Monday, 20 September 2010

“An interview with...........Suzanne Mawhinney”

MM: What names do you go by?
SM: Suzanne Mawhinney or suzannem

MM: And your business name?
SM: I trade as Cakes by Suzanne, and work from home. I find that cakes have taken over more of the house than I would like, I also have five children between the ages of 4 and 13 and a husband who has of necessity learnt how to dowel and stack cakes. He’s also very useful for delivering the heavy stacked cakes and could probably bake and iced them if he would try!

MM: What’s your location?
SM: Templepatrick, not far from Belfast, Co Antrim (Northern Ireland)

MM: How do you know me?
SM: From the BSG Forum – where I have met so many lovely cake people who understand how I think (about cakes, mainly)!

MM: What areas of sugarcraft interests you the most, do you specialise in any?
SM: I do a bit of everything, I love modelling and character work but am gradually being persuaded that flowers can be nice too!

MM: Where can we see examples of your work?
SM: ok, here goes
MM: Blimey suzanne, you get about a bit! ;O) lol

MM: How long have you been involved with sugarcraft and what got you started?
SM: I’ve always loved baking and decorating cakes and it has been my hobby for as long as I can remember. When my youngest son was born I decided not to go back to full-time employment (I had worked full time whilst the other four were small and now feel I missed out on so much, but we needed the money). I initially returned to work part-time and started baking cakes during my days at home and it has really all taken off from there!

MM: Where did you learn?
SM: I am mostly self-taught, I did do a hobby class one evening per week for several months to learn new techniques mostly relating to flowers as I’m not really ‘into’ flowers and find it hard to make good, botanically correct ones. I have hundreds of cake decorating books and have spent hours looking over them and have never been afraid to experiment – if it goes wrong I learn so much for the next time!

MM: Is there anyone that has been your inspiration?
SM: I have been inspired by Lindy Smith and love her books. It was her books that mainly gave me the confidence to try out new things for myself, I love the fact that she’s self-taught and she has introduced modern design to cakes. Some of her designs are quite
busy though, sometimes I prefer simpler styles but her designs are innovative and fun.

MM: Where do you feel your love of the craft will lead you, have you any aspirations?
SM: I am very busy creating bespoke wedding cakes so I have already fulfilled my ambitions to do this and I would love to eventually have a large sugarcraft supply warehouse with workshop facilities where people can come to learn – if I could get the right premises I would be keen to implement this but will keep you posted! Any suppliers in my area are small shops, sometimes not dedicated solely to sugarcraft and they only keep a small range, I would like to stock a full range of products and also show people how to use them. Maybe not me personally (I’m not good at demonstrating), but if the interest was there maybe people such as Mystical Mischief would consider sharing their talents in this part of the world!
MM: Ooo that's sounds brilliant, I'd definately be interested if you thought it would pull people in :O)

MM: What’s your favourite and least favourite part of sugarcraft, do you have any pet hates?
SM: No pet hates as such, I love baking and decorating the cakes but find the torting, filling and covering a bit of a chore – its not something I look forward to or enjoy very much but it has to be done and its quite satisfying when its done well. My favourite bit is when I have just finished a cake and step back to look at it and its EXACTLY how I envisaged it would be – its so fulfilling to be able to create something that you’re happy with and you know you couldn’t have made it any better. Doesn't happen often though!

MM: Have you ever entered your work into any competitions, & if so how did you get on?
SM: I’m not a competitive person and with no formal training I would be unsure of the standard required – its just not something I have ever considered.

MM: Have you a signature cake/style and were do you get your design ideas from?:
SM: No signature style as such – I do remember a bride saying she had chosen me to make her wedding cake as all my cakes were different – not the same cake in a different colour, so I suppose there is something to be said for variation! I love the design process, sometimes I see another designer’s cake and like certain elements which I can then customise to my style or, more often inspiration comes from all around me – patterns, designs and colours in the ‘real’ world which I can just see working in a cake! For wedding cakes I incorporate details from other elements of the day – dress, colours, flowers, decorations, any particular interests or hobbies the couple have or something that’s unique to them.

MM: Have you anything interesting/useful you could tell us about your countries cake culture?
SM: In Northern Ireland we’re part of UK but I’m sure every region has their variations – just can’t think of anything unique!
MM: What about this biscuit cake I've heard about? Maybe you pop something about that into the '101 interestingthings about cake' thread, on the discussion board ;O)

MM: Have you any tips or advice that you think may come in handy to anyone who’s just starting to explore sugarcraft?
SM: Experiment and practice – the worst that can happen is that it won’t turn out how you’ve planned it but you will learn so much from attempting and when it does work you will be so proud of the result – almost as good as winning the lottery. Don’t think for one moment that your friends and family will share your excitement though, you have to be a ‘cakey’ person to understand what its all about!

You don’t always have to follow other peoples instructions either, if you can see a better way of achieving the same result – go for it!

MM: What interesting stories have you got about sugarcraft.
SM: When my youngest son was little I used to sit and make decorations whilst keeping an eye on him. Just before Christmas when he was about 9 months old I had spent ages making and wiring dozens of sugar holly berries and left them on the table to dry. Something happened that I had to leave the room for no more than a couple of minutes and when I came back there wasn’t a single berry left on wire – he had climbed up and pulled down the piece of oasis that was holding them and ate every one! He kindly reached me the wires, though. I wasn’t sure what that amount of food colouring would do to him but thankfully he suffered no ill effects. I did learn my lesson though – never, ever leave your sugar items unattended when Ben's around!
MM: Leaving powders out is also a killer!!! lol

Thanks Suzanne :O)

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