Thursday, January 28, 2016

Warren Brown, Cake Artisan, Tells His Story

I feel at ease in the kitchen. I like just about every aspect of being in there. Whether cooking, cleaning, setting up my work or taking a rest sitting at the table, I enjoy what I get out of it. There is a beginning, an end, and the moments in between that change me and my understanding of what I work with. Discovering the meat in the middle is the heart of my curiosity and that drives me.

Baking was not my first love in the kitchen. It was BBQ sauce. Kansas City-style (tomato based), sweet, sticky, smoky on the grill, easily charred. I was inspired by the “Rib-Off” at Mall C in Cleveland back in the early 1980s. Tasting my way through a sea of vendors I began to understand the edge you can get with either better ingredients, more creativity or what seemed like more care put into the product. I was a hungry adolescent. It was the perfect time to start experimenting.

I let my cravings dominate my decisions. But I fence off certain foods so I dont feel tempted—I don’t like guilt over food. That doesn’t mean I dont eat “bad” food, its more about what time of day, how much, and whether or not Im feeling a little too much like blubber on the insides. To me, food is “good” when its a positive experience all of the way. It tastes good and theres no food hangover – no bloating, no cramps, nothing undesired. I like to search for combinations on the plate that pair well and are pleasing to the eye and the tummy.

I think I enjoy baking cakes to indulge the kid in me, but not just the typical cravings for sugar and frosting.  Refined sugar was off limits. My father is a huge inspiration for my method of preparing recipes from scratch, but he limited access to white sugar. I suppose the logic was to restrict sugar from the table to reduce our overall intake. The problem in that era was that sugar was everywhere so unless the meal was made totally from scratch, sugar found its way onto our table. Many meals at home were from scratch, but over time convenience won out, and three decades later diabetes claimed my fathers life.

The first indulgence I discovered about baking is the meticulous work it demands at every stage to create a work of art with many layers, literal and figurative. There is the sponge: what type of batter, prep of the batter for the sponge, perfecting the bake off, cooling and releasing from the pan without loss of volume. There is the filling, my favorite part: custard, caramel, citrus curd, fresh berries, or something else entirely? Then theres buttercream. Early on a good friend of mine got my wheels spinning when she said “theres nothing like a good homemade buttercream” to which I just grunted “yeah” and had no idea what she meant. Here I was an adult, a foodie, and I didnt even know the term. But it told me that the New Years resolution I had made—to start baking in order to learn more about food—was proving beneficial. I found myself immersed in buttercream recipes, stunned at their taste, flavor and deliberate gluttonous nature.

I am compelled to share what I make in the kitchen. I cant possibly eat everything that Im driven to make because that would be simply too much food. I am blessed to be able to share my creations with my family and through my work. Its not all cake and icing at home of course, I save that for work where I can spread out the sharing a little bit more. But the time in the kitchen, the process of creation and discovery of triumphs and tragedies, feeds my soul in the same way. Im grateful to have found this well of inspiration.

Strawberry Shortcake – This cake kind of says it all for my style. Big, irreverent and pushing the boundaries of standard convention. The cake is a vanilla pound cake I called LCD (lower common denominator) since its kinda of accepted that the pound cake is the favorite, the most beloved, the baseline cake in America. I also cannot stand biscuits for strawberry shortcake. The cream here is Italian Meringue Buttercream which will always be one of my favorite recipes. And the berries are simply cut, sprinkled with sugar and briefly chilled in the fridge –that was my grandmas secret. When put together and taken as one bite this all combines in a desire to stuff-yo-face with more. Now this isnt a discreet way to describe it, but there really isnt another way to say it plainly.

Ginger Pecan Scones – Scones are one of the best products we ever made at CakeLove. I got a base recipe from a good friend who grew up in Holland eating her mothers rendition on the classic pastry. Generally speaking, weve butchered them in the U.S. by stripping out the copious amounts of butter and cream called for in a proper scone. But where cost and qualms over the cardiac impact dont win out, theyre simply divine. The crisp flavors of ginger pair well with pecans while the nuts help develop contrast in texture with the soft, velvetiness of the buttery-cream with each bite.

Breakfast Lasagna – As with all things, this was inspired by need. I was deep into the photo sessions for my book CakeLove in the Morning and I realized that I needed a strong, center of the table dish. The books focus I brunch so we already had a lot of to-be-expected stars like pancakes, French toast, frittatas and quiche. Ive always loved lasagna and I get a kick out of turning a dish on its head , so I thought why not take one of my favorite formats for serving dinner and recreate it for the morning. The only overlap with a traditional lasagna are the noodles, but thats enough!

Colors excite me. I get a lot out of just staring at swatches and thinking about the moods they put me in. One of the things I like the most about my latest project are the different bands of color I got to select for each flavor of CakeLove in a Jar. I know it's sounds simple and off point of what's inside, but I really fixate on the collection of colors.  

What is important to me about our jars is that I found a way to fall in love again with my work. It's a line of business that's really different than what I did before, meaning a ton for me to learn. That's refreshing. Sometimes tiring. But overall it's an absorbing challenge that allows me to get knee deep in detailed work, which I love to do. 

To see more of Warren's scrumptious creations, please connect with him on the following links:

This is Week 3 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Warren's story today!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Elizabeth St. Hilaire, Collage Artist, Tells Her Story

Teach? Oh no, I couldn't
If you asked me a few years ago about the potential for teaching collage art workshops, I'd probably tell you that I didn't know how to teach anyone anything. But SOMEHOW I agreed to teach a collage workshop one day when some folks emailed me from Amelia Island. My personal mantra was to always be available to new experiences and opportunities through an open mind and an open heart. So I did, I said "yes" and then I wondered,... how the hell am I going to do this?

In those days my kids were in elementary school and I had volunteered in each of their classes, every year, with the PTA Art See program where we centered a lesson and a project around a famous artist once a month. I taught K-5th grade. I also was the co-chair of the national PTA Reflections program for three years. 

I kept telling myself, ”If you can teach and organize elementary kids and art programs, you can certainly teach adults who actually WANT to be there." 

Just keep telling yourself that.

The Answer is Yes
Yes, I agreed to be The Amelia Island Artists Workshops Inc. FIRST visiting teacher. The man all the way to the right in the (above) photo is Sean Callahan, an amazing pet portrait and watercolor artist who emailed me prior to the class to ask me a few questions about what to expect. I visited his website and then I said... WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I GOING TO TEACH THIS GUY? His work is amazing, check him out.

Guess what? Sean liked the class so much he called me three years later and asked me to come to Key West, to teach a workshop and to be a stable artist with him at the Stone Soup Gallery on White Street. Heading to Key West once a year for a solo show opening reception is not a bad gig.  Just sayin’.

I have been not only Sean’s instructor & fellow gallery artist, but also at times, his hairdresser

Sean's Boat

Guess What? I could get used to this
Truth be told, I really enjoyed teaching that very first class on Amelia Island. They enjoyed having me too, since they asked me to return the following two years. Sean reminded me recently that during the Amelia Island class, he went out at lunch time and purchased a copy of Hemingway's "Old Man of the Sea" and wove the printed pages into his boat. He said he learned a lot from me in that class (despite the fact that I had no idea what I was doing) and he tells ME that he had no idea it was my very first workshop. We laugh about that together at least once a year. It seems like so long ago since that very first class I taught in Florida. We’ve become great friends.

Pink Polka Dot Apple / 12x12 / collage of hand-painted paper / SOLD

The True Joy of Teaching
I enjoy teaching workshops because it's great to be the center of attention (right?) and to have folks be really interested in what I have to say. Truth be told, the true joy of teaching is in the people I meet, the friends I make, and continue to stay in touch with.

Cheryl and I having too much fun posing with my demo apple

Speaking of workshops, here is an interview I gave for an upcoming workshop we are hosting in Italy this summer. Please contact me if you'd like to join us:

Don't Be a Stranger
"I've had some of my best conversations with strangers, she said, because they have no idea who they're dealing with." -- Brian Andreas

I love Brian Andreas because his limericks really resonate with me. I TOTALLY talk to everyone I meet without any issue, when this quote showed up in my e-mail box as my subscribed story of the day, I forwarded it to everyone I knew. 

I'm outgoing and certainly not shy, I love to joke and laugh with everyone and that's what makes me a good fit for teaching. I'll tease you, make you smile and have you feeling good about yourself and your artwork. There's no pressure and no wrong answers or dumb questions. We don’t even “critique”, we “show and tell.”

People Make All the Difference
I'm forever thankful for the people that I meet in workshops. My student and friend Maritza took my workshop in the States, and then invited me to Bermuda (where she lives) to teach for the Bermuda Society of the Arts. I've had students in my classes from Alberta, Canada, Denmark, and even Qatar!

Maritza and Yours Truly in Bermuda

Try, Try Again!
I have a lot of returning students as well. If you have taken my class and want to come back for more, I'll modify your project so that you can work at an intermediate level or on a project of your choosing. Holly has become a groupie and taken my class five times, I basically give her instruction on whatever piece she’s working on when she comes. And, since you can NEVER have enough hand-painted collage paper, everyone benefits from that component of the class. 

Chuck Seaman from New York took my workshop and then came back for some pointers on how to use fluid acrylics to color his traditional Gyotaku fish prints. He offered to give me his test prints and to make me some small fish impressions in return for my instruction. SCORE! Are you kidding? I couldn’t wait to incorporate his fish impressions into my collages. Chuck's work is amazing:

Goat Gazing / 24x20 / Collage of hand painted paper with fish prints / SOLD

Watch Me Tear Paper
I utilize my Facebook Fan Page to bring the most up-to-date in-progress photos of my collage work to the world. In addition, I feature my workshop listings and other fun things (like pictures of my shoes, my dogs under the shelf in my studio, spilled paint, and an occasional dried out lizard). If you have never visited, stop on by! Stalking is encouraged.

Social Media Links
Click this link for my Facebook page: Paper Paintings Collage Artwork Facebook Fan Page (No FB account required - Just creative curiosity AND a sense of humor)
Paper Paintings Blog:
Paper Paintings Website:
Growing Bolder Elite Blogger:

This is Week 2 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Elizabeth's post today!

Update 1/26/16 - Elizabeth was just interviewed by Huff Post's Art & Culture blogger, BJ Gallagher - great interview here:

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ivory Haze, Singer/Songwriter, Tells Her Story

My journey began as a young girl in Washington D.C; a city that’s birthed so much creativity that goes unnoticed in this politically-dominated society. Growing up there was always a sense of urgency to share my voice and singing soothed my mind when chaos drew near.

Music, unlike a job, is my calling, which has changed the dynamics of how I see my ultimate purpose here on earth. Recently, I’ve grown to understand I’m here to shed light on the truth! From the homeless man who fought in the war for our country to the young woman who was brutally beaten for years by her mother; and even to the housewife who isn’t happy in her marriage, these stories often go unseen. My hope is to shed light on such issues through my song writing and singing. My musical journey has brought me awareness about matters that are far beyond myself.

It hasn’t been easy breaking in to this industry but it is rewarding. I am continually touched by the audience’s response every time I am given the opportunity to perform on stage. These experiences inspired me to write my first single, “Statue of Liberty”, which is written for those seeking liberation – those seeking to be set free from the chains of life -- those who decide that self-love and happiness conquers all.

Here is a link to Statue of Liberty

(Please copy and paste this link into your browser)

I would be nothing without the sacrifices that my mother, Monique Jackson, made in developing a diverse palette of experiences for me to reflect upon. Now, I get to sit in this seat in complete admiration for the tremendous sacrifices she made in order for me to dream big and believe that I have the choice to be the person I’ve been sent here to become. My mother worked hard to put my brother and me through private education, which let me develop lifetime relationships with teachers and friends. Her choices encouraged me to want to have a better life and pushed me towards achievement.

One of my greatest accomplishments was auditioning for the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington DC for high school. I remember the audition like it was yesterday; the colors, the talent, the energy was so infectious! I was accepted into their program because they saw a light in me that, at times, I didn’t always see in myself. Duke Ellington changed me and was just what I needed.

From there I went to George Mason University to study Classical Performance and received my Bachelors. College taught me a few things -- your talent isn’t enough -- you must work harder than what your mind will allow you to believe and life never stops giving you challenges.

I plan to release my first EP “Hiatusin March 2016 with a release party. In 2016 I will be traveling to Los Angeles in preparation for my move there in 2017. I’m working on my craft every day and I find the utmost joy in challenging myself to defeat barriers. My mantra is ‘You are only as good as your thoughts so always think positive.’

I’ve struggled with loving every bit of myself for years. It’s my story that I want to share with others. Hopefully, by creating this short introduction into my voyage to embrace my inner being, you will want to come along. I am striving to shift perspective and form a space for people to feel loved and to feel inspired no matter where they are in life.

“Don’t change under your influence, Become one” 
- Ivory Haze

To hear more of Ivory’s songs or to connect with her via social media, please visit the following sites:

This is Week 2 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing Ivory’s story today.