Eye Candy

Hey, me and Danielle Evans just did a shoot of models wearing handmade candy jewelry …

Say no more.

That was photographer Nick Fancher’s pitch to the Stock & Barrel team, and one he didn’t even need to finish.

Where else in Columbus should something like that be printed and presented?

We’ve often monitored Evans’ (@marmaladebleu) evolution as not just a food stylist, but a true artist that takes playing with your food to new heights, so we jumped at the chance to talk to her about Sticky Trap, her latest project.

A meeting of candy and fashion’s “saccharine mockery of adult vices” and trap fashion’s ability to “bridge the child to adulthood gap,” Evans is taking her gift for food-based design and lettering, and giving it an extra dimension—challenging herself with not only a more complicated composition of materials, but to literally defy gravity.

You can see for yourself how cool the gum ball hoops, marshmallow-rope charm bracelet, and lollipop-and-fondant bib necklace are, but we had to take a refined look at how they—and her approach—came to be:

Danielle: I saw an obvious correlation between jewelry, namely encrusted pieces worn by rappers, and rock candy. The trap scene felt like the convergence of childhood and adulthood, a suspended limbo of not being quite grown, coupled with larger-than-life accessories that express status and success, which I correlated to ring pops and charm bracelets. The association felt tongue-in-cheek, at which point I began researching sugar crystal growth patterns and ordering candy necklaces in bulk.

I approached Nick with two very clear ideas: the dollar sign chain and ice queen necklaces. The first was inspired by childhood necklaces and my desire to elevate them in a way an adult would find amusing. I unstrung 40 necklaces and arranged the dollar to originally lay flat, but to read as a candy necklace, the beads needed to rest sideways. Restringing was complicated because the necklace could only read clearly once gravity came into play, so I’d add in filler beads to maintain shape, then break them off with teeth once secured. When the elastic proved insufficient for load bearing, I substituted clear fishing line with a daub of glue to secure strands. A metal wire fortified the necklace at the base of the neck.

The queen necklace went through six iterations using two type styles and three growth applications per style. I’d read sugar wouldn’t form on bare metal, so I experimented with pipe cleaners, wire coated in glue, and string-wrapped wire. I bought a fish tank to hold the 10 pounds of sugar solution necessary to grow the crystals, stringing them from bamboo skewers three at a time in the growth process. After four and a half hours, I had a couple versions I really loved, then added a chain and lobster clasp once solidified.

Anything I couldn’t create (like hoop earrings) I had to source, but I punctured gum balls, threaded marshmallow rope, dremeled candy rings to fit the model, formed and baked a taffy/clay hybrid for knuckles, grew rock candy, and restrung candy necklaces. I had weight bearing and gravity issues to consider in these cases, which affected some of the builds. To give more sophistication to materials, I sourced matte white lollipops and pearlized or metallic silk screened gum balls rather than neon pink.

Food always requires time, whether baking, setting, reheating, or simply fighting the clock before the half-life expires. To work efficiently, I have to strategize between tasks, handling peeling or prep while something else bakes, sometimes working intensely for a couple hours, only to reconvene the next day once something is set. I’m often working with available light, especially to best capture in process photos or videos. Strangely, the tools I use resemble dental equipment: lots of small prodding pieces, tweezers, many sharp knives. Parchment paper is generally my best friend, and cooking spray is the double-sided tape of the food industry.

I wish there was a good backstory, but I made this strange connection and simply wanted it to exist. Sometimes meaning is placed onto creative endeavors because putting time into something without a budget or product at the helm is deemed foolish. In reality, some of my best gigs come from beautiful ideas produced for amusement and self challenge. I’m thankful others were on board to dedicate their efforts and time, which is a small miracle.

I’ve been at this food lettering thing for four years, and I’ve seen plenty of top down, Instagram style shoots. I’m interested in a challenge, one that requires making more unconventional associations between food, lettering, and in this case fashion. The best way to branch out is by collaboration with other amazing talents from different industries.

For more of Evans’ work, visit marmaladebleue.com.