About a year ago...actually more then a year ago while I was still in school, I was required to write a response paper to the documentary Craft in America. The topic was to discuss how does Memory, Landscape and Community (themes discussed in the documentary) affect the baker and/or the craft and art of baking?

A few of my thoughts for your reading pleasure....:D

The present is a result of past memories. Our memories play lead on the stage of life and in the world of crafting and baking. Memory is a broad term that has both philosophical and practical importance to anyone who aspires to go above and beyond in what they do. Philosophically speaking, you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you came from. Knowing where you came from involves knowledge of your culture, heritage, and traditions and using them for ideas and inspiration for your work. Only when you understand who you are in terms of what came before you and consciously incorporate these ideas, stories, and struggles into your art does your art become yours. I define art as something that only happens once and captivating art as something that reflects it’s creator in a unique way. As a baker, you can follow a recipe exactly and come up with a decent product, but unless you put your flare into it, your product certainly won’t standout in anyway.

On the practical side, memory is an aspect of knowledge. Knowledge builds confidence, and confidence builds decisiveness. Confidence and decisiveness is your rock so you can be more creative. About 3 summers ago I was learning traditional tailoring from a local dressmaker that had been practicing her craft for 50+ years; since the age 14. She made me memorize all of the formulas for pattern drafting from traditional one piece shirts to 3 piece raglan sleeves with shoulder and elbow darts. Her reason was once you know the rules; you can break them and thus be more creative. Since the technical aspects are already embedded within you, you can concentrate more on making your work unique by giving it a “soul”. The best part is no matter how crazy your design turns out to be it will work out technically because by memorizing the formulas, you’ll naturally incorporate them into your designs as you come up with them. Baking is similar to tailoring because it’s a science as much as it is an art. As a baker, memory is what sets you apart. Having knowledge of recipes and techniques empowers you to add artistic value to an otherwise science project.

Landscape influences our work the same way memory does as it is an endless source of inspiration consisting of vivid colors, unique shapes, intriguing patterns and compelling textures that captivates our senses, giving our work a touch of individuality. Everyone is affected by their surrounds in one way or another. The landscape that surrounds us defines a part of who we are as a nation, a state, a city, a community and as an individual. As a baker, whether you surrender your inspiration to the landscape or capture and tame it into your creations via color, shape, patterns or texture it will speak volumes to your audience about where you came from, and where you’re going.

Landscape and community go hand in hand in defining who you are as an individual. Landscape reflects where you came from and where you’re going while community reflects who you are and what you’ll become. Community embraces the past and fosters the future. Craft forms are passed from generation to generation in the spirit of community and commonality. All craft artists work within a tradition. However, every generation seeks to push the boundaries and change the art form in his or her own way. It takes a village to raise a child; it takes a community to nurture a craft. Community is the foundation of knowledge and inspiration. Like all crafts, baking is nothing new. It’s a craft that’s been and will be passed down from one generation to another with the aid of community. Community acts as a time machine granting us access to the pass, present, and future; endowing us the opportunity to intensely understand, appreciate and develop our craft as a baker.

Memory, landscape and community are vital in any craft. It’s what sets apart baking as an art. They’re not literal topics that can be taught and must be acquired through passion. Memory awakens your senses and works with your surrounding landscape to develop your flare. Community brings it all together, boils it down and distributes the luscious drug known as baking that we’re all so passionately addicted too.