They know modeling chocolate from fondant and the difference between royal icing and buttercream, and they want nothing more than to share their knowledge and resources with other sugar artists….
Photo by Nikki Boertman, The Commercial Appeal
They know modeling chocolate from fondant and the difference between royal icing and buttercream, and they want nothing more than to share their knowledge and resources with other sugar artists.
From creating edible flowers in exquisite detail to cakes of all shapes and sizes, the members of the West Tennessee Sugar Artists are happy to share their tips, tricks and techniques.
The group was founded in 1999 by Jo Ann Thweatt. After teaching the craft for 47 years — many of those for Wilton Enterprises, an industry leader in supplies and training — Thweatt wanted to go beyond the set curriculum.
“There was a need for people to be able to learn something beyond what was taught Wilton classes. We decided to form a club so that we could share personal techniques with each other,” Thweatt said.
Initially meeting in the homes of members, the group received a boost last fall from SweetWise, a baking supply store in Germantown. The store offered the group use of the store one evening a month, giving the group an opportunity to grow and increase its membership.
At each meeting, the group holds demonstrations or hands-on activities, and shares their personal experiences, latest projects and other topics related to the industry.
“I can’t talk about cakes to my family. They don’t want to hear about it, and they don’t know the terminology,” said Pam Sayle, the group’s vice president. “When I go to the meetings, everyone is eager to hear about what I am working on and offer advice when I need it.”
What Sayle likes the most about sugar art is the detail she is able to put into her work such on a large salt-and-pepper-shaker-shaped cake she once made.
“I made the salt crystals look like real salt crystals, the pepper looked real too, and the silver tops of the shakers were shiny,” Sayle said.
Today, there are around 75 group members. And now the group is taking on its biggest challenge: organizing its first Sugar Arts Show and Competition at the Delta Fair and Music Festival, Sept. 4.
It’s a perfect fit for a group that loves to teach.
“I’ve never been a part of any other group that so willingly shares their knowledge and teaches their techniques like this one,” said RiRi McGruder, chairwoman of the show.
It was McGruder’s fondness for the club that gave her the idea to hold a show at the Delta Fair.
“The Delta Fair already has a culinary exhibition. This just was a natural extension of that. Plus, with all the shows on television about cakes and sugar art, I think a lot of people will want to come to the fair to see it,” she said.
With the backing of organizers of the Delta Fair, the group was able to get noted sugar artist Bronwen Weber, eight-time gold medal winner of Food Network’s Challenge competition and pastry chef at Frosted Art Bakery in Dallas, Texas, to both judge the competition and teach a two-day class on Sept. 5-6.
Also judging the show will be nationally known sugar artists Geraldine Kidwell and Jay Qualls. The group expects up to 280 sugar artists from a five-state area to participate. The entree fee is $25 per division.
For more information on the West Tennessee Sugar Artists or to register for the Delta Fair competition or Bronwen Weber’s classes, please visit: westtnsugarartists.org.
The event is free to spectators with Delta Fair admission. A percentage of the proceeds and any donations at the event will go to 4-H of Shelby County.