In case you wonder how “The Fancifulls” came into being, I’ll let you in on my back-story. This has not been and expected journey where a plan for retirement had given me certain goals to reach by a certain age. It was not through seeing a post online or a picture on a universally viewed-and-copied site. Until as recently as 4 days ago, I was not a fan of social media and am getting my feet soaked here. No time like the summer to test the waters.
Some would call it an epiphany. I’m not sure if the term fits. I do, however, tend to think it was more than a fluke that I find myself typing this page at 5:30am on a Friday, my last day of VACATION! I know that I had a feeling when I glanced at a display of a dragonfly weather vane, that I could make those flies from copper. I found the copper I needed and began to experiment. I started with prototypes and the first two looked absolutely terrible. I set them aside and persevered. I’ve kept my prototypes and I may post pictures of them some day as inspiration to others that get the itch or should I say, the Bug?
By my fourth prototype, I’d felt I could make myself one or two dragonflies to decorate a grapevine wreath on my entry door. That was all I had in mind ~ an attractive and unusual wreath to dress my door. I enjoyed making them and had materials left over so I made a few more for a couple of friends and a whole wreath with 5 Dragonflies that I offered into a charity auction for a local school. The response, I humbly admit, was quite positive. My friends know I like to create but it is usually in my kitchen, elbow deep in butter, flour and sugar. This venture was something unique.
I began to assess the differences between baking for people and creating my Fancifulls. Yes, I was paid to bake/create tarts, bars, cookies, cakes, candies, chocolates, pies and breads, as well as 3 different recipes for Christmas Fruit Cake, available in 3 different sizes. The cake is baked each year over Thanksgiving weekend. In Canada, that is typically the second weekend in October, plenty of time for the cakes to soak up their boozy feedings and be ready to slice over the holidays. At peak production, I produced and sold 33 fruit cakes along with dozens and dozens of 20 different seasonal recipes such as decorated gingerbread men, women and angels, traditional wheels of Scottish Shortbread and a Canadian favourite, Butter Tarts. I baked for approximately 25 families each Christmas, each I personally knew, worrying that I might be fined or worse, sued by someone who went into anaphylactic shock over a stray toffee piece. (Check the label. These are made with peanuts. It’s not a warning about the facilities they’re produced in. It’s an ingredient!). Each year my client list grew on a first come, first served basis. Once the forms were filled and returned with clients “Christmas Wish List”, I got cracking with the math of how much butter (ALWAYS UNSALTED), Flour, Sugar, Eggs etc I’d need to get all the recipes completed. Multiple times I went shopping and would hump baking and packaging supplies up 39 stairs, into my tiny condo kitchen. I prepared, stored, baked, packaged and organized delivery schedules, and most importantly, baking schedules as I am blessed with one and only one, very old (32 years) but very reliable oven.
Can a person love an oven? All this while I continued to give my 33 fruitcakes their weekly feedings. Once baked and packaged, fresh for the date of delivery chosen by each client, according to my trusty schedule posted on my 14.3 cubic foot fridge, I would CAREFULLY hump all the baked goods back down the 39 stairs and deliver them directly to my client.
Did I mention that I held down and still have a full time 40-hour-a-week job? I tried baking for 6 years and it was an enjoyable though tough slog. Each year after countless hours of work and financial investment for ingredients, I would have barely enough left over to buy myself a modest Christmas present like a 32″ flat screen during a Boxing Day sale. One year, I was so pleased. After paying off my initial investment (excluding Hydro, and that’s a big deal in Ontario), I actually bought myself a KitchenAid Bowl Lift Pro 5 Series Mixer., again at a hugely reduced Boxing Day Sale Price. I needed it to continue as I burnt the motor out on my 26-year-old Oster Kitchen Centre while whipping royal icing for the Gingerbread Men! ~ I state again, This is Canada. Boxing Day is December 26th.
Two years ago, I noticed my bones and mind were having difficulty keeping up. Between the bags and bags of groceries via my baker’s-3-dozen stair-set and the constant recipe calculations for multiple batches for multiple recipes and a memory that was beginning to struggle through peri-menopause, I knew that either quantity or quality would soon suffer. The final straw was when the dishwasher broke in my 8-foot square kitchen. Disclaimer, it didn’t really break, but didn’t it add a bit more drama to my story? I bet you hadn’t thought of all the dishes I had to wash, did you?
There was a brief stint at a recipe I created, Maple Almond Crunch, a reduction made of pure maple syrup, an organic balsamic reduction, coconut oil, the very best natural almonds and chia seeds. I made 6 different flavours, Original, Sweet Heat, Garlic, Pulled Pork, Cinnamon, and Mustard Seed. I also produced a seasonal flavour, ‘Tis the Season,” including all the warm spices you would include in your Christmas baking – allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and cinnamon. Every flavour sold very well.
Question. Have you ever purchased a 50 pounds, cardboard case of Almonds? At a reputable bulk ingredient store – So, so fresh but it will set you back over $400 maybe more. That was 2 years ago and on sale. At the time, I still lived in the 39-stairs-to-get-to-my-living-space home, my little heaven. My cakes and pies were much lighter than 50 pounds! After slowly gaining purchase on 16 of the stairs outside, I had to crack the case open inside my front door – then scoop the nuts into bowls just to get them up to where I would be using them. Again, due to ingredients and electricity used in the candying (Is that even a word?) process, they sold well, but no profits and possibly a loss. I chose not to assess it. And OMG, the heat in my little home was beyond belief. 33C and high humidity because I was boiling the maple syrup together with the balsamic reduction. Cooling and packing was interesting too.
My products sold and that is, in large part why I continued. I loved to make people happy using a skill some do not have… and I was getting paid but there was little to no profit and I was not paying myself at all. Both ventures, you may notice, inherently had a shelf life. This was limiting but, like many, I tend to stick to what I know.
I’d pretty much given up on working for myself when this venture darted into my consciousness, hovered and came to lightly rest in my lap. I enjoy making each and every dragonfly, and pulling the ideas from mind and bringing them into physical being. I use no electricity. A table-top space of 2 square feet is ample room for production, though more space is required for supplies and packaging. I’m currently using an 8 foot long counter top and everything I need can be stored above or below this space. My products are extremely light as are all my supplies and packaging. They are very portable up and down the stairs. They are durable, more durable than you might guess. (I don’t molly-coddle them as I’m making them.) I can come and go whenever I please without worry of burning down my home while walking my dog with a cake in the oven. (Condo Living – No back yard.) Best yet, I can make and package oodles in advance and not worry about a shelf life. Besides, they’re pretty, if I do say so myself. I have so many ideas for designs and ways to use them, and customers are suggesting more every day. I’m keeping track of comments for future reference.
I really hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down my memory lane. I was getting exhausted just thinking about all that I use to do. What I’ve learned is, having a passion is great. Passion and commerce do not always marry…. but sometimes they do and live happily ever after.