Baker, cake decorater, yoga teacher, design student, collector of tattoos who wears her heart on her sleeve.
Can you introduce yourself?
Kia Ora, My name is Jack. I’m a baker/cake decorator for my business Neat.Cakes. I’m also a design student and collector of tattoos. I live in Tāmaki Makaurau in a lovely sharehouse with my beautiful cat Narla.
What do you think about creativity and art as being a vital part of our wellbeing?
What do I think about creativity? Creative expression is a powerful form of emotional release. We carry so much with us daily, passed down through our family and our own lived experiences. For some people, creating is our main outlet to release and heal these sides of ourselves. Expression through art looks different for everyone. It’s the clothes we wear, music we listen to and things we create. My biggest form of emotional release is painting or sketching alone in my room. It’s when I let myself be vulnerable.
How do you express yourself?
Through my clothes, makeup, hair, painting, tattoos and movement. Tattoos especially have been a way to express myself and reclaim my body. I love being able to decorate my body with art and memories then carry those stories with me wherever I go.
I absolutely adore your cakes! Did they look this perfect when you started? What inspired you to start making cakes?
Haha no one is perfect when they start. This is something I should probably keep reminding myself of. I started baking when I was 14/15. I used to watch hours of Cake Boss and my first cakes were all decorated with fondant so they were pretty shady. I went to London when I was 16 and that heavily influenced my style – the dreamy pastel colours, rich flavours and way that everything just looked decadent and perfect. I also had the opportunity to work for two of my idols – Karla from Bluebell’s Cakery and Gina from Miss Ladybird Cakes. These two women taught me so much!
Do you find it difficult being an artist and navigating in the world?
To be completely honest, no. I started working in a kitchen with men when I was 18 so I grew a pretty thick skin fairly quickly. It was tough but it made me resilient and hospo can be rough.
I have either worked in female only environments which is where I have struggled the most or in male dominated spaces where I seem to thrive. Maybe it’s the challenge that makes it more interesting for me. Not sure.
How do you sustain your inspiration and creative energy flow?
Journaling. I always carry a journal with me. It helps me plan, jot down ideas and doodle in a space that is completely mine. My ideas always start as a scribble or frantic notes in my journal and then eventually come to life. When i’m lacking inspiration I always go into nature to recharge. The west coast beaches or anywhere up north. The ocean energises me.
What obstacles have you experienced on your journey as an independent artist and creator?
B-B-B-B-BURNOUTTTTTT!!! I am a serial over-commitor and think I can take on 10x more than I can. This is something I am actively working on improving and constantly trying to find the balance. If I have a balanced work load, I enjoy and relax into my making, but if I am time poor, everything feels rushed and stressed. I have also struggled with anxiety quite a lot. This stems from stress and ‘being perfect’. But yoga and rock-climbing really help this.
What do you like most about being a cake maker?
The whole thing. There’s so much satisfaction in the entire process. My favourite part is seeing the clients reaction when they see the cake for the first time. I really love decorating as well. I think it’s important to enjoy every part of it, even doing the dishes, because it’s all part of it.
What is special about your Neat.Cakes?
Neat.Cakes is a labour of love and I hope that shows. Baking started as a hobby for me in my early teens and has lead me on the most incredible journey. I had a business at 18, moved to Melbourne at 20, took a 3 year hiatus and now back in Tāmaki Makaurau making my cakes again. Everytime I go into the kitchen to bake, it makes me happy. It’s my happy place where I get to disappear into the process and embrace my passion. I hope people can see that.
What was the most challenging baking project so far?
In my early days, all of them. I never gave myself enough time to bake so I would stress myself out all the time but now that I’ve learned better time management that doesn’t happen so often anymore. I’ve worked on a lot of amazing projects, especially with my past bosses but the most challenging baking project I remember was when I was 16. I did a cupcake decorating competition at MIT. We got half an hour to decorate them and I was running them up to the counter during the last 5 seconds. I thought I did really bad but ended up winning then attending MIT to complete a Certificate in Baking and Patisserie the following year. If I had to do it now, it would be easy but as an enthusiastic 16 year old, it was a challenge.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Fave question :)
I’ll be 29, that’s all I know. Hopefully running my own business. Happy. Healthy. Maybe a dog, although I hope my cat will still be alive. I struggle with the concept of time and how we travel through it so I’m trying not to plan so much anymore. At the end of the day, we have no control over the future, only control over the present. So don’t stress out if you get stuck in traffic and you’re running late. Just breathe and be in then moment.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Who is the most important person in your life and how did they influence you in your journey as an artist or as a person?
Cee, my best friend. We have been by each other’s side for 10 years and been on many adventures together. The endless love and support we give each other is priceless. Cee has been there for me through all of my creative endeavours and always been my biggest fan! When I first started Neat. I used to bake with eggs, butter and milk but when Cee became vegan, I adapted all of my recipes so they could still enjoy my cakes. And now my business is only vegan baking!
I think the best thing about Cee is they are always up for an adventure and we are always making each other laugh.