Jacqueline Butler is the Owner and Creative Director at Petalsweet, based in San Diego, California. She teaches her signature style of cake decorating and sugar flowers around the world. Jacqueline’s first book Modern Sugar Flowers was published in April 2017.
One of the first online sugar flower classes I took was Jacqueline’s Handcrafted Sugar Flowers class on Bluprint (formerly Craftsy) in which she teaches hydrangeas, leaves, five petal filler flowers and buds. She later added another online class Fantastic Filler Flowers to the platform with five more unique styles of filler flowers.
I caught up with Jacqueline Butler to talk about her new book Modern Sugar Flowers Volume 2, her indispensable tools for sugar flower making, as well as her advice on charging for sugar flowers…
How did you first get into making sugar flowers?
I’ve always enjoyed making small things with my hands. I had a great dollhouse when I was growing up and loved making the kits for furniture and home accessories. I used polymer clay to create tiny plates of food and desserts for the little kitchen table. I was baking as a hobby when I found a small book on simple sugar blossoms and I was immediately drawn to the art form. Initially I learned from a few books but was then fortunate to take a class with Colette Peters, and the sugar flowers were my favorite part of week! Once I knew I wanted to start my cake business Petalsweet, I invested more time in an extensive private lesson to learn as much as I could about good technique and how to make well crafted flowers. From there I was hooked!
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out in sugar flowers?
Nothing beats a hands-on class with an experienced teacher for learning how to use your tools properly, and to maximize their use as well. There are a lot of little subtleties that can make or break the look and quality of a finished flower. And you can’t get those invaluable little tips from watching videos or reading PDF tutorials. In person workshops are also a great way to learn tips and tricks in decorating real cakes and working efficiently and cost effectively, especially if you are studying with someone who makes cakes as a business. Learning good technique will also give you the confidence to try new flowers on your own! Study with someone who’s style you admire but remember to then take that knowledge and re-make the flowers in your own style. And, practice as much as you can. I still make time to practice every week!
What can we expect to see in Volume 2 of Modern Sugar Flowers?
Modern Sugar Flowers Volume 2 is a true sequel to the first book! The only overlaps from the first book are the hydrangea and filler flowers as they are both staples in many of our cake designs. We repeated them because we wanted the second book to be able to stand on its own. The rest of Volume 2 includes all new flowers and 6 new cake project styles for decorating inspiration. I’ve also highlighted the use of a bit more greenery since it is trending so much in the cake and floral industries. All the flowers and projects are broken down into steps with clear instructions and corresponding photos, same as the first book. The pretty fonts and layouts are the same so both books can truly sit side-by-side on your shelf as a set. There will be more sneak peeks before the release in November, but so far, some of the flowers featured are clematis, gardenia, poppies, bougainvillea and petunias, and there will be several roses too.
Your sugar blueberries have been very popular on instagram! Is this something that we will see in the book?
It’s been a fun surprise to see the blueberries be so popular! And yes, they are included in the book in the chapter called Staples and Fillers.
The cover image of the book is beautiful! Did you have a few contenders for the front cover or was this design created with the cover in mind?
Thank you so much! The photography was done over 5 separate shoots, each lasting 3 to 4 days. My publisher knew I was incorporating a few stronger colors for some of the flowers and asked for a cake design that would feature my recognized pastels mixed with a flower in a darker color. They felt this would help readers identify the new book easily. The cake chosen for the cover features a large front arrangement with poppies, bougainvillea, petunias, clematis and greenery. We tried a shot of the full cake for the cover, but the details of the flowers proved to be more visually interesting, so in the end, my publisher chose the closer shot.
What tools do you find indispensable for sugar flower making?
Pasta machine for rolling paste, metal ball tools, Dresden tool, veining tool, knife tool, tiny palette knife, small scissors, groove board and a foam pad. I so appreciate all the wonderful cutters and veiners that are available now, although I try to re-utilize as many different things as possible across numerous flowers. And I’m so grateful for the artisans who have created such beautiful petal dusts, I couldn’t create without them!
What do you find are sugar flower artists biggest stumbling blocks and what are the best ways you’ve found to overcome them?
Not charging (enough) for your floral work! Sugar flowers take time and you need to incorporate that time into the final price of the cake. When I first started out, some great advice given to me was to keep a notebook page for each flower, listing any extra supplies and tracking the time it took me to make the flower from start to finish. At the beginning, your margins will be smaller because you work slower, but eventually you will become more efficient making flowers and can charge more. But even if it’s a smaller amount in the beginning, be sure to charge for your time!
More is not always more! Don’t assume you need to completely cover a cake with sugar flowers to make it beautiful. Thoughtful placement of a few blooms with fillers and greenery can be stunning. And don’t forget the power of a single grand statement flower. Use other artists for inspiration, but really work to create your own style. The workload is always a bit easier if you are not trying to force an idea.
What’s next for you?
Short term you’ll find me doing a bit of domestic and international travel to promote the new book. This will include a few cake shows and book signings, and some workshops to introduce the new flowers. Longer term, we are looking into additional ways to teach and share content that could be easily available to more people who are interested in making sugar flowers. We are working on several ideas and projects and look forward to sharing more soon!
Modern Sugar Flowers Volume 2 is available to Pre-order now on Amazon UK, US and Canada and will be Released November 2019
Thank you so much Jacqueline. I can’t wait to read my copy of Modern Sugar Flowers Volume 2!
P.S I loved Jacquelines advice about noting down the supplies you use and tracking the time it takes to make flowers from start to finish. It is so important to take into account your time when pricing your sugar flowers. I have included my Sugar Flower Costing Worksheet as a FREE download below. You can use this to record the supplies you use and the time taken for each individual sugar flowers you make, in order to work out your pricing. Please click the link below to download it now!
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