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  • Writer's pictureShannon

Summer Sunset (& learning to say 'no')

Sometimes a commission comes along and you're really not sure what to do with it. Maybe the original request seems complicated or in opposition to your style or aesthetic.

This was one of those commissions. At first, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information the customer wanted included on the cake: beach themed, sunset, birthday girl and her husband watching the sunset, their four kids catching sharks and beach combing for seashells!

I was also unsure of how to make a cake like this while still being true to my aesthetic, creating the art that I want to see, attracting the kinds of orders I want to fill.

The thing about being an entrepreneur is that it's really really hard to say no to orders at first. You're trying to make a name for yourself, get the word out, and make some money while you do. You think that if you say no every once in a while, you'll lose lots of business. But truth is if you fill orders that you don't like the end result of, you'll either lose potential customers because they will see your lack of passion in your work, or you'll box yourself into a market that you have no interest in, attracting the wrong audience! At some point, you have to decide for yourself if you and your reputation are established enough to take enough pride and value your time enough to politely decline orders that will not work for you.

This is something I've been working on in myself in 2021, only taking orders I want to take! I'm a busy woman with no time for nonsense! At this point in my career, I want every single order to build my brand and become something I find beautiful and fulfilling, worth the many many hours and days of work I put into it. I'm also an artist and I firmly believe that you should only hire an artist if you like their style, not because you want a copy of something you saw on Pinterest (don't get me wrong, though. We love Pinterest. For inspiration only! NOT copying).

Now, all this is sounding like I wanted to say no, or I should have said no, or I actually said no(??) to this sunset beach extravaganza cake. Except I didn't and I shouldn't have. Because when we are given a challenge and the freedom to come up with a creative solution THAT is when we start to grow as artists! And THAT is when we start to make our mark and solidify our brand!

Beginning in Autumn 2020, I enrolled as a full time college art student, a dream of mine since middle school. As a student, I have created a lot of unremarkable and even ugly work, but I've also been challenged into making some beautiful things that I truly never would have stumbled upon on my own! An assignment doesn't need to be restricting and suffocating! It can be a catalyst of inspiration and discovery! This cake was that for me. It may not seem like a particularly special cake, but to me it's a personal milestone.

Working through the design process was actually a journey. When customers ask for people on their cake, they're usually expecting little fondant people. I knew I did not want to do that. Making one fondant person takes HOURS, let alone SIX! Plus, they're really just not my aesthetic. I don't like the cute clean marshmallow people for myself (other artists do a beautiful job, I find it draining and less that rewarding), they just seem diametrically opposed (dramatic, I know) to the splashy painterly approach I generally prefer. I finally realized I do not have to make people the way people expect me to make people. It's a sunset! And it hit me: silhouettes! With that simple realization, the whole design came together: a textural sunset full of warm colors, contrasted to the teal ocean edge, with little golden flecks all over.

So artists and small business owners:

Let yourself say no to customers who only want a copy of someone else's work. But if someone is giving you the freedom to be creative and let your personality shine through, if you're just given a somewhat challenging theme that you might not particularly like MAKE IT something you like! Take that idea and that freedom and run wild! Find your artistic voice and make your work your own.

And customers:

We love you <3 but find an artist you vibe with lol

Now have a cake video:


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