sugar artist, 11/28/12

Michele Guerra is the owner of Express Sugar Designs where she makes sugar sculptures for her clients. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)


Artist finds unique medium in sugar art

By From page B10 | December 08, 2012

FAIRFIELD — Fairfield artist Michele Guerra sees the appeal of one-dimensional art – such as drawings and paintings. Just not for herself.

When it comes to creating one of her pieces, she finds one-dimensional rather, well, flat – literally and metaphorically.

“I don’t like to do anything one-dimensional,” she said.

Considering what Guerra’s choice of substance is for her compositions, her choice to only create three-dimensional art is both challenging and unique. She doesn’t like to use standard substances, such as clay or glass, for her sculptures – she prefers sugar. And, on occasion, cookies.

Sugar art is an up-and-coming medium growing in popularity thanks to the exposure on TV channels, such as the Food Network.

While it’s a popular art form, both for its visual and edible appeal, it’s also a difficult one, Guerra said.

She caught on to the trend in 2007 when she took a class on sugar art in Berkeley. She discovered she had a knack for the medium and a great interest in it, too.

Guerra continued to practice sugar art after the class and discovered that she was a well-rounded artist. She used other edible products, such as chocolate and candy, in her pieces and was also succesful at air brushing and designs.

The workload itself didn’t seem to bother her, either. Sugar as an art substance can be challenging, she said. It’s a very hot, temperamental medium that can either hold well or break easily, depending on the humidity of a room.

In general, Guerra has to create her pieces quickly and continuously. Most pieces she’ll create within a day.

The pieces can last anywhere from a couple of hours to several years, Guerra said. It all depends on how they’re maintained after they’re created. If, for instance, they sit in a humid environment, they probably won’t last more than a few hours, Guerra said. But if they’re well protected and don’t absorb moisture, they can last years.

A trick Guerra uses is to put shoe packs – the ones that say “don’t eat” – in a sculpture. This helps absorb moisture.

Over the years, Guerra has learned many tricks to creating and maintaining sugar art.

Her cake design business, Express Sugar Designs, requires her to send many of her delicate pieces through the mail, so she created a plexiglass box to protect them. Today, she sends her sugar art all over the world, as far as Germany and as local as Fairfield.

She also helps the owners of Fairfield’s Rosanna’s European Delights with cake decoration and very intricate figurine decor. Owner Roland Hajszan said Guerra is a great help for time-consuming projects such as cake decor. Plus, her culinary artistry is unique, he said.

“It’s hard to find someone with her skills,” he said. “(Her work) is very excellent.”

Fairfield residents can see her pieces all over the city, decorating the displays of Rosanna’s or inside some of the fire department houses.

While sugar artists are on the rise, Guerra was surprised to learn many culinary artists aren’t adept at artistry. So, she helps teach both culinary wizards and casual learners at a Michael’s store in Berkeley.

“If you can follow a pattern or color in the lines, you can decorate a cake,” she said.

Guerra continues to dabble with baking in addition to her sugar art, but for now, she said, she loves her multi-dimensional career.

“Doing sugar art . . . there’s nothing, not a better career,” she said. “It makes everyone happy.”

To learn more about Guerra’s sugar art, visit www.expresssugardesigns.com.

Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.

Heather Ah San

Heather Ah San

Heather Ah San covers Rio Vista, features and general news for the Daily Republic. She received her bachelors of art degree from the University of Oregon.

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