Our nation’s cookie love will never die, and neither will our collective love for art. That’s why we were thrilled when we found a thread on Reddit about Butterwinks, the brainchild of two talented artists who turn cookies into canvases.
Butterwinks is mother-daughter tag team Shelley Brown and Mallory Chiavacci. The business was made possible by the 2011 Florida Cottage Foods Law, which allows specific non-perishable food items to be produced in unlicensed home kitchens. The law opened the door for extremely small businesses to sell safe food items from home kitchens—like jam and gorgeously-decorated cookies.
Brown bakes the cookies, while Chiavacci is the mad piping-bag genius behind some staggeringly intricate designs.
We chatted with Chiavacci about Butterwinks and her plans for growing the cookie-as-art business.
You’re a very talented artist, both on paper and on cookies. I saw your Frankenstein’s Monster sketch on eBay. Were you inspire to create cookie art because you love drawing?
Definitely. I’ve been drawing my entire life, and I sort of fell into cookie decorating and it just felt right. I tried painting and other mediums in the past, but I’ve never felt more fulfilled as an artist until I started working with royal icing.
What are some of your favorite pieces that you’ve done so far?
The first time I did an Alphonse Mucha piece, I was in love with the style. Luckily, others enjoyed it as well and kept asking for more. I did two more: one especially for Sweet Magazine and one for Cake Central Magazine. These are definitely my most recent favorites, but I’m sure that will change. Every time I take on something I feel will be challenging, and am happy with the result, I can’t help but claim those as my favorite.
What’s more fun, designing a cookie from an existing image, or coming up with your own interpretation of that image?
I enjoy the challenge of recreating an existing art piece and seeing just how close I can get it to the original with sugar. I am primarily commission/order-based so usually I’m doing a specific “something” that someone loves as a gift, it’s a great feeling being able to bring that joy to a person—in an extra sweet way. I’d love to be able to do more original art on cookies sometime in the future, and definitely have some in the works with a few “secret” projects that will be debuting in the fall.
I’m not allowed to speak about them, but an elite group of food artists from around the world are all involved and we will all be posting via social media the second they debut. Very exciting stuff!
Do you see yourself expanding production anytime in the foreseeable future (beyond what Florida’s cottage food law allows)? I’m sure many non-local people would love to be able to place orders for some of your edible art.
We’re currently in the middle of moving to another state and opening up a commercial kitchen where we’ll be able to ship and wholesale cookies, both of which we can’t do here in Florida under the Cottage Food Laws. We’re hoping to up and running next year.
That’s great news for your fans, though I’m sure it’s simultaneously exciting and daunting for you and your mom. Will you continue to decorate all the cookies yourself, or will you train apprentices in the ButterWinks! decorating method?
Haha, very daunting for sure. We’re trying to figure out the logistics at the moment while keeping up with orders and obligations. No plans to expand with other decorators at the moment, but who knows what could happen in the long run.
Do you have any upcoming decorating exhibitions/competitions/anything exciting you want to tell people about?
The only thing on the horizon right now is I’ll be teaching master decorating classes in Italy on November 9 with other top cookie artists from around the world at Cookie’sCool, the first European cookie decorating event. And I’m always doing giveaways on my various social media accounts so that way people who aren’t local can have a chance to get a cookie, too!