Hello and welcome to The Edible Museum blog. I’m Sarah. I guess it’s safe to say that I am The Edible Museum. I thought it up, I raised the money to start it, and I built it. Now I am the curator, the docent, and, along with all of creation, the exhibiting artist. I’m also the accountant, mould washer, shipping and receiving department and marketer. And in case it isn’t obvious, all the exhibits in my museum are edible – mostly chocolate, although I’ve been known to also work in cake, spun sugar, pickle, and giant fortune cookie, amongst others. I suppose the best description of the “maker” portion of my job is Food Artist. I do it all from world headquarters in Essex, United Kingdom. I have hired a website consultant, Ash, has instructed me to start writing a blog. Here it is.

The Edible Museum is my baby. (Although I’ve had a couple human ones as well). I sell unique edible gifts to clever givers on-line – which you probably know, as you are on my website. Our realistic chocolate body parts, chocolate fossils, and chocolate animals are popular with horror fans, doctors, and anyone looking for something they haven’t seen before.

Once people start to understand what I do, which is, admittedly, a bit unusual, they often ask how did I end up doing this? That’s what this post is all about.

Me: I grew up in the countryside of Suffolk and as a child didn’t care much about chocolate or cooking. Well, I suppose I enjoyed eating chocolate but wasn’t in any way discriminating. I didn’t bake with Mother or create recipes for friends. I’ve always enjoyed eating – still do, although I do my best not to dip into the stock of the shop. You don’t get high on your own supply after all.

What I did love as a child was playing in the mud, hunting in the fields and streams of Suffolk for treasures, cataloguing every weed that grew in the hedgerows, and illustrating each one methodically. I was also inordinately fond of squishing insects to see if they were the same colour on the inside as they were on the outside. I was curious and always needed to explore.

At seventeen, I left home for Art School where I fell in love with moulding and casting, carving, welding, construction – basically I lived to make things. And most often I enjoyed making things that had you wondering if it was quite what you thought it was or not. After loving my time at Norwich School of Art and at Goldsmiths, my career as an artist branched into several disciplines over my 20’s and 30’s. I built theatre sets, jobbed as a builder, cast a library of human heads for museum wax work jobs, among other things.

Sometimes this work included food items or props like all these wax foods for a Roman Museum in Luxenbourg. I’ve never been more engrossed in anything than when I’m trying to get something ‘just right’, like the texture of a plate of oysters or the translucency of a head of lettuce. Still though, at this point, I didn’t actually care too much about real food. Pot noodles would always suffice as the fuel for long studio hours.

But then, as can be the case, my decision to start a family changed everything. My son was a joy, but mingled with all the charm of a new baby was the realisation that a life of travelling and making art was abruptly drawn to a halt. My world of exploring, travelling and meeting people stopped and I was at home spending my days talking to a new-born. I’m happy to say that he’s now a brilliant conversationalist, but that didn’t happen right away.

I did NOT go mad. (I swear, I’ve always been this way.) But I did realize that to maintain the modicum of sanity I possessed I would have to reinvent myself. This occurred over a period of years and is still happening every day, I hope.

First I got into pencil drawing all the dead things that mounted up on the windowsills of a house. People got wind of my obsession with drawing dead bugs, and then birds and mice started appearing on my doorstep courtesy of well-meaning neighbours. More things to draw. Those drawings made their way into galleries and shops.

All the while, as they seem to do, my children were growing up. (I have two. Like martinis, I couldn’t seem to stop with one but came to my senses before a third.) Children need to have birthday parties and I started to sneak my sculpting skills into making the cakes. Okay, I admit it, I got a bit obsessed.

I made castles that were smashed with sweet catapults, creatures and a campfire cake to take out in the woods – meringue and chocolate that we actually set on fire before eating.

With my new-found baking and cake skills it seemed obvious I should have a go at wedding cakes. Just a bit ahead of the first season of the Great British Bake-off, I tried my hand at making ‘proper cakes’ that looked like other cakes. I made floral cascades and beautifully piped lace like the things that I saw in the magazines.

All the while, as they seem to do, my children were growing up. (I have two. Like martinis, I couldn’t seem to stop with one but came to my senses before a third.) Children need to have birthday parties and I started to sneak my sculpting skills into making the cakes. Okay, I admit it, I got a bit obsessed.

I made castles that were smashed with sweet catapults, creatures and a campfire cake to take out in the woods – meringue and chocolate that we actually set on fire before eating.

With my new-found baking and cake skills it seemed obvious I should have a go at wedding cakes. Just a bit ahead of the first season of the Great British Bake-off, I tried my hand at making ‘proper cakes’ that looked like other cakes. I made floral cascades and beautifully piped lace like the things that I saw in the magazines.

By this point I was pretty good at cake design and sculpting and my recipes were tasting great but something wasn’t quite right. My love of the reality of nature meant that I was already putting a brown edge on the lily petal or a drooping bloom on bouquet of roses but it was subtle.
I decided to indulge my own whim and entered a cake into competition in the Professional Cake Decoration category at the 2012 Cake and Bake Show at Earl’s Court in London. It’s kind of like the Premier League of UK cake baking. I made the most realistic cake I could conceive of in the requisite theme of Seaside. Others entrants made picturesque boats and ocean vistas.
I made a tide-pool. It looked like it stunk of seaweed and rotting fish.

I schlepped the cake down to Kensington, and hid behind a pillar when they announced the winners. I was floored to hear that I had won. That cake broke all the rules and even heard one of the judges who I’d followed and greatly admired say it was the ugliest cake she’d ever seen. It did look like something dredged up by a trawler, but it was 100% me and I felt a tremendous sense of validation. Once that feeling settling in me, I started to follow my own dark and rotting instincts and made cakes that were Sarah Hardy cakes – maybe not “pretty” but they were mine. (I’ll save some of those for another post.)

I schlepped the cake down to Kensington, and hid behind a pillar when they announced the winners. I was floored to hear that I had won. That cake broke all the rules and even heard one of the judges who I’d followed and greatly admired say it was the ugliest cake she’d ever seen. It did look like something dredged up by a trawler, but it was 100% me and I felt a tremendous sense of validation. Once that feeling settling in me, I started to follow my own dark and rotting instincts and made cakes that were Sarah Hardy cakes – maybe not “pretty” but they were mine. (I’ll save some of those for another post.)

I pivoted in a slightly new direction focusing on food PR stunts and what I learned from those experiences led me to start The Edible Museum. That journey included a cloud-funding campaign to build a studio in my garden, where I sit writing this blog surrounded by the tempting smell of chocolate human hearts. Yes, now it’s chocolate rather than cake (although I still bake when the edible PR stunt comes along) but it is all about reflecting my love for the natural world in all it’s bloody, gritty, cracked and fossilised glory. My best seller is the aforementioned heart, and it warms mine every time a client tells me about the weird way they present one to the recipient in a casket or organ donation cooler.

Chocolate Gift Ideas

So watch this space. I will be posting pieces about what’s happening in The Edible Museum as well as a glimpse into the day-to-day life of a small business owner, mum, artist and puppy trainer. I’ve got big plans for the future – more products, more commissions and planning an extension on my house.

Feel free to ask questions and take a look at my Instagram, Twitter and/or Facebook feeds to updates from my social media team, median age 11.5.

Signed, your dedicated curator, Sarah Hardy

Signed, your dedicated curator, Sarah Hardy

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