This year we were inspired by Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, our Book Club book for January, and we decided to focus on learning from women who we find inspiring and can tell us about their journey of “becoming”. You can read the rest of the interviews here. Stay tuned for more each month.
I first met Alana Jones-Mann about 6 years ago at Alt Summit. She handed me her business card, which was a piece of foam resembling a real life piece of cake. It was the most charming thing I had ever received. And that’s all it took–I’ve forever an Alana Jones-Mann fan! Alana is the most clever maker of cakes and treats and her work oftentimes resembles real life objects like rugs, cacti, Christmas ornaments, you name it. In fact, she’s the one who kicked off the whole cactus cupcake trend. We loved them so much that she even came to Utah to do a workshop with us for our Cactus Coloring Book release party a few years ago and we partnered on a tutorial video! And now she’s done cakes for every rad company and celebrity under the sun. She’s the absolute best in every way and I’m thrilled we get to learn more from her today!
Interview with Alana Jones-Mann
What do you consider yourself?
I’m a big fan of a vague title, so let’s go with artist! The baker title has never felt right for me as baking itself oddly feels like a minor part of my process. Don’t get me wrong – it’s an essential and important part, but I feel like my real work starts once my cakes are crumb coated and ready to be decorated.
Who helped you “become” who you are?
For me as a person I’d say my family, friends, the cities I’ve lived and all of the experiences I’ve had, have helped me become who I am today.
Do you feel like you’ve arrived at what you set out to do?
What more would you like to “become”?
Eek I don’t know! I am happy where I am and eager for more, but I don’t have a specific plan just yet! However, I do know that I would like to focus on expanding as an artist and would like to experiment with a permanent (non-perishable) medium some day.
How did you get started in your field doing what you do?
I had a stressful marketing job in NYC at the time and decorating cakes was what I would do in my free time as a creative release.
What did you study? Did you go to school specifically for what you do?
I went to an arts college (The New School in NYC), but for journalism (oops! ha). So yes, and no. Luckily the few elective classes I was able to take were arts focused, and of course those were the ones that had the greatest impact on me.
Did you always want to work with cake?
If I did, I just didn’t know it at the time! It was something I initially only did on the side, and thought it would be that way for a while, but then it magically turned into this full-time dream job.
Do you like working for clients? How do you choose which clients to take on?
What’s your goal with your work?
To always enjoy what I do!
Did you feel pressured in any way to pursue a certain career path?
What’s your work space like?
I have a home kitchen / studio, so while it’s not too exciting, it is incredibly convenient. For larger jobs, I’ll rent space in a commercial kitchen, however, I feel like I have plenty of space at home these days after my initial baking years in Brooklyn!
What’s a typical day like for you?
On a good day, it starts with a meditation and some exercise, then it’s on to morning emails (with a cup of coffee in hand), a little playtime with my two pugs, and then I get started with whatever project I have going on that day – whether it’s baking and decorating a cake for a physical client or creating (and shooting / filming) the making of a cake for one of my online clients. If it’s the latter, the editing process will most likely last until late that night.
What’s a piece of advice that you’ve carried with you and who is it from?
My grandmother passed away when I was young, but had a huge impact on me; I’ve always felt very connected to her. When I was 16, my dad gave me a pocket diary she had kept during a very transformative period in her life. At the time she had been mourning the tragic loss of her love and this diary seems to capture a period in her life where she’s persevering through intense pain and finding a newfound strength and independence (at least that’s how I have always perceived it). It’s beautiful, and I find myself thumbing through it a couple of times every year. Anywho, there’s a quote she cut out and put in there that says “There is only your own pair of wings and the pathless sky.” – Tagore (from Rabindranath Tagore’s “The Gardner”). I think about those words often, and they resonate with me on a very deep level. While that may not be a piece of direct advice – I like to think there’s a bigger reason that little diary with those special words ended in my hands.
What piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in a creative field?
GO FOR IT!! Follow your bliss!
Where do you live? How does that influence your work?
Los Angeles. I am constantly inspired by the colors, nature, and culture here. Even when I lived in NY, my Southern California roots were a HUGE source of inspiration for me, which I think is fairly evident in a lot of my early work.
How has social media influenced your work?
It has been an essential platform for me to showcase my work, and I am forever grateful for social media.
Who is your work intended for? Example: you, your readers, someone who you hope is watching…
It’s for ME first, and then for anyone who appreciates it or finds their own joy in experiencing it!