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Follow the Candy

I've always been fascinated with cake decorating.  As a child I would sneak away with cake decorating books and be amazed at how the author was able to make so many amazing objects out of frosting, fondant, sugar and icing.  For years I tried to play with frosting but couldn't seem to make it do the amazing things I'd seen in the many books I'd poured over as a child.  

When my oldest son was little I wanted to make a special cake for his birthday and found a photo of a Candy Land cake in a cooking magazine. That was really where this all started.  I realized that I'd finally found a medium that would let me make my cake stand out but didn't rely on my fine frosting skills (or lack of them).  By using candy, I could create a scene that would be eye catching and playful but also easy to work with. I loved the colors of candy and the idea that they could be used to bring so much happiness visually.

After that first project, I was hooked.  Candy was cool, easy and so colorful.  Best of all, people loved to see the finished product and the kids loved it!   

Our church was putting on a dinner event where we were asked to decorate  tables.  With my new love of using candy I thought I would try my hand at making a more permanent candy creation.  I decided to try creating a candy forest using styrofoam forms and hot glue since there was no need to keep it fully edible and it needed to survive dinner and transport.  It was a success!  

The following year I decided to go big.  I went back to the fun I had had with my Candy Land cake and decided to try and do a 3-dimensional cake board.  It took 2 months and a lot of second guessing but it turned out wonderful and set me on a course of creating a large candy display every fall.

After trying to find a home for a 3' tall display I decided that my next creation should be something I could store.  I was really excited to created many small works of art for a change.  They could be put away and kept in boxes and I could really explore the versatility of using the candy for art. I created over 50 original ornaments then replicated them to fill up the tree.  I discovered that I could use multi-colored Tootsie Rolls to create mini paintings and finished it off with a small candy village around the base.

One of my other fascinations as a child was with doll houses.  My friend had a very elaborate and highly decorated doll house her dad had built for her and her sister and I relished any time I was allowed to have playing with it.  It was a work of art, so intricate and detailed - I was transported into a miniature world where everything was tiny and magical.  I had for years been considering creating a dollhouse out of candy and had been rolling around ideas in my head of how to make it.  I love gingerbread houses, but they were delicate and temporary and weren't very stable - candy is very heavy.  

 

I came up with a plan and for my next display I decided to take the leap and create a 1" scale dollhouse and completely decorate it in candy.  I used a wood dollhouse as the base, painted it white, then wired it for lights.  After that I covered nearly every surface in candy.  I used a few pieces of real dollhouse furniture to set the mood, but tried to stick to candy where I could.  This project took two months to complete and lasted for three years. It was my favorite and I hope to recreate the dollhouse and display it at Candy Mâché.  

With the dollhouse done and life getting busy I decided to keep it simple the following year.  I went back to something I knew pretty well and did another candy forest, but much, much bigger.  This time I had a lot more experience and could really go crazy.  I ended up creating over 20 trees and really enjoyed pushing the limits of the candy in this simple cone form.  I even created a couple of trees that had a chocolate component.  I usually stay away from chocolate because it is very unstable and usually ends up falling apart (which one of these did, by the end of the second night that it was on display). 

After taking a year off, I jumped back into the deep end and decided that while storing a candy dollhouse was hard, what if I made little houses?  How about bird houses?  I could use wood birdhouses as a base and make a classic Christmas Village out of candy.  I altered the houses by cutting out the backs and/or adding larger doorways and windows for more lighting.  I used cardboard to add additional architectural features and discovered a new appreciation for rock candy.

I love working with candy.  It brings me so much joy to make my creations and to share them with others.  For years people have asked me if I had a store or business or hosted parties where we could all have fun together and I have had to explain that although this has been a labor of love, I really hadn't figured out where it was going to take me.  

 

This leads us to now.  In trying to decide my next project it felt like the right time to take the plunge and open a one of kind candy store/art gallery!  I have finally found a path where my joy can be shared and others can have fun and enjoy exploring the colors, textures, patterns and memories that candy brings to life.  I am so excited to be able to share my art and love of candy with you!!

- Brenda Zylstra

Peppermint Tree