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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Most Important Thing I Learned At CookieCon

I was going to call this post "The Best Thing About CookieCon" but then I realized that was the wrong title. The BEST thing about CookieCon was by far the PEOPLE. I think that every single person that attended the convention would likely agree on that. You get 450 people together that work and play in sugar and believe me, they are the SWEETEST people you could ever meet! No doubt about it. So instead I'm calling this "The Most Important Thing I Learned At CookieCon". So lets see if you can figure it out before I tell you at the end (and in the meantime I'm sharing many of the tips I learned from the instructors)...

As you probably know, I was afraid of going to CookieCon. Why you ask? One reason is that I have trouble meeting the people I idolize. I get nervous and self-conscious. Another reason is because I don't use royal icing. I've always felt a bit like the "odd duck" in the cookie world. Thankfully there are Pam of CookieCrazie and Anita of Sweet Hope Cookies that are odd duck glaze girls like me. And another reason I was so nervous is because I couldn't visualize what it was going to be like. And I thought I would feel left out since everyone had attended CookieCon before and it was my first time.

Thankfully, one of my cookie cutter customers, Kate, invited me to join her at CookieCon. She said we would room together and she would look out for me and if I found it too overwhelming, I could retreat to our room (hide). She took me under her wing and boy, was I grateful. It was just the olive branch that I needed. She talked me down from the ledge a few times before the convention date actually arrived too. Looking back now, I see how silly (actually ridiculous) that I almost let my nerves get the better of me. Within 1 hour of my plane landing, I was on the bike, working out the jumbled details of the full convention in my head. This is what became clear to me.

My first class was with Anne of Flour Box Bakery. I've always felt a kinship with Anne. She is happy and positive, kind and she loves PINK! Her cookies are amazing and creative and colorful and often have a lot of pink. I can relate to her ;-)
Anne talked about consistency in royal icing, letting one section dry then continuing, wet on wet technique and bags vs bottles. She also talked about outlining and then outlining again to thicken before flooding. She mentioned that she never lets her icing tip touch the cookie and she holds the tip far enough away to guide the icing where she wants it to go for her design.

My 2nd class was with Amber of SweetAmbs. Amber is like the "elite" cookie decorator. Where my cookies might equal to a fun and colorful purse from Target, Amber's cookies are equal to Louis Vuitton or Coach. Amber is young (my daughter is almost Amber's age) and adorable and her cookies stand out. I can always tell a SweetAmbs cookie with its intricate details.
 Amber talked about consistency that works best for her with royal icing and she taught us brush embroidery and how to do her beautiful monogram cookie and how to make a filigree cookie (wow!). Some tools that she used were a scribe and the side of a small paint brush. Amber came up to me later and asked if she could get a picture with me. Let me tell you, if SweetAmbs asks you for a picture, you DIE. Seriously. I decided she must have me confused with someone else!

My 3rd class was with Myriam of Chapix Cookies. I have to be honest. I have a MAJOR cookie CRUSH on Myriam. Her cookies are just the cutest things ever. They have these adorable little faces on each cookie. Even though I don't use royal icing, I honestly drool over her beautiful cookies and I get so excited every time she posts a new cookie on her page.
Myriam talked about royal icing transfers. She also talked about consistency and craters and environment. She also said that she drags the icing tip on her cookie and uses her icing tip to get any air bubbles out. She said she uses Adobe Illustrator to draw out her designs for her royal icing transfers. She uses a paintbrush and luster dust to do her cute cheeks on her cookies and she adds a simple white dot on the cheek to finish it off. I assume that is with a rainbow dust pen. She also shared that she uses Antonio #74 for her royal icing recipe, but she uses vision to get the consistency, not counting. She showed us by holding her royal icing upside down on a spatula. I love visuals. Then she demonstrated making the most adorable girl with pony tails (reminded me of my little granddaughter, Abigail) on a cookie with a yellow sunflower. I was transfixed. I was wishing they would have auctioned off the cookie with proceeds going to the Go Bo Foundation. I would have paid highly for it!

My 4th class was with Susan of The Painted Cookie. Susan was my very first ever cookie gal. She is the first cookier I found online and she put up with ALL my questions. I've loved her from the very beginning when I started decorating cookies on January 23, 2011 and I've learned so much from her. I seriously love this girl.
Susan talked to us about her journey from home baker to a brick and mortar building bakery. She taught us about cost analysis to make sure we're pricing our cookies correctly. She talked to us about the products needed for her business and employees and gave various tips on running efficiently and also provided two lists of various places to get specific products. I loved seeing how her shop has come together in the short amount of time since her grand opening. She was just as much fun in person as all our conversations on Facebook and messaging.

My 5th class was with Georgeanne of LilaLoa. Everyone knows the amazing and beautiful Georgeanne because she shares ALL her tips and tutorials and even her amazing chocolate cookie recipe. She is due to deliver her 4th baby in just a couple weeks and she still was willing to be on her feet all day presenting to us that were so thankful for her time and knowledge. By the time of this picture, I had seen everyone that was on my bucket list, except for Georgeanne. I was getting very bummed that I hadn't found her yet. Then I was walking through the vendor booths and she was sitting with a couple of the girls at one of the booths. Her eyes lit up like we were long lost friends (which we are in my little dreamy world) and immediately my nose started burning from trying to hold back tears. I LOVE Georgeanne. She even sent me some royal icing eyes all the way from Korea because my daughter and I couldn't figure out how to make eyes (glaze girls you know). She's a sweetheart for sure.
In all my other classes, I had one full sheet of note taking. In Georgeanne's class I had 3 1/2 pages of scribbling as fast as I could. She mostly talked about making colors and figuring out what colors go together, which was enlightening to say the least. But she also talked about every tip you could think of. Things like *using a zester to shave off a cookie edge for sizing, *vinegar will help clean out butter from your mixer, *if icing is sticky, it has been over-mixed because of the protein from egg whites has broken down, *colors darken the next day (glaze pulls the color immediately btw), *cut new nylon squares and put over your coupler then tip on top of that to help get rid of clogs in icing (I had heard about this, but the visual sealed the deal), *binder clip/bag clip for locking icing bags, *how to get letters to not run together (don't close the letter til the first layer has dried like an A or e - brilliant), *put your cookie on a lined sheet to help make perfect lines (brillaint again), *airbrush (which I don't do yet) put cling wrap on the parts of the stencil you don't want to use, *when making a royal icing transfer, take the paper off, not the transfer off, *put plastic wrap on the top of a cookie platter before putting cookies on to keep them from sliding, *use a paint program to help decide what colors go together best, *and add a little of the dominant color to other colors to help them match. Phew. Can you imagine how tired she must have been sharing all that information and being very pregnant. LOVE her.

And my last class was with Angela of Oh, Sugar! Events. Angela cranks out the most amazing cookies and she does tons of them and every single one is gorgeous and perfect. I contacted her one time to ask if I could use her design for my dog's birthday and she was so very kind and very exuberantly said "ABSOLUTELY". She is a very giving, sweet gal and I was so excited to finally meet her.
Angela had a great presentation that included lots of tips. I loved her wording of "No Money, No Honey" meaning that we should always make sure to get money up front for cookie orders. She also said "be kind to yourself (see the beauty in your work since we are always our worst critic), get some sleep (do cookie decorators actually sleep?) and connect with your family (priorities). One great tip was "You are the boss - guide your customers to what will work on a cookie". We've all had those requests where someone will send you an elaborate drawing or clipart with incredible details and ask you to replicate that on a cookie with ICING. Ha! Or they will ask for 15 cookies with 15 different designs and 15 different colors. We are the boss and we can guide them and say, I think "this" might be a better set of cookies. And she said that if you have a customer that sends 45 emails (or 74) on one set of cookies, that they have just earned themselves on a NO BAKE list ;-) and she talked about character cookies and how to (KISS) Keep It Simple Stupid and  like me, Angela has an airbrush for the last 2 years that is still in the box ;-)

And our keynote speaker that started the entire convention off was the absolutely amazingly talented and beautiful Liz of Arty McGoo. I couldn't possibly love her more. She even made me a cookie with my Cristin's Cookies logo on it!
I finally got to meet Pam of CookieCrazie. I have adored her for such a long time and she's a glaze gal like me. She was just as nice in person as all our many conversations.
 
Krista of Cookies with Character designed the shirt I'm wearing in this picture. She's one of those that you think you're too scared to meet and she's an absolute and complete DOLL. I'm so excited that I made myself have the courage to talk to her. She made me feel completely welcome.
And the absolutely amazing Julia Usher. I have one of her books and just drool over her amazing work. Talk about talent. And she's completely personable and shares her talent and ideas.
 Did I tell you that my boyfriend was there too? You know, Ryan Gosling, my boyfriend ;-)
Okay so if you haven't figured it out yet, here is the MOST IMPORTANT THING I LEARNED AT COOKIECON...
I'm different than these cookie girls and their cookie styles, but they are too. And that's OK.

Honestly, I think there should be an entire presentation about this topic. It was so enlightening for me to come to this realization and it took meeting these amazing women for me to understand.
Here's the progression as I see it... you see a cookie you like, you stalk that cookie decorator, you enjoy watching tutorials and learning, you then mimic that cookie decorator and make a cookie as close to the one as possible and you love it and it's all so very exciting, then down the road if you keep at it and you become obsessed with cookies, you see something you want to change about the design (make it your own), then you start seeing cookies in everything you see (cookie think from the amazing Callye at Sugarbelle's) in cards and stickers and books and clothing and yes, even your dreams. You practice and practice and thankfully have kids close by to help eat the evidence ;-) and eventually you have your own style, but you didn't even realize it happened.

As a glaze girl, I've always felt like the odd duck. I use black outlines to show the designs on my cookies and I like bright, fun colors. I get very jealous over the beautiful dimension and detail that is possible for the royal icing gals. I thought I would feel so uncomfortable at the convention being the odd duck. But what I found is that WE ALL HAVE OUR OWN STYLE and our own way of decorating a cookie and that's okay. Hearing Anne say how to hold the icing bag and not let the icing tip hit the cookie and Myriam saying the exact opposite in her presentation and seeing how Amber holds the icing bag and only keeps a small amount of icing in her palm to have better control over her decorating and hearing the different ways that people get the consistency they want in their icing, this all showed that we're all very unique in our own way.

Instead of being the odd duck, I received an incredibly warm welcome. There were times that someone would run at me and hug my neck and tell me that my cookies and tutorials have helped them to become a better cookie decorator. Wow! I had phones pushed into my face to show me cookies that they made with my cookie cutters (my favorite part). People took pictures with me. These people that I stalk and admire and they knew me and my cookies. I spent more time brushing away tears than I can tell you. On the first day, I got a cut inside my mouth from smiling so much with my teeth hitting the back of my mouth. I told my hubby that I was having the time of my life. He was a bit offended by that ;-)

Thank you to Karen and Mike of Karen's Cookies (and all the purple apron people) for putting together the convention. It was such an amazing experience that will not be forgotten! Thank you to Kate for being my buddy and convincing me to face my fear and get out of my own way. Thank you to all the cookie friends and cookie cutter customers that went out of your way to meet me and help me to feel welcome. I feel so very blessed by your welcome.

This is a good representation of how I felt all weekend. Love you Pixie Girl Tami!

I have lots more pictures and the Sugar Show entries that you can see by clicking here. And I just want to say that I really, really missed meeting Jill of Jill FCS and you were in my thoughts and prayers all weekend and I missed seeing Callye of Sugarbelle's and that little bundle of joy she will be delivering soon.

Flower blog background for today:

33 comments:

  1. You always have a way of putting a smile on my face!

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    1. Thank you sweet Sherry! I wish you had gone and I would have been able to finally meet you!

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  2. Awesome! I was glad I got to meet you. Are are wonderful and your smile makes me smile!!

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    1. aww thank you Natalie! It's funny that we were in the first couple classes together before I realized it was YOU! So glad to have finally met you sweet girl!

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  3. Great thing to learn Cristin! I'm doing my best to stop comparing myself to others. I have to just be me and enjoy what I do and appreciate the skills I have.

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    1. I'm glad that you're working on that Melissa because your cookies are beyond amazing. Comparing to someone else is just wasted energy. I can't tell you how many times I heard people say that they weren't joining in the Sugar Show because they were intimidated by the talent of others. Unless your purpose is only to WIN, then it really is amazing to walk around and see the different style from so many cookie decorators. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every cookie and as cookie decorators we KNOW the time and love that goes into each project.

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  4. Let me say that I LOVE Louis Vuitton and Coach purses...but my fun, colorful purses from Target are my favorites that I go to day in and day out! ;)
    Your cookies Cristin...I can recognize ANYWHERE. They bring joy to my heart and a smile to my face every time I see them on Facebook. They are colorful, bold, cheerful, and whimsical! You are right, everyone has a style (though I haven't figured mine out after 3 years)...and YOUR style is AWESOME (just like you). I have to tell you, upon reading this post, I felt a connection. As much as I wanted to go to CookieCon and was so sad that I couldn't...had someone told me I could've jumped on a plane that day...I WOULD HAVE BEEN TERRIFIED! I have that fear of meeting my cookie idols and not fitting in. Thank-you so much for sharing your experience. It really warmed my heart and made me realize even MORE how much I want to go! Sugar hugs to you my friend!

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    1. aww you brought tears to my eyes sweet Melody! Thank you for your kind words. I'm so glad to hear that it's not just me. It sounds like you really understood what I was feeling and what I was going through. And in the end, it was all so silly. CookieCon is an amazing place and you leave there feeling on top of the world and if you take the time to truly notice how very different everyone is, you fit right in and feel confident with who you are and your own cookie style. I hope you can go next time Melody! I'll be looking for you! :-)

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  5. Thank you for sharing all you learned at Cookie Con, so happy that you had a good time. I have always enjoyed the simple cookies, but felt so bad about them compared to the works of art other's were posting. As a fellow Glaze Gal, I totally get the RI envy, there is just certain things that you can not do with glaze, but that is ok, I am at peace with that, but sometimes, I have to teach customers that there are limits to what I can do with glaze. I think every cookie should be KISSED...it makes it easier to eat them.

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    1. We glaze gals get each other. It has taken me a long time to fully understand and work around my limitations with glaze icing. I had a customer send me a picture the other day of what she wanted drawn onto a cookie. I just laughed. I told her with full honesty that sending her super detailed image could be done in a graphics program, but not with ICING and certainly not with glaze icing. I guided her into a suggestion from her design that WOULD work on a glazed cookie. Sometimes you want to just say "if you think that's even slightly possible, then YOU do it" ;-) ha ha Yes, we have our limitations with glaze icing and I'll always be envious of that puffy dimension look of royal icing cookies, but take one bite and I'm happy with my decision to work with glaze.

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  6. You did a great summary of the speakers. You are a very special person and an amazing cookie decorator. Kate

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    1. YOU are a very special person Kate. Without you, I never ever would have gone. I appreciate you more than you'll ever know! I hope you've enjoyed some special vacation time with your daughter!

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  7. Cristin, I have to tell you this ... when I started my cookie Facebook page, you were one of the first cookie artists I followed. I loved your blog and was so intrigued by your style. See? We all inspire each other! We are all perfectly imperfect!

    Jill FCS

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    1. Oh gosh Jill, you have no idea what this means to me to hear you say that. You are such a sweetheart and such an inspiration. My hubby and I went for a walk last night and I told him what you wrote and I started crying just telling him. Thank you for your kind words and kind heart Jill, not to mention your GORGEOUS cookies and artistry!

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  8. You make me smile, Cristin. It was such a delight to meet you.....finally. And to read your blog post and your overview of the entire event......wonderful! I love you sweet friend......and so glad we are glaze girls together. Honestly, I don't consider glaze to have limitations. I am constantly finding that it will do almost anything that the other icings will do. And I totally agree with you.....one bite, and that's all it takes to say.....THIS is the icing. :) And yes, we all have our own style.....just like our personalities. There are not better or worse than anyone else's.....it's just who we are. If we would all embrace that.....we would live a happier, more content, and confident cookie life. Love you, sweet friend!!! ♥

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    1. Thank you sweet Pam. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was to finally meet you in person! It was seriously a bucket list moment for me! Love you sweet friend!

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  9. Cristin, what a wonderful wrap-up of CookieCon 2014. I'm directing my friends to your blog, because you said most of what I felt from my first trip there, too! You did an excellent job of summing up the classes...way better than I could have. I'm so glad I finally got to meet you...I have followed you for sooo long. Thank you! Sharon from The Plaid Cookie Co.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment Sharon. It was SO exciting to meet you in person! I love feeling like I really "know" my cookie friends now!

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  10. What a great post!! You could not have said it better :) My nerves vanished the minute I stepped into the hotel. I am SO happy to have finally met you! And I love that I can call you MY friend :) xoxoxoxoxoxo

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    1. I am definitely YOUR friend and you are mine Tami. I felt such a connection to you with the same fears and same feelings of the event turning into such a wonderful memory. Thank you for your kind heart sweet Tami!

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  11. Cristin, what a wonderful post! You summed up CookieCon 2014! I can't get over that YOU were nervous to go. I was a wreck when I arrived and yet you were one of the people I couldn't wait to meet! I don't think you realize how talented you truly are! :-)

    You are such a sweetie and I am always in awe of your cookies. I didn't even realize you used glaze and not RI. See, we continue to learn everyday!

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    1. It was such a joy to meet you Colleen (did you know that is my middle name?) and I appreciate your very kind comments. Yes, I was a nervous wreck, but everyone was so welcoming and kind. I can't imagine that the event could possibly have been better. I'm excited that I got to meet you and hope we'll have more time together next year!

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  12. WOW Cristin what a beautiful summary. I clung onto every word and 'actually felt' what you felt while you were there. It was truly a thrill meeting you and spending time with you! Jennifer of The Bluebonnet Bake Shoppe

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    1. Jennifer you were one of the gals that I MOST enjoyed out of all that I met last weekend. You are such an absolute doll and so fun. I'm so thankful that I got to meet you and I hope next year that we have more time together to buddy up. Thank you for making me feel so comfortable.

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  13. Sounds like you had an amazing experience and learned a lot! I got you beat on the airbrush- mine's been in the box for at least four years... yikes. And glaze is great- very different and refreshing!

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    1. Oh Jenny I'm so glad to hear that someone has their airbrush in the box longer than me ;-) I actually bought it for my daughter for Christmas 2 years ago thinking that she would really enjoy that side of cookie decorating. Then she had babies and it never got used :-)

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  14. Liz @ "Lizzy's Cookies"March 26, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    Thanks for your blog posting! Such a great summary of Cookie Con! Cristin, I was so glad to meet you at lunch with the California Girls... I'm a Glaze Girl too! And you're so right I do love the glaze taste <3. Truly had such a great experience meeting such wonderful, happy people sharing their tips and techniques! What an amazing weekend!
    Liz :)

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    1. It was great to meet you in person Liz and I loved the birthday cookies that you posted a few days ago with the confetti cookies. Super cute! I'm glad we sat together and I got a chance to get to know you at CookieCon!

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  15. I love your post and agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment! And I never would have thought that you felt that way about your cookie-decorating style--I have always loved your cookies!

    And I love that my pic with you made the collage! :) So happy to have met you, my pinkie sister!

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    1. Thank you sweet Penny! I loved that I finally met the other pink SweetBook gal! And love that picture of us together with our pink! Next year we have to make sure that we have much more dedicated SweetBook time for sure!

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  17. I just read this now and completely agree with everything you wrote and enjoyed the recap...or refresher on the classes I sat in on! I still have yet to go through my notes, but you have them all laid out so wonderfully. One thing I would add to your lessons learned is that it's sad you don't get to meet every 450+ people in attendance. I didn't get to meet you, but would have liked too! So many cookie people, so little time. It was a fun and exhausting experience. Glad to hear how much you enjoyed it as well! :)

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    1. I completely agree Melissa. It was such a phenomenal opportunity to meet EVERYONE and yet we didn't nearly get to meet everyone. I came home and was surprised at posts saying someone attended and I felt sad that I didn't get to meet them. I thought for sure I would hide in a corner, but I didn't at all. I went out of my way to meet people and enjoy the experience and even with that, there were SO many that I didn't get to meet - including you. It would be nice if the group that you go to classes with changed somehow so that you are in different groups. But even within those groups, it was hard to meet people because we were listening and then rushing to the next class. I don't know the solution, but I fully agree that it's a bummer to go so far away and have such an incredible opportunity to meet other cookie peeps and then find that we couldn't possibly meet and get to know everyone. I think next year we'll have a party in Cristin's room every night where we all just sit around and talk ;-) ha ha

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Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment! I love hearing from you! Cristin