There are a lot of different dishes in the culinary world that can be dressed up artistically. Pies may be a staple on dinner tables everywhere, especially during the holidays. Still, they aren’t often considered among those dishes, but Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin is looking to change that.
The self-proclaimed “pie-oneer” is bringing a level of artistry to pie making that was once believed to be reserved for wedding cakes and other desserts. “My mission, aside from subjecting the world to as many cringe-inducing pie puns as possible, is to redefine and reinvent ‘pie’ for the modern world, and create a new culinary industry while I’m at it,” she explains in her bio.
The work is far from easy. Baking a pie may seem simple enough, but experimenting with the various elements that come together in her creations is a labor of love.
“The satisfaction I get from uncovering a new pastry sculpture technique, successfully troubleshooting the engineering hurdles, creating a compelling composition commemorating a favourite film or game, and then sharing the results with the world is unlike any job I’ve ever had,” she says of her process.
The fascinating thing is that Jessica doesn’t have a formal background in baking. She is largely self-taught, having veered into working with pies a few years ago. She believes that without the formal training, she’s able to come up with more creative solutions to problems that can arise.
Baking is very precise, however, so it’s been a learning process for Jessica. “I’m slowly learning which things are okay for me to ‘wing’ – like trying new sculptural techniques or incorporating no-bake mixed media,” she explains, “and which things I have to do by the book – like necessary conditions for certain chemical reactions, tempering chocolate, creating ‘hard crack’ sugar components, stabilizing meringue, etc.”
Jessica’s work has taken her far in just a short amount of time. She’s appeared on ABC’s The Chew, made an insanely accurate Death Star pie for Food Network, and had her work featured in both industry and public-facing publications.
In 2016, Jessica launched a Kickstarter campaign for her Pie Guides and pie-making tools. The campaign was a huge success. It was fully funded in its first hour and was 1,600% funded by the end of the campaign.
The following year, Jessica released her very first cookbook. Pie Modding: How to “Epic-Up” Store-Bought Pies and Be the Hero of the Party serves as an introduction to pie decorating, or “pie hacking” as Jessica sometimes refers to it.
What’s great about Jessica’s mentality is that she isn’t looking to corner the market on these amazing pies. Her goal in learning everything about pies and how they can be decorated is to share those skills with the public.
Jessica shares tutorials on different projects on her website, as well as her social media pages. She wants to make these creative pies accessible to anyone who’s willing to try their hand at the craft. She doesn’t mind sharing the tricks of the trade.
Jessica gave insight to her creative process in a sit-down with Atlas Obscura. “It’s usually subject matter first, and then I figure out ingredients that will complement the composition. There are a couple of sketches that I have that are geometric or tessellation patterns, [where it’s the other way around],” she explained.
“That’s where I think, ‘what types of foods can I carve with a high degree of fidelity?’ So if I was going to do Escher’s lizards, I might do that with dragonfruit and kiwis because they won’t shrink as much, as opposed to say, bananas or apples, where the clock is ticking as soon as you cut them,” she noted.
Another key to her picture-perfect results is a lot of planning ahead. When you’re working with a delicate medium, you need to really understand what moves you’re making. “Most of the things I do in pie, I create templates for, because you have to work fast,” she explained.
“Even though I went to art school for four years and I can paint, I can’t paint in 15 minutes. I draw everything on the computer first, and I create templates out of card stock and acetate,” she added. “I use acetate for stencils when it’s something that will be extremely detailed. You need a lot of patience.”
As for the pop culture inspiration behind the pieces, Jessica started with different characters and ideas that she already loved. She told CBC, “I started out making the things that I love, like pixel art and Star Trek things and bands that I like from the ’80s.”
Today, she’s touched on just about every facet of pop culture, from musicians to TV shows and everything in between. She’s even figured out how to make a glow-in-the-dark pie, and it’s seriously impressive.
Jessica hopes that by bringing imagination and creativity to pies, she can encourage people to take that mentality toward anything they tackle in or out of the kitchen.
“I suppose it’s pie art in the sense that it’s using pie as an artistic medium, but really what I want to do is encourage other people to be creative and think outside the box with how they approach any of the food that they love,” she noted.
Up next for Jessica are online pie courses. She has a course on pie art starting this November. For Jessica, it’s surreal that this idea has taken her so far. Once a hobby, it’s now her full-time job. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
She credits Instagram with helping her presence in the industry take off as much as it has. Today, she has over 50,000 followers. Her advice for those looking to start out? She recommends experimenting with dough.
“Once you have a sense of what the medium is capable of, you can begin to apply your specific ideas and you’ll have a better chance of getting it to do the things you want it to do,” she explained to Atlas Obscura.
Jessica’s pie art is certainly very impressive. As someone who experiments with her medium, there’s no telling how far she can take her pie artistry. She can count one thing among her successes, however. No one can look at her creations and deny the potential of the pie.
Pin this graphic to be amazed by one culinary artist’s skills in creating beautiful pies based on figures in pop culture!