Ever felt totally lost? Complete darkness without a speckle of light? Not knowing whether your eyes are open or closed, which is a really eerie feeling. Slithering around, grasping for purchase, like something out of a Neil Gaiman novel.
That is exactly how I felt after the trip to Buenos Aires last year. I lost all sense of myself and the motivation for my projects. I was at a crossroads in the dark without a single signpost to guide me.
I have no magic formula, I’m afraid. Different things work for different people. But things changed, almost magically on Christmas day when a very interesting book slid into my lap.
I wasn’t able to focus on Modern Art Desserts by Caitlin Freeman until the evening, after the festivities had died down for the day. Slowly I turned the pages, studying each dessert, marvelling at the intricate details of representing important works of art with sugar and chocolate. Every dessert is better than the one before, the photographs are beautiful, the layout of the book is comprehensive and warm.
Caitlin draws you into her world, explaining how she got to the point in her life where she dedicates her time to brainstorming new ideas for people to eat. This was a mind-boggling moment of inspiration. Here is this woman, who has struggled through her fair shares of ups and downs, getting lost along the way, to finally break through and combine her passions in one job.
This book is like falling through Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole, there is no turning back. Never before has a non-fiction book sat in my lap, figuratively screaming at me to be read. But I wasn’t going to be swayed, I only allowed myself one chapter per day, drawing out the experience of spying into Caitlin’s life and work as long as possible.
But I’m jumping ahead. A pastry chef at the Blue Bottle Café at SFMOMA in San Francisco, Caitlin works with a tight-knit team to create representations of the art in SFMOMA. The book collects a selection of these desserts, but this is not just a recipe book. Peppered with personal anecdotes, interesting facts about art, history and food, even colour, Caitlin loops her magic around different themes and subjects, managing to seamlessly bring each element together.
This is someone writing from their heart, letting you in, sharing their personal vision and story, being vulnerable. And that was exactly what I needed. As I poured over Modern Art Desserts, the lights switched on in the darkness I had been living in for the previous two months. I was still at a crossroads but it was finally day and I could see the signposts. Inspiration and motivation rushed back in, making me feel giddy. My lost companions were back to lead me along the way.
I had metaphorically shelved my fashion history book project during this bumbling period as it was just another headache scratching at me. Thanks to Caitlin and her slew of magical desserts, I now know what direction to take for my own book. And that feeling has radiated out into all areas of my life. What a great start to 2015.
I will be eternally grateful to Caitlin Freeman, to the wonderful Modern Art Desserts, her passion, work, insights and willingness to share her experiences.
All photos by Clay McLachlan.