Made in Chicago: Bake and Destroy
By Jess D'Amico in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 21, 2008 5:31PM
Welcome back to Made in Chicago. Did you miss us last week? Everybody needs a sick day, and we've whipped up something extra tasty today to make up for our absence.
Punk. Rock. Cupcakes. That's Bake and Destroy in a nutshell, the blog, flickr, and Etsy trifecta of Natalie Slater. Natalie, 28, is originally from Joliet, which she describes as, "Chicago's stoner little brother: kind of okay to hang out with for a little while but mostly just boring and smelly."
Natalie's creations range from cupcakes sweetly iced "fuck you" to classic horror movie monster toppers and are present in indie bakeries and homes all over the US. In fact her Bake and Destroy t-shirts (which she's modeling) have been seen on Hannah Aitchison filming next season's LA Ink, chef Michelle Garcia during a Food Network Challenge, and WWE's CM Punk, who must have a little sweetness in him after all.
Natalie took time between finishing up her journalism degree at Columbia College and baking sugar coma–inducing amounts of cupcakes to share her thoughts on Danzig, Viking helmets, and The Golden Girls.
Chicagoist: How do you make your art stand out from everything else out there?
Natalie: Well, I consider my baking blog, Bake & Destroy my "art." The baking and the cupcake decorations I sell on Etsy are sort of accessories to the blog. I found the more I let go and swore and rambled about zombies and boners and stuff the more people liked it. I just write about things that entertain me and I make cake decorations for cakes I want to make. Every time I sell a set of viking cupcake toppers I wish I could go hang out with someone awesome enough to put a viking helmet on their cupcake.
C: Where do you want to go with your art? Where do you see yourself in five years?
N: The baking and blogging pretty much sent me back to school to finish up my journalism degree. I've been writing for some pastry trade magazines and I'd love to keep a hand in that while I figure out what to do with Bake & Destroy. I've had a lot of pushes to turn it into a cafe or into a larger company. For right now I like it as a blog where I write about Motorhead and cake.
C: How did you start making stuff?
N: My mom is like, a master stuff-maker. She's really detail-oriented and meticulous with every crafty venture she takes on. Me? I'm an idiot with almost no attention span. So I cut out tiny gnomes and stick them into cupcakes.
C: Why is the sky blue?
N: I don't know if this is true or not, but someone once told me it was because of Danzig. I guess he looks good in black but his favorite color is actually blue.
C: What does your process look like?
N: Well, right now I'm working on Golden Girls cupcake toppers for my sister's birthday. She loves Betty White and old people. So, I eat ice cream and talk to my husband a lot about needing to find some pictures of the Golden Girls. He doesn't listen to me and just keeps watching Top Chef. Then, about three days later I remember that I was going to do that thing with the old ladies and I spend all night finding pictures of them and messing with them in Photoshop, which I don't really know how to use. Then I print them on cardstock, cut them out, glue them to tooth picks and shoot photos of them for Etsy and my Flickr account and everyone tells me I'm a genius.
C: Tell us a secret...
N: You know those giant pants in Grant Park? I hate those things.
C: What's the Chicago art and baking scene look like?
N: The amount of Chicago cupcake bakeries makes me want to stab my eyes out. There are too many. STOP OPENING CUPCAKE BAKERIES!! But otherwise there are lots of amazing pastry chefs in this city, Chicago doesn't get the credit it deserves in that respect- we have French Pastry School, tons of amazing sweet shops like Lovely, Vanille Patiserie, The Bleeding Heart Bakery... it's really exciting to be a glutton right now in Chicago.
C: Where do you see that culture going?
N: I learned with Bake & Destroy that there are a ton of subversive bakers out there. People love a cookie with a swear word on it or chocolates shaped like handguns. I think the whole DIY ethic is seeping into the kitchen and more and more punk rockers are picking up their oven mitts and going for it.
C: Any advice for beginners wanting to make a go of it?
N: Get a Flickr account- I'd say 80% of my customers found my stuff on Flickr. And be fast--ship stuff out within a few days. When a person knows they're going to get something from you the same week they ordered it they're going to order again.
Want to show off your DIY skillz? Holla: MadeinChicago[at]chicagoist[dot]com