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Catching up with Calli from Callicious Cakes

This week’s tutorial was the beautiful hand-painted Tiger Plaque by Calli Hopper. In her guest blog post, Calli tells us all about her career as a graphic artist, textile designer and cake decorator and shares her various career highlights with us, as well as some of her favourite techniques. Calli’s varied skills and interests really demonstrate how endless the learning opportunities are in cake decorating!

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I’m Calli Hopper from Callicious Cakes and have been decorating cakes since February 2010, aged 57, so I was a late starter! I walked into my first cake decorating class and was hooked from the outset. I hit the ground running as I did not know a single thing about cakes…not a thing, so I had a LOT to learn and had oodles of enthusiasm and keenness to learn. I’d ask questions like “what’s fondant?” or “what’s a dresden tool” … yes, I was an ignoramus from the outset but one thing I was able to fall back on was my graphics art background and with the experience I had gathered over the years in the commercial field, I was able to tap into what I had experienced using colour as a textile designer, and graphic skills I developed working as a book illustrator and display artist at the Military Museum. I was fortunate enough to work alongside incredibly talented artists and so we experienced challenges together and encouraged each other, thus helping each other tap in and develop skills that we did not even know were there… and this parallels perfectly with the cake world as I have found that this welcoming warm community is so generous in knowledge-sharing and I am a firm advocate of skill-sharing.

Even though I have 26 years experience as a graphic artist, I have still not stopped learning… it’s ongoing and I still read books, watch programmes and attend workshops, so I can hone and refine my craft.

It did not take me long to start experimenting with mediums in edible painting, and I still stick to two which work for me – cocoa butter/edible colours and vodka/edible colours. Here is one of my favourite paintings I did back in 2014, for another artist who loves Vermeer. I reproduced “Girl with the Pearl Earring” onto a 4” piece of sugarpaste using cocoa butter. Artist Cake-Vermeer's -Girl with the pearl earring-

If there is an opportunity to paint onto a cake, then I will utilise it, as it is where I think my best strengths lie, but that does not stop me from trying my hand at sculpting. Recently I have discovered my love for 3D portraiture, as seen here with my Tyrion Lannister, which was my 2015 Cakes International entry and was awarded a Gold, I’m delighted to say. He took me three full weeks to create!

tyrian

I did my first 3D portrait back in 2013 with this Scrooge…

Sculpting-my first 3D portrait

Sculpted animals is another area I really enjoy and these two were great fun. The pig is made from carrot cake and the Iguana is from RKT and modelling chocolate, so there are so many ways in which one can create 3D shapes.

Sculpted Cakes - Land Iguana

Sculpting, 3D Pig carrot cake with Sugarcraft Veges

When not painting and sculpting, my other love is making sugar flowers. I use cold porcelain as well, but my preference is still sugarpaste. This wedding cake was a joy for me to make for a good friend and the flowers took ages, but I loved every moment of it.

Cake decorating has given me so many opportunities and experiences, from learning from the experts in their field, to forging friendships across the globe, being featured in magazines globally, winning awards for some of my creations, to teaching in another countries… and even facing the challenges of being filmed as a guest tutor so I can share my knowledge with you, how I paint and give back to other cake decorators as others have given to me. It’s all in the ebb and flow of creativity being streamed through from one to another. I embrace the challenges and never stop learning. I am still determined to get my head around royal icing, I love this tradition and am in constant awe of what the experts can produce from such a tiny nozzle! Buttercreaming skills is yet another one I want to develop skills with.

When I am not at the cake table… I’m either out with my camera, hiking with my husband, or pounding the treadmill in the gym. There is always the endless housework to catch up on too haha! I love baking and experimenting with recipes. I still paint on canvas when the opportunity presents itself and I take every free opportunity to be with my beautiful and much loved family. I count my blessings.

Calli x