- Hello! When I was selling, I had no idea how to price them. After a few orders, I quickly realized I was underpricing myself. It was one of the reasons I stopped selling cookies. Sorry, I'm not much help.
Bakerloo- Yes it is! haha
Did you draw your own caricature for your logo?
Cookie Sweetart- Hello there!
Hello To All so excited so many joined us today-I know it is Labor Day in the States.
Bakerloo- No, that was the work of my friend, Steve. He is an illustrator and gives me tips every now and then on cookie designs. It's funny, I asked him to draw me a logo of me (when I had hair) because I would get confused for being female all the time.
You are right Christine! I also think Mike had fun in doing it!
It seems that many of your new cookie designs/cutters were designed with particular box/packaging sizes in mind. What size boxes do you use, and where do you source them from?
Bakerloo- I love the 7" x 4.25" shallow cookie boxes from BRP Boxshop. Here's a link for reference:
Do you design and make your own cutters or do your design the art and give it to a 2nd party to create and produce your cutters from your designs?
Tina- I do it all. I sketch up the design on paper first, then convert it on my computer to a 3D model, then print them out at home in my apartment.
I really enjoy your work. How do you manufacture your cookie cutters?
That's really what I call a one man show.
Oh my! You are phenomenal Mike. You do all by yourself, amazing!!!
Poppy- Hello! Thank you! I make cookie cutters using a few 3D printers. It starts from a sketch and gets remade into a 3D model. It usually takes me a week from sketch to cutter.
Your designs are mostly playful and colorful and your tutorials are easy to follow. What do you think is the most important element for a cookier to get right in order to decorate? How do you use this element to promote your cutters?
Evelindecora- thank you! It's a lot of sleepless nights. hahaha
I appreciate your diligence in creating great presentation for your cookies. Poppy of Poppy and Sweetpea's Cookies.
Tina- I think icing consistency is the most important. It can make or break a design. Especially if your icing is too thin for the fine details, which can make them not so fine.
I totally agree. There are days when I'm still not getting it right.
Your cookie cutters are amazing and it makes a baker's life easier that you're so helpful with the design process. Do you ever offer discounts or promotional codes?
Tina- for my cutter designs. I try to stay away from details that are too small. That way it's less stressful to decorate
I can only imagine it! I am also curious to learn about Tina's question, how do you promote them?
Sweetteaconfections- Thank you! I do get asked that a lot. I don't offer discounts at this time. I know everyone loves a good deal, so I try to make up the value in different ways. That why I make sure the cookie cutter itself is of high quality, and I also provide free design templates as well as detailed tutorials in both picture and video format as an added bonus.
Your technique for adding ghosts and animals to other cookies is genius. Any other cookie ideas using a similar technique that you haven't yet posted to your blog?
Completely agree that your cutters are a great value for that very reason. Thanks for the response!
Sweetteaconfections- thank you so much. I don't have anything mindblowingly new. But I did do something fun and different for McGoo U. I think that one will air in December.
I'm loving your Halloween you have anything brewing for the Christmas/holiday season?
Hi Mike! I love your work! I know you recently moved from Seattle to Southern California--has that influenced your designs at all?
Sweetteaconfections- haha I have a whole notebook of design to-dos. I just need to finalize them. I'm planning on working on Christmas designs this weekend with the extra day off on Monday.
Look forward to seeing what you've come up with!
Me too! Your work is always so fun!
TheCookieMonger- Hi Stacey! Thank you! I don't think my style has changed, but maybe the way I work through decorating and blogging at home. It's a whole lot sunnier now. Almost too much sun. It makes it hard to see my projected image when I use my Pico. I didn't have that problem in Seattle.
Thanks, Tina and Sweettea
I find it so difficult, creatively, to work on out-of season designs (like, Christmas designs in September). How do you do it?
Bakerloo- tell me about it! Christmas music helps. LOL For McGoo U, I had to do Halloween and Christmas designs in May. It really through me off since summer was just gearing up.
Me too! Is there any cookie you would have always loved to do and never find the time or the chance in doing it?
Music! Brilliant! Still, glad to hear I am not the only one who struggles with the seasonal thing!
Evelindecora- I have a few Game of Thrones cookie platter I always been itching to do. But because it's in a copyrighted area, I've been hesitant. It's more of fan art than anything else, since I'll be drawing it up myself, so maybe I'll just do it when the show is up and running again.
How do you go about selecting color palettes for your sets?
Bakerloo- color palettes I struggle with. It takes me a day or two to decide on one. Pinterest helps. I made a board of color schemes I like.
Also, is a great site too
Have you thought about creating Spritz templates?
Poppy- I never heard of a Spritz template. Could you tell me more?
Me either I can't help you there.
Do have any special tips for eyes on characters to ensure they are straight rather than crossed? Do you use transfers for this?
Spritz as in the Christmas cookie?
Thanks MLT
I will definitely check out those color-palette URL's. Thanks!
Dena's- Eyes are so hard sometimes. My go-to method is just use black dots instead of white areas with dots. But for big eyes with pupils, i like to make the pupil run into the edge of the eye (if that makes sense). Like my school owls as an example
Spritz are made with a cookie press. While traditionally a holiday cookie there are designs being made for year round enjoyment.
Poppy do you mean templates to make the shapes for the dough guns?
Thank you for the advice, I will also check it out too!
Poppy- Oh I get it now! I've seen those presses before for shortbread cookies I think. That's a more intricate than what my 3D skills can do, but it's worth looking into.
Yes- they are called templates or dies or disks. I have over seventy but am always looking for new ones.
I have read (and re-read) your extensive blog entry about drawing. Are there any additional books, websites or materials that you recommend for learning the basics of drawing that you have discovered more recently?
Bakerloo- Jake Parker is a new one I've been following. He has courses on cartooning which I like. Also, he talks about the business of being a creative artist and how you should sell your work. I think it relates to cookiers really well too.
We are winding down the hour so hold any further questions to get through to the ones already on hold.
Are you planning to go to Cookie Con 2017? And if so, will you be teaching any classes?
Bakerloo- I don't think I can make CC work this time around. I just got a save-the-date invite to a friend's wedding in Maui the week after it happens in March. :-\ I dont know if I'll have enough vacation. But who knows, maybe I can make it work.
I have to ask but what is the reaction of your friends to your doodling characters, cookie baking, decorating, blogging and launching your own cutter business?
Tina- haha, they are always really surprised about how popular cookies are! They can't believe there's a market for custom cookie cutters. It blows their mind there is even a Cookie Con.
Are you a Pinterest junkie ? How do you like to use Pinterest to assist your cookie work?
I think this will be our last question. I can not thank you enough for taking the time to be here with us today. I hope everyone has a marvelous weekend. Again Thank you Mike!
Bakerloo- I love Pinterest. It helps me organize my ideas, which can be all over the place. From color palettes, to what has already been done with cookie ideas, it helps me keep track.
I'm usually at work when these live chats happen so I'm new here! Can I go back and read this at another time?
Thank you All!!
Yes you can MLT
Fall Spritz
Don't listen to your friends and go on amazing us with your cookies! I send you a big virtual hug! Thank you very much ❤️ A big hug also to Tina, Christine, Julia and all others partecipants to this beautiful chat!
Thank you!
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