Last May I had the opportunity to be part of a wonderful experience. Several cake artists from all around the world gathered together to create pieces inspired by gardens all around the world, to be revealed during the world famous RHS Chelsea flower show. My piece was inspired by Japan, more specifically the mythology surrounding the blooming of blossoms in Spring.
On researching my piece I became fascinated by not only by the stunning Japanese cherry blossoms and wisteria, but also by Japanese culture – the beautiful traditional kimono, hairstyles and aspects of the architecture, particularly the Torii gates. The more I researched the more I felt I wanted to represent more than just the flowers, but part of the beauty and spirit of Japan itself.
I learnt about the Shinto faith and the idea that rocks, trees, flowers, and all living things have some divine spirit within them, which in some stories has been known to take human form. This gave me the idea of representing the spirit of these beautiful Spring blossoms as a maiden. Initially I was considered modelling her after the story of the Wisteria Maiden, the spirit of a wisteria tree in the form of a young girl who fell in love, then suffered heartbreak at the hands of her lover. On further research I settled on the mythological princess Konohana Sakuya Hime – the Blossom Princess – or the Japanese spirit of Spring, although I kept some reference to the Wisteria Maiden in the clothing and hairpieces. Konohana Sakuya Hime is a beautiful yet, legend has it, short lived deity, fabled to be in charge of making the tree blossoms bloom in Spring and to protect Mt. Fuji, where many of her shrines are found. I started sketching a piece incorporating all of these aspects – a bust of a traditionally dressed Japanese young lady, with blossoms in her hair, set against the backdrop of Mt. Fuji.
The young lady was based mainly on inspiration images of popular Japanese figurines of Geisha & princesses. Initially she was to be much more doll-like in appearance, like my chosen inspiration picture, but at the last minute I decided to opt for more realism in the eyes and mouth. I also changed her expression to be more sad and wistful, like the young blossom princess who knows she will die soon, or the wisteria maiden who finally realises her lover is not going to come.
I designed an internal support for the piece made of one central and two lateral threaded rods, on a 10×20″ board.
As this was to be a display piece, the bust was made using RKT and fondant, with some foil used to bulk up the model. I used Liz Marek’s RKT tutorial here.
I started building up the face and hair using fondant
then gave her some basic features and her robes.
You can watch a YouTube video of how I created the applique motif on her robes here.
I watched a lot of YouTube videos about traditional Japanese hairstyles to try and understand the construction better. There seemed to be many varieties of style worn by various social classes in different periods, several of which I ended up combining to form the final design. I finished the piece with gumpaste hair ornaments and flowers, held in place using skewers. I filmed tutorials which are up now on YouTube for how to make, colour and assemble the gumpaste wisteria and double cherry blossom sprays in her hair 🙂
Finally, I made the backdrop based on an image of the iconic Mt. Fuji rising from a sea of cloud and rock to place behind her. I’ll be posting a tutorial showing how to do this here soon.
This is the finished piece 🙂
The collaboration was unveiled in May. Since then many of our members had their pieces featured in various magazines in print and online. I was lucky enough to be featured on the American Cake Decorating blog and Pretty Witty Cakes Magazine, for which I’m very grateful. I had an amazing experience with some wonderful and incredibly talented artists, one which I’ll remember all my life.
To see the collaboration Facebook page, its here.
Thanks for reading!