Today the award for ‘Coolest Job Title’ goes to (drumroll please…) Dessert designer Caroline Khoo from Nectar and Stone. We had so many questions for Caroline and luckily for us (and you) she has answered them all!
We’re not kidding when we say Caroline’s edible designs are straight up masterpieces – an exhibition of watercolour-inspired treats. With a soon-to-be-launched dessert book under her belt and an Instagram following of over 300K, we chat to this hardworking mother of two about storytelling through food and art.
Why is your work important to you?
I design and create custom desserts for brands, weddings and celebration events. I also style and collaborate with brands and small businesses to produce content and imagery. I love being able to create unique designs for my clients, develop new recipes and showcase beautiful photos to celebrate the finished work. I enjoy being able to push boundaries, develop new ideas, think outside the square and show my community that creativity is endless and it’s possible to have a business – even with children.
Tell us about how you got started…
I started in 2013 after I had my two boys, Isaiah and Dimitri. Long story short, Dimitri had some neck issues after birth which required intense physio treatment (he is fully recovered) and Isaiah was extremely difficult and fussy with food (he eats anything and everything now!). I found myself focusing my energy on creating fun and pretty food plates because 1. It really helped Isaiah to enjoy his food and 2. It helped as an outlet with the emotional roller coaster I was experiencing with Dimitri and his neck.
From savoury plates, I started to move towards desserts such as birthday cakes and healthy muffins. My friends and family were continually commenting on the original and creative flair I was showcasing. A constant year of encouragement from my husband Nick to start a business led me to create Nectar and Stone. And yes, I am self-taught.
And yes, I am self-taught.
Was creativity part of your childhood growing up?
I have always been creative – since I was six-years-old. Drawing and painting have always been my passion but my parents really wanted me to have, what they believed at the time, a safe career. So I was always steered away from following my passions.When I was in Year 11, I wanted to do art and photography but I ended up doing politics and history instead.
What keeps you motivated and inspired creatively?
I’m really inspired by my surroundings like floral shops, bookstores and paintings, as well as fashion designers, pretty buildings, travelling and seeing new things with my kids. I’m a very visual person who is constantly needing to see new things – I think this is what keeps me motivated. It’s just how I am, so I don’t really require active motivation.
What’s your artistic style and how has it evolved?
My artistic style is very feminine and delicate. I think living in a household full of males has certainly drawn out that dainty side of me. My work is very free-form and aligns with the energy and spirit that I feel on the day. I am riddled with stories as well, so I’m taking you through a journey when I’m creating. My style is very distinct. I think it has evolved to tell more of a story and I’m continually developing new ideas.
What does a typical day involve for you?
No one day is ever the same for me. It is a juggle between emails, meetings, sometimes Skype meetings early or late in the day, designing, baking, photographing and the list goes on. I don’t really ever switch off but in saying that – I love what I do.
Talk us through your creative process and why you love being an artist…
One of my processes starts with an idea that would’ve been brewing for a few months. It might be one that I’ve literally woken up with and then need to work out how to execute it. Often I will map out my ideas – Pinterest is a really good visual album to use if you need somewhere to start. I will then test some ideas out in the studio until I feel satisfied with what I’ve designed and created. If I’m not happy with the outcome, I shelve the idea and then a few months later I find my answer.
I think that what I love most about the process is that the client allows me creative freedom so I can design as I please. This is why I love each project – nothing is ever the same.
I also enjoy being able to create, discover, develop and learn. I think to be able to find like-minded people who share the same interests and appreciate your work is truly special.
What have been some challenges you’ve faced?
Earlier on, there was a lot of my work being replicated and not credited. Over time I became less fussed about it and started to realise that I was a mentor for these creatives, who needed some guidance in learning and developing themselves.
My biggest career obstacle would have to be myself. I think we can sometimes limit ourselves based on fear of failure, bad planning, over-committing, etc and it can hinder our progression. I think when I was able to get a support network to help me, I reached a turning point.
What has been your career highlight?
When Martha Stewart, and so many other talented people have shared my work with their communities – I’m really humbled by it.
But my career highlight is really the community who have supported my work, helped me to grow, supported me and enabled me to pursue and reach my dreams. I’m not sure how to ever “thank you”.
What aspirations do you have for the future and what would be your dream project?
I have a few projects in the works as we speak, the first one being the release of my first book. I’m very excited about it. The others I can’t mention yet – I love to keep surprises, so hopefully more will be shared soon!
Caroline Khoo is a dessert designer and mother. She lives in Victoria with her husband Nick and two boys, Isaiah and Dimitri. You can see Caroline’s latest pieces via her Instagram and visit her boutique store on her website. Caroline’s new book ‘I’m Just Here For Dessert’ is also available for pre-order ahead of its release on 1 May 2017.