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Gumpaste Flowers Books

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#1 JSkilling

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Posted 02 January 2005 - 08:29 PM

I'd like to get some good books on how to do beautiful, realistic flowers but haven't seen anything so far that shows how to do these flowers from beginning to end. Any recommendations?
Josette

#2 mkfradin

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Posted 02 January 2005 - 09:45 PM

scott clark wooley's book, Cakes By Design (I think) is the best. I think a new edition came out in paperback about a year ago. It's the most thorough in terms of how to get the flower to look realistic, but it's not comprehensive in terms of the flowers it covers.

Look at Colette's books too. There are different methods for flowers than in Scott's books, and you can pick and choose.

Finally, I used Wilton's book that came with the gum paste cutter set. It's a great intro to teaching yourself. I think I would have been intimidated had I started straight from another, more glossy book.

But as always, the best way to learn is to watch someone and keep practicing hands on till you find what works for you. Try to go to some demos in your area or ask a local designer if you can observe for a few hours. Ask as many questions as you can. And keep posting here. You'll be on your way in no time.

Marjorie

#3 miaomee

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Posted 02 January 2005 - 10:03 PM

If you do not have any experience with sugar flowers at all, Alison Procter's Simplifying Sugar Flowers is a very good book to start at... she will teach you how to create many types of sugar flowers from very simple tools and just a few cutters. Another good book to start from is Wilton's gp flower starter kit, with an instruction book, some plastic cutters and veiners to make flowers the Wilton way, and wooden sticks in a few sizes to roll and thin the gp.

Apologize>> I didn't know that I should post photos from other websites, photo has been removed.

Edited by miaomee, 03 January 2005 - 06:20 PM.


#4 miaomee

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Posted 02 January 2005 - 10:13 PM

For those who already knows how to make some gp flowers, I strongly recommend any Alan Dunn, Tombi Peck et al's book on sugar flowers:

Exotic Sugar Flowers for Cakes

Sugar Roses for Cakes

Sugar Orchids for Cakes.

very detailed step by step instructions to make each flowers, bulbs, leaves, colourings etc.

I don't have SCW's book but his cutters and veiners are very very good :smile:

Apologize>> I didn't know that I should not post photos from other websites, photos have been removed.

Edited by miaomee, 03 January 2005 - 06:21 PM.


#5 JSkilling

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Posted 03 January 2005 - 08:03 AM

Thanks! I actually figured out that I needed to use "sugar art" as my search words and was able to find these books. I had them in my cart at Amazon but wanted to make sure that the experts validated them before I bought! I'm getting the SCW book, the Alison Procter and the Sugar Roses by Alan Dunn.
Josette

#6 K8memphis

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Posted 03 January 2005 - 10:56 AM

scott clark wooley's book, Cakes By Design (I think) is the best.  I think a new edition came out in paperback about a year ago.  It's the most thorough in terms of how to get the flower to look realistic, but it's not comprehensive in terms of the flowers it covers...

Finally, I used Wilton's book that came with the gum paste cutter set.  It's a great intro to teaching yourself.  I think I would have been intimidated had I started straight from another, more glossy book...

Marjorie

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Ok it's his dvd that has four basic flowers covered, the rose, the rubrum lily, the orchid and an apple blossom. His book is still packed with like 150 different selections.


I'm getting the SCW book, the Alison Procter and the Sugar Roses by Alan Dunn.

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Great selections!
I would like to heartily recommend that you get a video on it from someone. The videos take that flat page of instructions and put a wonderful dimension on it for you. I have Scott's dvd - he's actually in process of editing his next one - I have heard that Nick Lodge's videos are really good - there is more dollar value in Nick's stuff - but I know these two guy's stuff is excellent.

Happy flower-making.

Hey, here's my free tip - when you get to the part about the wires that you glue in to the leaves and petals & stuff, key word 'moistened' - you can wipe off the excess 'glue', usually egg white. I always had to baby my stuff because it was always slipping off my wires until it dried - duhr on me :laugh: stick the end of the wire in the glue and wipe it off - the cloth covered wire remains plenty moist enough to hold the item. :biggrin:

#7 joshalow

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Posted 03 January 2005 - 04:57 PM

A couple of "older" books that are great- having step by step pictures/drawings for each flower are:

Mary Ford's "Decorative Sugar Flowers For Cakes" (34 flowers) and
Jill Maytham's " Sugar Flowers" (80 flowers) Jill's book uses JEM tools, but the instructions are easily applied to over gumpaste cutters.

but, Alan Dunn's books are definitely an excellent purchase! He's an incredible sugar artist!

Sharon L
Sharon's Creative Cakes

#8 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 04 January 2005 - 06:03 AM

JSkilling, I want you to know that you have a couple excellent cake artists responding to your question on this thread (not to mention several other cake artists that participate here at eG also). Perhaps these women and men would share some photos of their gum paste flowers..........or their websites??

#9 Steve Klc

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Posted 06 January 2005 - 09:18 AM

The best books for you will all depend on your level--meaning what you can already do, how dexterous you are, whether you've already taken classes and with whom. Very generally, without knowing more about you, I'd choose Colette's book as a very basic/never done anything before/have relatively few tools/but I'm ready to learn how to think about being creative with sugar--if you are past that point but not too far past, then any Nick Lodge book over the Woolley book. Nick is the better teacher for a beginner/intermediate and Woolley's work as photographed and presented in the book is lifeless. Any of the older Merehurst books, which can usually be had cheap or used if you look around, a Tombi Peck or Pat Ashby or Alison Proctor or Lesley Herbert are good intermediate books and will take you to the next level. (Herbert less so on flowers per se.) Even though some of these seem old and clunky you still learn from the skills then as you get better and more self-critical you'll see if you can do better. (There's a very good section on doing reasonably lifelike piped flowers in the very good book on royal by Lindsay John Bradshaw--see p. 81--but that's a really old book, perhaps OOP and not really what you're after anyway. This book should be on every decorator's shelf, though, for what it covers it's never been surpassed.)

You have to already be relatively advanced and skilled to appreciate Alan Dunn--and how he pushed the scene. But you have to already be good to get him. If you come across a little paperback series of books by Rosemary Merrills themed around the seasons, buy them, these are quite charming and not the run of the mill stuff you see in most old timer flower books. They'll get you thinking about organic sugarwork as much as Dunn. This series is circa 1995, as is the little paperback by Dunn called "Wild Flowers," which is another Merehurst title you should pick up if you find it and are interested in lifelike flowers--and then what to do with them in terms of composing a cake.

The one book right now that I'd probably say to get regardless of your ability is the Kerry Vincent book. Probably the best blend of old-fashioned skills and techniques with some new thought toward a dying genre.
Steve Klc

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#10 JSkilling

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Posted 06 January 2005 - 10:10 AM

Steve,

Thanks for the concise reply on this. I am completely new to gumpaste but in general learn at a very rapid rate and am very dextrous and creative as an artist. I can paint these same flowers in acrylics with very realistic results and want to marry that with edible art. Generally the more complex something is the more it appeals to me! Dunn's work, though probably out of my reach today, is the kind of realism that appeals to me in roses especially. Here is a picture of something I did a couple years ago, after one of my first classes in acrylics:

Posted Image

I have decent piping skills that I'm refining again. It's been many, many years since I did any decorating but at one time was quite proficient with piped flowers and stringwork, etc. I don't particularly care for that now, just my preference, and would prefer to work with something more lifelike and dimensional and with more ability to mold into a shape that I want, such as a turned leaf or the folds on a rose petal. Can't wait to get my brushes out and see this come to life with color.

I saw most of the books you referenced on Amazon and will go back and look at those again. The Vincent book appealed to me once so I'll take another look. The Bradshaw book I can't remember seeing but I'll take a look at it for what sounds like a refresher on basic skills? I also got the Margaret Braun book. The style is too much for me. Not too hard, but too much, too decorated. But the individual elements are great for me to look at since I like the scrollwork and embellishments, which again I've used in painting. I know that's outside the scope of my original post about flowers!

Classes. I would like to take some once I dig into a couple books and try my hand. Do you know of anything local in the DC area?

Dying genre. Can you elaborate? Cake decorating in general, gum paste realistic flowers, working in fondant? Or the lack of good talent to do it?
Josette

#11 Steve Klc

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Posted 06 January 2005 - 11:27 AM

The Bradshaw book would be the kind of book you'd turn to to help you apply or transfer some of your clearly special non-edible artistic talents--in traditional artistic mediums--to edible mediums: it covers the painting, piping, brush strokes, embroidery, stencils, air brushing etc. A lot of creative people turn to sugar or food like this--they're graphic designers, glass artists, painters and then they start designing, painting, blowing just with food. Instead of acrylic on canvas you paint with edible color on sugar. Where you'll benefit and grow is by learning how to transfer your skill set and dexterity, how to overcome the challenges a different medium presents. Going to sugar would be no more or less challenging that say going from oil to watercolor to mixed media to textile for a given artist--it's just a different medium.

(When you get really advanced and have outgrown the books in your medium you'll then turn back to the books in other mediums on wood, glass, art, flower arranging, as your guides for what you do in sugar or chocolate. There's no more lifelike flower than..a..real..one. But everyone has to get their feet wet first making sugar flowers that end up looking like Play dough sugar flowers.)

The thing with the Bradshaw Royal book is it is not floral--as in gum paste flowers. The value of the Bradshaw book, and the value of all those non-floral techniques--is that it usually takes more than a good 3-D flower to make a good cake artist--it's good to have the skills in your bag to do something flat or paint a surface to layer designs when you want to. It isn't necessary to master all that really old stuff--I mean, who does that linework, overpiping and stringwork anymore for a real client?--but one can respect what's involved in that and acquiring that skill, that discipline, helps you achieve and grow in other ways. There's no reason why fine piping couldn't be applied in an avant-garde way. I don't think the modern aesthetic has any room for the Victorian nature of these things as presented in many of these books--but the skill itself is valid, the exercises even in a style which offends us is valid and as an artist it's up to us to then apply them more personally.

There are a lot of books about how to make flowers--there are some that do a better job incorporating flowers into a grander scheme and mesh well with other techniques--some that don't and the end result seems like it was designed as an exercise to sell equipment--and some that just focus on the flowers. You have little perspective on this as a beginner. What's best for you, I think, is just to approach this as a sponge and what'll help you long term will really depend on how you progress--are you trying to embrace gum paste flowers as an artistic end in and of itself--or are you embracing it as way to get more into cake decorating and to express yourself as a cake artist? (We'll leave what's really important about decorated cakes--taste--aside for the moment--which many hobbyist and professional cake decorators do as well.) Are you thinking you might eventually make and sell your flowers on cakes that you design?

If you go the full cake route rather than the hobby flower route I think you'll find your non-3D flower work will be what helps distinguish you--your ability to paint that damn fine flat or slightly raised scene or motif in sugar as a border, say, with some beautiful linked floral work as expressed in paint. Very rarely do cake artists do different things really well and master different forms of expression--flower people do predominantly flowers a few ribbons, that's it; butter cream-buttercream; piping/painting people pipe and paint and can't do flowers because they never bothered to learn. What they know how to do becomes their style and they remain self-limited. Same thing happens with chocolate--many cake types start doing sugar and never learn chocolate so their style, their medium, becomes sugar--and often one narrow subset of sugar, i.e. gum paste/royal but not pastillage or pulled or blown sugar.

There might be a bit of a disconnect here--just because Alan Dunn's flowers are the most lifelike and realistic in pictures--doesn't mean working from his book at this stage in your development as a crossover artistic person is ultimately the best way to get there. Skills are skills, tools are tools. You have to walk before you run--but all the while keep those Dunn images in your mind as you work through other books and lessons and as you develop critically you'll start to see where many of these artists and authors are cutting corners, are dumbing down, are not going to next level, are doing something differently just to say they've developed a technique when in reality you know there are better or different ways to execute something. You may just be able to skip ahead very quickly but that's gonna be very personal. I (personally) think you can't get started in gum paste from a book--that you need to learn hands on then use books as an adjunct. The more you get into it, the more books you'll leave in your wake but you'll learn from ALL of them--even from the ones with flowers that don't look like Alan's. Also don't think that just because a flower was made with minimal tools or no tools but your hands means that you can't make a life-like flower--the proof is in the end result. If you don't want to buy Nick Lodge's special xyz cutter how else can you make that flower?

Another disconnect, potentially, is that you'll turn to some books for ideas about style or how to express creativity--but be underwhelmed by the actual nuts and bolts techniques contained therein. And that's fine, too--there are very creative people with relatively poor technique that don't stand up upon close inspection if you know what to look for--too thick, inelegant up close but from afar, wow. You can learn alot from their books as well, then morph all that into your own style.

This gets much more complicated when you try to make a living selling cakes. For purposes of this thread it's best just to focus on books, which ones people like, what you might get out of them based on your desire going in, etc.
Steve Klc

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#12 ladyyoung98

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Posted 06 January 2005 - 03:07 PM

steve....actually there is scope out there for the victorian themed items....if u go to just about any store that happens to deal in decorating items you will see a good many items that do have a victorian feel to them...its soemthing that seems to be coming back in trend...so im thinking it would not be too much of a stretch of the imagination that there are those out there...myself included..who would be open minded to it even in the cake decorating medium and frankly if i could find some really good sources for decarting a cake in a victorian sytle...that is how i wouold decorate my own wedding cake when my fiance and i marry and have our wedding reception.....and while i have found some sources...at this time they have been rather limited...but im still open to the idea...everyone has their own taste in things
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#13 miaomee

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Posted 06 January 2005 - 08:17 PM

Steve made some very useful points and I really learn alots from his posts. Perhaps "I (personally) think you can't get started in gum paste from a book--that you need to learn hands on then use books as an adjunct" is the only point I don't really agree with.

Anyone who wish to learn sugar flowers, be confident that you could do that with reference to books and internet resources, helps from forum pals, hands on is a good to have or a need to have for some people who learns better by viewing the process of doing it but certainly is not a must to have.

Just like any other medium of art, practises make perfect! There are many of us that never attend hands on classes, that could make beautiful flowers. Before you start with any flowers, try to read and understand the instructions, with reference to step by step photos.

Once you master and learn your way to make sugar flowers, that include to make the sugar dough that works the best for you, to cut, vein, wired, and assemble the flowers, then you could move further to learn on colouring it to give a realistic look.

On the level of realistic, I believe that depends on the usage of sugar flowers. For example, if you would want to make some sugar flowers for display, perhaps you should spend some time to do some research on that particular type of flower to make it botanical correct. However, if you are going to place the sugar flowers on a cake, then you could attempt to make a simplified version of the flowers, or even apply a dramatic colour to give a special decor to your cake. There is no restrictions when comes to art, feel free to play around :smile:

Would like to share with you a short paragraph Alison Procter wrote in her book Simplifying Sugar Flowers:
"It was never my intention that every flower and leaf should be copied exactly - use my examples as starting points, and then allow your own ideas to unfold. Learn to think shape not flower, and you will soon discover that there are only a few basic shapes, but thousands of flowers to be made!"

I'm sure you will enjoy Alison's book, she is also a watercolour artists, hence you will get inspired by her artistic approach in making sugar flowers.

Edited by miaomee, 06 January 2005 - 08:33 PM.


#14 JSkilling

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Posted 06 January 2005 - 09:31 PM

Steve,

I'm assuming you mean the intermediate piping techniques book by Lindsay John Bradshaw. Amazon has a bunch of her books - I assume this is a she - from miniature cakes to collaborations with other artists.

Miaomee,

I learn by research as well. Though I understand Steve's point about needing to learn by methods other than the printed word. With painting, I taught myself a bunch up front but wasn't very good (though I didn't know it!) until I took a seminar with someone who really changed the way I looked at what I was doing and how. I have a voracious research habit so I'll need to know everything I can before I take that class, mostly from a self preservation standpoint. I truly don't like to look stupid!


Ladyyoung,

To each his own - which is why the world is a rich place. I understand the trends don't really support much of the past work but things always have a way of coming back around. I went and took a look at my own wedding cake from 1996. Big, white cake with lots of piping and strings! I thought it was glorious... Today I'd choose a sleeker look but my tastes have changed in many other areas as well.
Josette

#15 joshalow

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Posted 06 January 2005 - 10:34 PM

Steve made some very useful points and I really learn alots from his posts. Perhaps "I (personally) think you can't get started in gum paste from a book--that you need to learn hands on then use books as an adjunct" is the only point I don't really agree with.

Anyone who wish to learn sugar flowers, be confident that you could do that with reference to books and internet resources, helps from forum pals, hands on is a good to have or a need to have for some people who learns better by viewing the process of doing it but certainly is not a must to have.

Just like any other medium of art, practises make perfect! There are many of us that never attend hands on classes, that could make beautiful flowers. Before you start with any flowers, try to read and understand the instructions, with reference to step by step photos.

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I have to agree with miaomee! I agree that it is very possible for some, and more so for some one with an artistic talent, to pick up a book and learn how to make gumpaste flowers. Yes, there are many who need the hands on, visual part of learning, but others are able to do so simply with a book. There are many tips and techniques that can be learned from one another, and taking a class does help to pick up some of those techniques that are not always shared in a book. But if classes aren't possible, there are always demos, conventions, days of sharing, message boards, etc. which allow you to pick up the tips that aren't always shared in the books (fortunately many of these authors attend some of the conventions).

The thing is to find the book that you like best, and the method you like best, but, it may eventually be a combination of various techniques or methods taught by the different books- there is simply not just one correct way of making gumpaste flowers. Everyone has a variation of some technique. There are different gumpaste recipes, different tools, etc, etc. So, you will have to decide which book, which method, or methods work best for you.

I started off with Wilton's gumpaste kit/book and and gumtex 20 years ago (yes, and even used those roses on a wedding cake :smile: ). Moved on to a couple of great Australian recipes for gumpaste, and Mary Ford and Jill Maythem's books, then on to Nick Lodge's books, and an Alison Procter book (Flowers For Cakes). Now I use Nick Lodge's gumpaste recipe and Alan Dunn's books. I have many other books as well, and when I want to make a flower I haven't made before, I'll look through Alan's books, and or any others that may have that flower. I had the wonderful opportunity of taking a two day class with Alan Dunn three years ago, but have learned a lot from books from many great sugar artists, and have, through ICES conventions, picked up many tips, from other wonderful sugar artists.

I also have to agree with miaomee in regards to how the usage of the flower will determine how realistic you want the flower to be. If you are competing in some show, you want the finest most realistic flower possible. Your flowers are going to be extremely thin, delicate and detailed perfectly. If you are doing the flowers for sale, unfortunately, most clients won't be willing to pay you what your time and effort is worth to do the same detailed work you would for a competition. As well, your clients may want to keep the flowers as keepsakes, so making them a bit thicker than you would for competition, and with less detail, would be appropriate. (My problem is :hmmm: that the perfectionist in me comes out and despite not being paid ( :angry: ) for the detail, I strive to make my flowers as realistic as possible, whether for competition or for a client- simply because I enjoy making the flowers in this way.) The great thing about gumpaste flowers and cake decorating is that it's art and "art is in the eye of the beholder" and nowadays, flowers and cakes range from the innovative styles of Colette Peters, Margaret Braun, etc. to the elegant, classic, cakes of Kerry Vincent, and basically, anything goes...

But, practice does make perfect, and practicing, and discovering different techniques suggested by the different artists allows you to continue to develop your flowers to the point you want to achieve in gumpaste flowers.

Good luck with the flowers- and have fun making them!

Sharon L
Sharon's Creative Cakes

Edited by joshalow, 06 January 2005 - 10:35 PM.


#16 Steve Klc

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 08:49 AM

Josette, I don't know Lindsay but from the picture in the book Lindsay is a "he," and I was referring to "The Ultimate Book or Royal Icing." I like that book because his work is very "clean," which isn't something a beginner can usually understand or process if they're just starting out, and it focuses in on work that isn't usually emphasized as often as it should be. He's done some more overtly technical stuff which isn't as accessible as he is here. When you're coming up as a pastry student or decorator it's a natural inclination to want to rush into a job, start doing work, and what I've seen happen in myself and others to a certain extent is you don't spend the time learning, preparing, widening your skill set, practising the boring repetitive stuff like piping filagree, say, you go right to the flowers, right to the showpieces, right to pulling sugar. We've all seen the attitude--the right out of pastry school wants to do the showpiece work before they've proven they can even create and execute a decent restaurant dessert. There are many successful professionals who get to a certain point with flawed skillsets and can't go back. It used to be a given that a pastry chef could pipe happy birthday elegantly and well on a cake. They were forced to practice over and over again in a professional setting for any hope of advancement. Even if their inner calling was making that modelling chocolate rose just so, damn if their hands on mentor didn't make them pipe and pipe and pipe. That doesn't tend to happen anymore when you learn at home or from a book, when the hands on turns into something self-selected and self-guided. We're often terrible guides for ourselves when it comes to ourselves. If you're a beginnner you don't have the judgment and awareness to know you're going astray, and there's no substitute for someone else trusted being critical, in an interactive way, so you learn how to be critical of yourself--and that doesn't happen from book learning.

Practice doesn't make perfect--practice just enhances your ability, through repetitive motion, to more quickly produce at whatever skill and finesse level you're at. Practice only makes perfect, if there even is such a thing as "perfect," let's say "practice only helps you work at a higher level" when you have either have the training first or you're one of the very lucky naturals at this, one of the unique individuals, the 1-2%, who with no hands on training just intuit how thin is thin, how thin is too thin, how thick is thick, how soft is soft, how sticky is sticky, etc. Is it possible to teach yourself how to temper chocolate from a book--sure--would it be 100x better for you to spend a day watching Jacques Torres "stir the bowl?" Of course, is it possible to teach yourself how to passably do something with it, like molding, assembling shapes, sure--maybe 1% of novices can do this if they have a good instructional material in front of them but the rest of the 99% will not--they won't be able to intuit the right temps, the feel, the nuances in handling and manipulating, they'll make a mistake and won't know where they made a mistake and worse, develop bad work habits, rituals, that will be hard to break later. How to work is very important to embrace early--how to sit, stand, stir, move, organize, touch, clean, that's very difficult to convey in print. That's something a beginner needs and can only come with hands on observation. Of course, being in a hands-on situation is no guarantee either, some folks have the will, their eyes are open, their hands nimble, but just can't observe and process eye to hand no matter how many ways you try to get through as a teacher. Some teachers are lousy teachers, parroting what has been done better in a book by others, and in that case maybe a book is your best bet.

But there's no feedback from a book.

So sure--it's possible, theoretically, to learn and practice on your own but books are not a passable substitute, it's better if you can afford it and live near someone who already is working at a high level--to go hands on with a top person as soon as you can, as soon as you decide hey, I'd like to be good at this. It's all an aspiration and self-awareness issue--my larger point is this: it helps tremendously to be shown elite level work (and work habits and work processes) early on which then better enables you to keep building on that later, whereas it is all too common to pick up a gum paste book and NOT get that base, instead starting to do mediocre work when you haven't had anything hands on. And that's why we see a lot of mediocre work called "artistic" in this country and never rise above mediocrity. Happens in pastry, happens in cake decorating. Doesn't have to happen.
Steve Klc

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Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

#17 K8memphis

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 12:14 PM

...my larger point is this: it helps tremendously to be shown elite level work (and work habits and work processes) early on which then better enables you to keep building on that later, whereas it is all too common to pick up a gum paste book and NOT get that base, instead starting to do mediocre work when you haven't had anything hands on. And that's why we see a lot of mediocre work called "artistic" in this country and never rise above mediocrity.  Happens in pastry, happens in cake decorating.  Doesn't have to happen.

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Steve, with all due respect, this would be the ideal society, utopia, right???

While, I agree it would certainly help tremendously to be privy to the elite, what then should those poor masses who will never see elite work & work habits, what should they do with their aspirations????

I'm not really sure where you're coming from with all this - but I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt in the meantime.

So this slippery sided valley of mediocrity not being equal to art is resolved by doing what???

#18 JSkilling

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 01:44 PM

I think Steve's message is on the money. Not just in sugar work but in any field.

For me it says that it's up to me to decide the priority I place on this career. And that just as I've chosen educational pathways in the past, I should do the same here. A $30 book might give me a lot, but $500 class could leap me ahead saving me endless time over the long haul. Sometimes it's just hard to think about the time and expense involved in that class and justify its value. And for me, with two small children it's difficult to consider as I'm sure it is for most of us. But because I know this to be absolutely true in my other art classes, it must be true here as well. There's a local artist who draws portraits and I simply can't wait to get into one of her always full classes. I already know how to draw portraits from photographs. I draw them pretty well. I will draw them much better when I've spent time with Lisa.

I don't think this commentary should rankle any of us, but should make us ask ourselves how to get better, faster, smarter, whatever it takes. His perspective is from a teaching vantage point and answered a question I posed to him directly. I'm assuming that the advice he's given is directed to my stage of development and that for someone else it might be different. Start out right so you don't have to fix it later. Later, keep learning. Acknowledge that you don't know it all and can get better. Repeat cycle. That's how the valley of mediocrity is raised. For me, it's also knowing when to move on in teachers - when I've outgrown him/her even though I've loved the time and learned a ton. I took this drawing class at the Torpedo Factory (local art arena) and dropped out the first night. She was good artist but she was a terrible teacher for me.

Elite is defined by your requirements and esthetics. I can tell you from the SCW book that came today that even though he's the "acknowledged master of his craft" (on the jacket) I'd never consider him for a class. Is he elite? Yes. Does his style correspond with mine? Nope. I'm sure I'd learn things from him, but if I have to make choices on where to spend my $$ it would be elsewhere. And the Dunn roses book is here as well. Beautiful flowers and I already have a better understanding of how to form them but the application of the floral sprays is just too overdone. But along my pathway of learning if I could take a class with him, I'd do it. And while, I'm lucky to be in the DC area with access to many good folks who do beautiful work, I'm sure that they exist in other corners of the world as well. What I do wonder is if these high end folks would really be willing to spend any time with someone else who's likely to be competition soon? I'm still a little bit tentative about asking for help like this since I'm never sure how it will be taken. Any advice there?

Heck, though, I don't have a clue right now what I want to do with this knowledge! I need to find a way to marry art and baking. It comes together in beautiful, decorated edible art. There must be a place for me somewhere in there and I suspect it's cake. Good thing I love cake!
Josette

#19 celenes

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 06:24 PM

I just would like to add that although I haven't ventured down the path of gumpaste flower making I own Scott's book, several of Collette's books and an autographed copy of Kerry's book.

I owe my library to my egullet friends :biggrin:

Good luck and I am going to perhaps learn how to do these this year too.
Believe, Laugh, Love
Lydia (aka celenes)

#20 kthull

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 10:16 PM

I am fully self-taught through books and the internet and I am very proud of my accomplishments.

That said, I agree whole-heartedly with Steve. I can't tell you how many times I've tried something new (which is often as I am continually trying to expand my horizons) and researched and prepped and still wondered whether or not I was doing it correctly with absolutely no way to ever know. And if (should say when) it didn't work out, it was very difficult to nail the reason. Of course forums such as this have become an invaluable resource, giving me access to such sharing professionals, but it still lacks the sensory feedback so critical to pastry.

But I hung my hat on the notion that this was hobby and for pleasure, not profitable gain. I just couldn't justify the cost of professional training. Well that's bunk. Time is money. Wasted ingredients cost. It took me a few years to admit it to myself, but I had come to realize that it will be worth my while to get formal instruction, if only to allow me to continue to enjoy what I do, but also to continue to grow. Isn't that what it's all about?

#21 miaomee

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 02:32 AM

Kevin, nice site you have there! and I found two beautiful cakes on your site under "dessert" page. Since you are self taught in learning sugar flowers, do you mind to show us some of your works? Probably some flowers that you learned from classes too? just out of curiousity :-)

#22 kthull

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 09:56 AM

Miaomee, I need to clarify a little bit on my previous post. I haven't had any classes yet...just that I know that I will take them in the not-too-distant future if I want to continue to grow and continue to feed my passion in a positive light.

And the extent of my sugar work is what you saw. I did those very basic roses just one time, but it was a good experience, especially to be able to compare it with my previous dabbling with chocolate plastic roses. I think if I hadn't had that footing (small as it was) with forming the chocolate roses, the gumpaste roses would have been a disaster if I had followed the technique in the book that I had at the time.

I can count the number of cakes I've decorated on one hand. Sorry if I gave the impression that I'm further along than I really am!

#23 bkeith

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 07:53 AM

And while, I'm lucky to be in the DC area with access to many good folks who do beautiful work, I'm sure that they exist in other corners of the world as well.  What I do wonder is if these high end folks would really be willing to spend any time with someone else who's likely to be competition soon? I'm still a little bit tentative about asking for help like this since I'm never sure how it will be taken.  Any advice there?!

View Post



In my experience, the answer is almost always yes. Not sure why it is, but cake folks in general tend to be pretty willing to share knowledge, even those in the upper echelons. There will of course always be the few who want to protect their fiefdoms and tell you to buzz off. But for the most part, decorators are pretty free with information.

And it never hurts to ask. The worst anyone can do is say no. :wink:


Edited to add:

P.S. As far as books go, I don't have any new titles to add, but will toss in my two cents. The Maytham book and the Woolley book are both good resources for the number of different flowers they show if nothing else. I'll often grab one of their books as a starting point, then do my own thing as I'm making the flower in question. Alan Dunn is amazing. His work and that of Tombi Peck are almost intimidating, especially for someone starting out. Certainly something to strive for.

I definitely think it's possible to learn from books, but say that with an asterisk attached. I started with gum paste by picking up a book and giving it a go. Did what I thought was a decent job considering it was a first effort -- of course I look at a photo now and think "Feh!". But it's amazing the leaps and bounds I made after that by attending a one-day class, just in getting down the basic techniques. No matter how well written a book is, there are going to be assumptions made and text edited in such a way that what the author writes and what you interpret are two different things. That's just a given due to the different ways we all process information. The ability to see a process in action and to ask questions while it's happening are absolutely invaluable. I'm pretty sure I could have gotten to where I am with gum paste eventually if all I ever had access to was books, but it would have taken a lot longer. I'd have to make all the mistakes (some multiple times), and work through solutions on my own instead of getting the great advice I've gotten from instructors and demonstrators over the years.

HTH

Edited by bkeith, 10 January 2005 - 08:04 AM.

B. Keith Ryder
BCakes by BKeith

#24 JSkilling

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 08:36 AM

Thanks, Keith! Wanna teach a class?? I'd like to cover roses, leaves, fillers and lilies. Do you have anything going at the county?

The Dunn book is just gorgeous in the flowers. And I actually really like the demonstrations and feel like I can start putting them together from this. Where I'm a little more than lost is all the equipment. Lord, I have enough supplies in my various hobbies to outfit an entire store so I have to be sparing in what I buy. I can see recycling my paint things for this, though, as I have new brushes that will likely be good for painting on fondant. I'm looking at a couple sites for basic tools. Got any good tips for where to buy?
Josette

#25 Steve Klc

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 09:56 AM

Let's keep this about books, learning from books, the question of whether it's advantageous to learn hands-on first, etc. Let's talk shop, where to buy equipment, etc. on other threads.
Steve Klc

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Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

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#26 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 15 January 2005 - 08:43 AM

I don't own a single Alan Dunn book, so you all got me shopping. If you only could have one of his books, which one would you choose? Which one is going to rock my world and be the most versatile?

#27 miaomee

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 11:08 PM

Wendy, I have Alan Dunn's Sugar Roses and Sugar Orchids, I will recommend Sugar Orchids, since this book also covers instructions for sugar roses and other foliage... and variety of lively orchids :smile:

Don't worry, regardless which book you buy first, you will feel the need to buy all :raz:

#28 joshalow

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Posted 17 January 2005 - 08:14 AM

I think Alan Dunn's "Floral Wedding Cakes & Sprays" has the greatest amount of flowers that are typically used in weddings- roses, calla lily, peony, dendrobium orchid, ivy, Oriental Lily, Gerbera,and it has less foliage in it than others. I also like his Orchid book because of all the exotic orchids in it, and as miaomee said, it also has a rose in it. I would purchase that one over the Rose book any day (have that one too but was a bit disappointed with it- not as much variety in it). "The Sugar Flowers for all Seasons" also has some more common flowers like the rose, the Stargazer Lily, ivy, stephanotis, snapdragons, some exotic flowers, and some wild flowers. Oh, and I also like his "Exotic Sugar Flowers for cakes" book as it has flowers like Birds of Paradise, Flame Lily, Proteas, Alstroemeria, a few orchids, and it also has lots of foliage. Sorry, I'm probably not helping you choose just one - but all of his books are worth the investment :biggrin: I do think though that the Floral Wedding Cakes & Sprays or the Sugar Flowers for all Seasons are probably the most versatile of all his books because they include such a great variety from the common flowers to some of the more exotic flowers.

#29 miaomee

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Posted 17 January 2005 - 06:09 PM

joshalow, I am so jealous on your collections of Alan Dunn's book, We have the same reasoning over the Sugar Roses book, I prefer a book that will cover more flower types, the Floral Wedding Cakes and Sprays sounds fabulous!

#30 joshalow

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Posted 18 January 2005 - 12:05 PM

Thanks Miaomee. Collecting books on gumpaste and sugar arts is just another favorite of mine :biggrin:





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