Sunday, June 16, 2013

Buy Handmade vol 63 and GIVEAWAY!

This week we head to Woodbridge, VA

Name:  Ashley McKannon
Age:  26
Occupation:  Private Tutor / Sometime Confectioner
Etsy Shop:  SweetDiscourseBakery

When did you start creating and how long have you been on Etsy?

I've only been on Etsy for since February, but I have been baking on a serious level for several years now.

How did you come up with your business name, is there any special meaning behind it?
It took a long time to come up with a name.  I wanted it to be unique (something I could build into a brand if I decided to), and cute but not overly silly.  "Sweet Discourse" was a phrase my best friend found in several Renaissance-era English writings.  It meant pleasant conversation, and I like to think of my treats as conversations between the ingredients, me, and the person eating them.

Has your Etsy shop become your full time job? If not, would you like it to be?
The shop has started to cover its own expenses and fund new materials, which is a huge start!  If I decided to take it full-time, I would probably open up a physical location (my dream is a bakery and tea-parlor), rather than build a huge Etsy store.

How would you describe your creative process?
It usually starts with seeing someone else's recipe, a particular method or combination of flavors.  I then start to think of all the other things I could do to build off of that.  For example - my brother loves spiced chocolate (often called Mayan-style).  I started by incorporating those flavors (cinnamon, cloves, cayenne pepper) into a chocolate cake.  Just recently, when caramels became a focus of the Etsy store, I found a way to use cinnamon and clove oils, coupled with a pepper-infused salt, to make a Mayan version of my chocolate caramels.  Mostly I just play with things until they taste right!  I use organic, natural ingredients because they taste better, not just because they are better for you.  So many of the baked goods we have access to are highly processed and full  of preservatives at every level, and you can taste the difference.  A lot of my motivations and inspirations are actually reactions to this - I wanted to give the people around me something better than anything they'd had.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Love, as trite as that sounds.  Love of the art form itself, as food (and, I believe, pastry and candy especially), is one of the few arts that plays to all the senses at the same time.  It can be beautiful to look at, pleasing to touch, invigorating to smell, fun to listen to, and of course, delicious to taste.  My inspiration also comes from love of the people around me.  I adore the look of wonder on someone's face when I present them with something special I have made just for them, and the sense of care and belonging that you can convey with something as simple as a cookie.

What is your most cherished handmade item?
I have a framed embroidery that my mother made when I was a baby, of the lullaby she used to sing to me.  I'm keeping it to put up in my own nursery one day.

Apart from creating things, what do you like to do?
I like to play video games, garden, and read.  I also love to learn about and experiment with different types of food and with cocktails.  Making things that are more than the sum of their parts (even aside from baking) is one of my primary joys in life.

Was there ever any other job you dreamed of having growing up?
I wanted to be an archaeologist, then a molecular biologist, and then at the end join the State Department.  I got my degrees in Middle Eastern Studies, so who knows on that last one!

Five years from now you will be…
Possible opening up that bakery/ tea parlor.  I'd love to have a place of my own!

Describe yourself in five words:

Carrying on with the five theme, if I were to turn on your <insert whatever type of music player you use here>, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?
Foo Fighters
Silversun Pickups
The Lumineers
Mumford & Son

Lastly, do you have any advice for anyone thinking about opening their own shop or participating in craft shows?
You have to find something that you can sell - some things, like many knitted/crocheted items - just often can't be sold for a high enough price to cover materials and labor, much less a profit.  Try to find a niche and the right balance between cost to produce and expected revenue.  Otherwise, you will end up with a very expensive hobby rather than a business!  That said, it doesn't cost much to try.  Photos are everything in an online store - invest in not only a decent camera, but learn how to use it!

Now because I have you drooling over your monitors..we thought we would "sweeten" the deal - One lucky reader will win ONE POUND of her Fleur de Sel Caramels!!! Your choice of original or chocolate!

a Rafflecopter giveaway