Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Meet and Greet

Hello my little buckaroos! I'm really excited about today's post. A huge part of life here at the ranch is about being inspired - by everyday things as well as by other folks. I want to share those inspirations with you and learn about yours as well. Recently, a truly fun and inspirational artist came onto my radar and well, I'd like to introduce you all to her. Meet Agnes Barton-Sabo!

(We'll all pretend that she's here and shout with glee, "Hi Agnes!")

Great job, buckaroos!

Okay first, the back story. My friend, Adrienne had a birthday party and when I saw a photo of her cake made by Agnes, I flipped. I take that back. I double back-handspring flipped. Her party was held on the same day as the premiere of this season's "Mad Men" and Agnes was given creative license to do a theme cake....and will you take a look ?

Hot dog! When is the last time that you saw such epic action on a birthday cake? If you're not a fan of the show, the cake is depicting a memorable scene where a wild party at the agency ends in disaster. Well, see for yourself here (warning: massive amounts of stage blood):

So, as you can see...the cake is perfection! After thinking, "Yum! Cake!" my next thought was, "who is the mad genius behind this freakin' awesome cake?" I soon learned that it was Agnes and I set off to learn more about her. First off, I was pleased to learn that not only is she a fantastic cake artist but she is also an amazing visual artist who does printmaking, drawing and mixed media.

I'll show you some samples of her work shortly but I think that this might be a great time for us to watch a little movie starring Agnes that was made to showcase her talents and her Etsy shop "Betty Turbo". Can someone pull down the blinds for Miss Eartha? Thank you! Now....there...very good. Eyes ahead! Buckaroos, meet Agnes!

Awesome and inspiring, right?

So I shot off a note to Agnes and requested an interview. That's right! Our first interview ever at Ranch Dressing! Thankfully, she obliged. Here's our conversation.

How did you get started baking and decorating cakes? Did your Mom make magical cakes when you were a kid?

Both my parents are artists, and they always made me really fun and creative birthday cakes. I have a favorite polaroid of myself sitting on the counter, covered in flour, licking the cake batter off the beaters while my mom was making a cake. Yep, plenty of inspiration in my youth. My dad also created a lot of food-oriented art, and art-oriented food, so there was that angle as well. I started actually making cakes as a hobby in high school, just for my friends.

If you could make any themed cake with no regard to cost or difficulty, what kind of cake would you make?

Hmmm! I would love to do something uber-geeky, like make a 7-tiered cake where each tier represents an entire season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, or something like that. Anything slightly weird, especially if it's pop-culture oriented, really gets me going.

Have you ever had any crazy cake catastrophes?

There have been cakes that I considered a catastrophe, because of my obsessive perfectionist nature, but the good thing about really weird, specific cakes, is the thought counts for SO MUCH that people are usually willing to overlook some messiness. The "D*ck in a Box" cake I made for my friend's bachelorette party got way too warm and shiny and I was losing my mind with frustration, but the intended recipient could tell which shiny blob of smeared icing was supposed to be Justin Timberlake, so, mission accomplished. Haven't had any real hardcore cake drama.

What was the most interesting or strangest cake that you’ve ever made?

Well, anytime someone just lets me go crazy is my new best-cake-ever. I was really proud of the giant sushi rolls for the level of realism that was accomplished. Probably the highest on the interesting AND strange scale was the cake and accompanying cupcakes I made for Eric Powell for the anniversary party for his comic book, The Goon. I had made him a birthday cake before, so he just let me do whatever I wanted, and I created a big insane tentacled monster and covered it in marzipan eyeballs... It was so creepy that I insisted he documented the eating and destruction of it so I could be sure it was dead and wouldn't come back to haunt me.

If you're just hanging out at the house with some baking time, what do you bake for yourself?

I don't really like cake at all! I love making fruit pies and cobblers and my all-time favorite pie is RHUBARB! And I love, love, love making my own ice cream as well but that's not really baking :) I like making things from scratch that take a ridiculously long time and lots of elbow grease, like puff pastry or french macaroons. It's very satisfying to eat things that take so much work.

I think I was told that you do your cake making in a store? Or do you do cakes on the side as well? If someone in our area wanted you to make an amazing cake for them, how would they contact you?

At present time, the only way to legally obtain a cake made by myself in a licensed kitchen is through the Whole Foods Market in Green Hills. For flavors and creative wonders outside that range, be my friend and invite me to your party. Or be a really cool band that I want to impress.

Okay, kids...Grab a glass of milk and let's take a look at some more of her delicious creations:

See what I'm talking about? That girl can do up some baked goods! I'm kind of TOO obsessed with that big fish one. Okay, and the tacos one....and the skeleton in the coffin.... But wait a minute. Look at this one!

You KNOW that we here at the ranch are head over spurs about that one!

Now let's learn about a few of her other talents:

What printing methods do you use?

I do block printing from linoleum and wood cuts, a little bit of screenprinting, and since I hoard my vintage ephemera and sometimes can't bear to part with it, I do a lot of digital collaging that I make archival inkjet prints from.

Do You Speak Cupcake?

xander and betty turbo 4ever

What got you interested in printmaking?

My mother was a printmaker before I was born, so I'm sure some of that interest was inherited. I had a Japanese Gocco printer in high school that I loved making cards and wannabe Andy Warhol portraits of my friends with. I took one printmaking class in college and quit because my studio classmates were SLOBS. But the really whammy came when I moved to Nashville in 2004 on a totally random suggestion and got a job at Hatch Show Print. Agnes + Letterpress Printing = True Love 4 EVER.

Your classic wrestler prints are awesome. Tell me more! (totally vague question but I grew up watching these guys “wrassle” and it tickles me to no end to see them on your prints!)

The inspiration for this series came when one of my really good friends wanted a custom work of art to give her man for Christmas. The only suggestions she gave me were that he really likes giant squids and Ric Flair. I was clueless about wrestling but my husband is an EXPERT and schooled me properly. I was already kind of in the habit of adding cakes or cupcakes into scenes where they didn't belong, so this was just a new topic, with plenty of wacky visual inspiration, that I learned about and tried to put my own spin on. I have done four pieces in this series so far and I am trying to figure out who's next. I am REALLY into wrestling now, let me tell you. I read Mick Foley's autobiography on a recent trip and wanted to hug every crazy snaggletoothed gnarly dude in the airport. I appreciate wrestling for the unique action poses I get to draw, the work that they put into creating their character, and the bitchin footwear, but I am also always drawn to activities that are historically considered "manly" or "womanly" and the intersection or separation of the two...

Ric Flair battles a giant squid for the last piece of cake

Jake the Snake Roberts contemplates other gimmicks that rhyme with Jake

With the print making and cake decorating, you must stay pretty busy. If you had time for one other career path (mild or wild), what would it be?

There are many creative activities I have tried out that I mostly abandoned due to the endless hours of time they consumed. Ceramics, musical theatre, journalism... Really, I think if "art" can be it for me, then I just have to have become a giant personality to the point where I can make a sculpture, teach a workshop, publish a magazine, bake a cake, do a dance, and it all falls under the umbrella of My Artwork. I would be a sad and boring human being if I wasn't an artist.

What other things get your heart palpitating?

Snow, animals, food with faces, books, sushi, tattoos, old photographs of strangers, bicycles, toast, typewriters, popsicles, all-night diners... Is this starting to sound like a personal ad?

twinpop halloween card

you're the BOMB folding card

Who inspires you?

My ridiculously awesome family! My great-grandmother Agnes, who I was named after, was an illustrator and decorator in the 30s - I love to imagine what I've inherited from her. My grandmother Betty worked in a commercial kitchen, I like to think she keeps me company when I'm up to my elbows in giant mixing bowls of frosting. My 11-year old brother, who sees a totally different world than I do and yet still has a solid appreciation of a good scone or a rockin dance party. My husband is constant inspiration - he is an expert on so many things that I don't know about, he's always giving me great ideas. In the outside world, heartfelt rock & roll always does it for me. Andrew WK = Great motivational speaker. Bruce Springsteen as well.

I saw in the Etsy video that you said that you’ve always received a lot of encouragement from family and friends and that you’re happy to get to do what you love. Any advice for those who aren’t in that situation but would really like to find and do what they love?

The best advice I can give is BE YOURSELF. Figure out what feels satisfying and awesome to you, and tell the world. Express yourself, and when you show what you're passionate about, you will attract like-minded people and supporters. If you don't know what you love, try everything! I feel that people working in any type of creative field absolutely have to be prolific - so make things all the time! Make SOMETHING and even if it's total crap or just for practice, the activity of creating might inspire you to make something else.

What’s your stance on kitsch? (I know, buckaroos....but I HAD to ask!)

Oh, there's a place for everything. In the indie art & craft world you are sometimes hard-pressed to find something not swaddled in five layers of irony. Highbrow? Lowbrow? Kitschy? Postmodern? Serious? Sentimental? I'm interested in all artifacts of this world, from my time, or another. I will distribute equal admiration to the contents of an art museum and the contents of your grandma's kitchen. I ask only, is it awesome?

kitchen warrior

" I will distribute equal admiration to the contents of an art museum and the contents of your grandma's kitchen. I ask only, is it awesome?"

Can I tell y'all how much I wish that I had said that? Awesome quote and words to live by, I'll say. I also love Agnes' advice on being ourselves. You know, if we're true to ourselves and what we truly believe in and love, it's doubtful that we'll regret the path that we have taken. And THAT is inspirational.

So, kids....I hope that you've enjoyed your visit with Agnes. If you're in Nashville and want a fantastical cake, DO look her up. And if you want to purchase some of her killer cool prints and cards, here is the link to her Etsy shop. Please stop by and see her. You'll be glad that you did!

Betty Turbo

She's got a huge selection and I think that you'll love them all! And let me add that the titles and descriptions of her pieces are the best. She's got moxie, that kid.

And stay tuned because I have snagged one of her pieces for a special Ranch Dressing drawing coming up this week! Stand by for details on how to enter..

Until next time,
x's and o's,


Charm and Poise said...

Thanks so much for this, Eartha! It's really inspirational to read about an artist, person, woman, baker, decorator, collector, and lover of the world who approaches everything as adventure to embrace, understand, change, and enrichen. Hooray! (Ah uh, if no one is looking I think I'm going to steal that pancake breakfast cake ...)

I don't think any of us can be reminded enough to be ourselves and to explore our corner of the world with verve and excitement. I feel really inspired by Agnes and both her art and her approach to the world make me feel 1.) as if what I collect and love is important in and of itself and 2.) like I want to be braver about what's important to me and infuse into my workaday world.

Thanks, ladies!

Anonymous said...

Well now, those are some mighty fine prints and food art! That tentacled monster cake looks like he is about to start devouring the innocent army of cupcakes all around him. I love the wrasslin' prints as well. Shouldn't there really be a separate division where tentacled beings fight each other... how unfair is it when the squid has a six arm advantage over nature boy?

Shannon glee said...

We love Agnes!!!!! Thanks for giving her some well deserved recognition. There is truly nothing that lady can't do! She's an amazing quilter, stuffed animal creator, and chef extraordiair as well.
Great articLe on an awesome gal!

Sara In AZ said...

OMG!!!! That Mad Men cake is SOOOOOO AWESOME!!!! That is the BEST cake ever! It only makes me wish I lived in Nashville so I could actually get one.

Actually, all of the cakes are TOTALLY rockin'! You really are one talented lady Agnes.

I totally agree with Charm and Agnes, you have to be yourself - no matter what. I know my house is crazy to most people because I do love my kitsch. But hey, I love it and that is all that matters - right! Thanks for backing all of us up Agnes. :)

Now, all I have to do is figure out how to get my hands on one of those Mad Men cakes??? I don't suppose you ship to AZ Agnes? :)

Great interview Eartha! Can't wait for the giveaway announcement.

Straight Talking Mama! said...

Wow she is one very very talented lady! I'm amazed

Unknown said...

NOBODY has an advantage over the Nature Boy. Just ask Sting...or Ricky Steamboat...or Randy Savage.

The Blonde Mule said...

Great post & interview. Agnes, you're amazing!



me and the other me said...

oh wow, i don't know if i could cut into one of those fab cakes! i think i'd have to spray it with some kind of preservative and leave it out on the dining room table to taunt visitor's hungry eyes. and agnes' prints are fantastic as well. two brilliant women! i hope this interview is the first of many to come. and i also think jack should interview eartha, even if she is his mother! <3 from your biggest AND earliest fan!

Anonymous said...

Oh, wow. Just WOW! I loved this whole post! I wish I could have the creativity to have thought of putting cupcakes with everything! I am in serious love with the cake that looks like the pancakes and bacon. The Mad Men cake, too, of course. And the tacos. And the rest of them. But seriously, those pancakes are rockin' my world! I'm going to the Etsy shop RIGHT NOW!

Anonymous said...

Your Art is killer! I am definitely going to have to check out your Etsy! Really great stuff and LOVE those cakes!!!

Anonymous said...

Taco cakes? I've died & gone to heaven.