Art & Soul: The Culinary Arts - Cookies can be art too at the Westside Art Hop
An Ann Arbor woman followed her dreams and pursued her passions by creating "Wonderland Cookies." Using her great grandmother's recipe, Tammy Jones bakes sugar cookies that look like edible works of art. Her cookies will be included in the upcoming Westside Art Hop taking place this weekend in Ann Arbor. She talks with WEMU's Lisa Barry about her cookie business.
Lisa Barry: You're listening to 89-1 WEMU, and this is Art and Soul. I'm Lisa Barry, and this week, Art and Soul is about the culinary arts, and our guest has both sides of that covered making cookies. Yes, for some of us cookies are like art, and for Tammy Jones of Wonderland Cookies, they are art. And I hear they taste delicious, and they look like some of the most beautiful artistic cookies I've ever seen. So thanks for joining us, Tammy.
Tammy Jones: Well, thank you for having me today.
Lisa Barry: Tell us about Wonderland Cookies.
Tammy Jones: Wonderland Cookies came from a dream I had 30 years ago when I was baking for a fundraiser. I always wanted to sell my cookies. And then, one day, I decided it was time to live the dream, and I started my cookie company.
Lisa Barry: So, you're an example of someone who followed their passion.
Tammy Jones: I did. It took me a while to get here, but I finally had the courage to start it.
Lisa Barry: And we're talking about decorated sugar cookies?
Tammy Jones: That is correct. My main business is decorated sugar cookies, but, at some of the craft shows, I also take drop cookies and other cookie bars.
Lisa Barry: Tell us a little bit about what some of your cookies look like. What have you created and where might we have seen them?
Tammy Jones: My passion for cookies is the decorated sugar cookies. I take them to various art shows. My favorite thing is the Westside Art Hop. It allows me to be creative with the cookies, so I can make cookies that maybe people don't see every day. I do more artistic things, so there'll be watercolored, or they'll be allocated different little angles that I put on the cookies that are not like you see every day.
Lisa Barry: And when you say watercolor, you're talking about frosting, right?
Tammy Jones: I am. I take it, and I'll put a base coat of our frosting on, let it harden. And then, I take a food gel, food coloring, and I water it down a bit with alcohol or water, and then I paint on my cookie directly with that food coloring, and it will give me different looks. You can make it look like water coloring, or you can even make it look like animation. It all depends on how much the food gel you put on.
Lisa Barry: And we'll definitely put pictures of those cookies with this interview on our website, WEMU dot org, because I don't know if we can adequately describe how artistic and beautiful they are. What has been your favorite design to make?
Tammy Jones: Believe it or not, it's a trout that I made for a company in Ann Arbor. They asked me to make a fresh water trout, and it took a little bit of thinking on my part because I had to do the shape for the cookies. I made a cookie cutter for it, and then I painted it. Then I had to photograph it, so that it looked a little bit more realistic. And that has absolutely been my favorite cookie to date. I never thought I'd be painting fish cookies, but that's it.
Lisa Barry: Well, tell us about some more of them because I follow you on Facebook, so I've seen the different varieties and you make them for events and for local businesses. Can you walk us through some of the varieties you've created?
Tammy Jones: I do. Right now, I'm working on Halloween cookies, and I forgot how much I enjoy making the Halloween cookies. So, right now, I'm making little, witches' cauldrons filled with bubbles, and it's all made with icing. I'll be doing some Christmas and holiday-themed cookies soon. I also have a wedding shower that I have cookies that I'm creating, and what I like about those is the variety. You get to see the different ideas that brides have for the weddings. I've done "love is brewing," and it was coffee cups. I did just a lot of different things. A customer will come to me with an idea, and then we work together on how we want to make that idea become a cookie.
Lisa Barry: And for part of that to happen, you make your actual own cookie cutters. You come up with the shape yourself?
Tammy Jones: I do. I have a 3-D printer. During the pandemic, I was ordering a lot of cookie cutters, and my oldest daughter said, "Mom, you need to just start making them." And I'm like, "Hm. Okay." So, her and I ordered a 3-D printer. We set it up, figured out how to get it running, and sometimes I buy files, so that I can just use another artist's design, or I'll create my own cookie cutter.
Lisa Barry: That is so 2021 that you are making cookie cutters with a 3-D printer.
Tammy Jones: It is, you know, and it was really kept us busy.
Lisa Barry: Yeah, I see a WEMU logo cookie in your future. I'm just saying. So, you can design anything you want. You just tell Tammy I want a cookie shaped like this, and you can now create that cookie cutter with your 3-D printer.
Tammy Jones: I can. I've made hiking boots for people. Like I said, I made it a trout. I've done abstract things. I even made a fried egg cookie cutter. It's just a lot of different things. It has opened me up to being able to do whatever someone wants to have cookiefied--It's what I got. That's where we make a cookie out of a design they like.
Lisa Barry: And here's the big question. How do they taste?
Tammy Jones: They are a very soft cookie--sugar cookie--so it has a strong vanilla taste because I use high quality vanilla in it, and it's a recipe from my great grandmother. So, it's not a cookie recipe you're going to find everywhere. The frosting is a royal icing, but it's not a crunchy royal icing. When you bite into it, it's still soft. These type of cookies have a reputation of being hard and crunchy, and I've just worked with my recipe to take that reputation away. They're just...they're soft. They have a lot of flavor in them, and I have a little bit of an orange flavor to the frosting.
Lisa Barry: Does anyone look at them and say, "This is too beautiful. I can't eat this?"
Tammy Jones: They do. And my response is, "It's temporary art. It's meant to be eaten."
Lisa Barry: You're the David Zinn of cookies. And you mentioned the West Side Art Hop, and that is coming up this weekend. And you're going to be there offering your cookie art?
Tammy Jones: I am. This is a little hidden gem of Ann Arbor, the West Side Art Hop. I absolutely love the atmosphere of it. I love being able to walk through the neighborhoods to go see the art, and I've been participating in the last couple of them and I think two of them, three of them? I can't remember at this point, but they have really encouraged me that my cookies are a form of art and do belong in their Art Hop. It is just an amazing little..it's not little anymore. It's over 60 artists, I believe. It's an amazing art venue for artists to participate in, and I'll be at Stop 30.
Lisa Barry: Stop 30. And we talk about the West Side Art Hop a lot because, like you, I think it's a great community event. You go from home to home, and you can see people's art or purchase their art. And you mentioned something about a barn this year?
Tammy Jones: Yes, I didn't know that Ann Arbor still had barns in it. But there's a small barn, and the homeowner has opened it up to me and two other artists. And we got to walk through it, and it is a cute little venue. I'm just looking forward to being in it.
Lisa Barry: So you can go see Tammy Jones selling Wonderland Cookies at the Westside Art Hop this weekend. And, again, they're edible, right? They're meant to be eaten.
Tammy Jones: Absolutely edible.
Lisa Barry: Well, best of luck and thanks for the inspiration. You followed your passion and you had a dream and you made it happen. And if you want to see it, we'll put links to your website with this interview and with the West Side Art Hop. And good luck this weekend with that.
Tammy Jones: Thank you, and thank you for having me on your show.
**Special thanks to Paul Keller for providing the Art & Soul theme music.**
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