Meet a Creative: Mae Hirota, from Faux Sweets
Mae Hirota is the creative mind behind Faux Sweets. Her artwork consists of decorative cupcakes, doughnuts, and cookies. Her colorful sweets are not made for eating, but they look fantastic!
Our protagonist is a Fine Art Graduate that used to work in a bank. Based in Los Angeles, California, Mae’s been crafting since the year 2017.
How does your faux food journey begin?
I started creating fake food in 2015 when I used to work at a bank, and the artist in me was hungry for creation. My soft spot for sweets and love for crafts led me to the world of fake food. I was enamored scrolling through images of beautiful desserts made from silicone, resin, and styrofoam.
I started searching for tutorials but found very little information. I sought apprenticeship from veterans and found each kept their “recipe” a secret. I hit a wall but was already way deep down the rabbit hole.
After scouring the corners of the internet, I found a handful of DIYs and was elated. My first creation was a strawberry shortcake. Primitive, but I proudly wore it to the Strawberry Festival Hat Contest. I didn’t win but I felt like one anyway. I keep the memory close to heart as a gateway to becoming a fake food artist!
You used to be a banker, and now you are a full-time crafter. Do you think that it’s possible to turn passion into profit nowadays?
First and foremost, yes, I’m a believer in passionate success! On the contrary, my story isn’t quite the Cinderella story. My time at the bank provided me valuable lessons in life that I practice to this day.
However, it was lackluster and my heart was elsewhere. During that time, the cupcake breaks were my saving grace and I wanted to share that moment with others with my craft. Be humble and patient. Slow but steady wins the race.
How do you usually find inspiration?
My inspirations come from the Japanese fake food culture and memories of patisserie shops in France where desserts decorated the displays like enchanted jewels too beautiful to be eaten. I look to Pinterest and Instagram for my daily dose of inspiration.
Could you please describe your creative process?
I start from a storyboard for each season which I plan 3 months ahead. I run a one-woman-business and being a quasi perfectionist, prefer extra cushion time. The storyboard will consist of ideas I’ve collected through hunting and gathering Instagram and Pinterest. Before COVID, I frequent the craft stores to do brainstorming. Oh, how I miss those days!
I then make a detailed “menu” and start production. I manage marketing and socials from beginning to end. I send newsletters 3 times a month, update merchandise listings, and design digital files on Etsy, Facebook, and Instagram. I also handle shipping and customer service. It’s a lot of work but all in the creative process.
What is the thing that you like about faux food the most?
I think the real highlight of a dessert is that exciting feeling leading up before the very first bite. It starts from the trip to the bakery where you are greeted by a whiff of rich vanilla and chocolate notes. When you sit down to gaze in awe at the beautiful dessert with a fork in hand. You enjoy every bite to the very last crumb you scrape off the plate.
The excitement ends with bittersweet guilty pleasure. What I love about faux foods is that it doesn’t end. It magically delivers that same excitement! It’s like the feeling before blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.
What is the project you have created that makes you feel more proud?
I have 3 memorable projects I’d like to share. In 2017, I created a 128 piece collection designed for CURIOUS, a London-based Event Agency for the “let them eat cake” themed event at the prestigious SWAN Shakespeare‘s Globe. In 2019, I was featured on Buzzfeed Tasty showcasing how to make a fake alphabet cake.
I also had the opportunity to collaborate with an artist, Tommii Lim at his solo show, ODD MAN OUT at the Avenue des Arts in Los Angeles, CA. I felt proud of working with amazing people through creativity and hope to meet many more.
Did you expect to make a living out of this?
I honestly didn’t know but I loved it so much I didn’t care! In the beginning, I was into the craft but I realized I needed a live-work balance. I reluctantly disciplined myself to take charge of other essential business matters like bookkeeping, marketing, and social media. Today, I have a comfortable working capital and indulge in modest splurges.
Looking back, what would have you done differently?
I wish I could’ve been more business-minded. That said, hindsight is always 20/20. There is a Japanese proverb, “3 years on the stone” which conveys a lesson in patience; a cold stone will eventually warm up if you sit on it long enough. This January marked my 3rd year and I finally feel comfortable with the skill sets I gained.
What is the next thing you want to create or learn?
I want to visit Japan to learn “fake sweets”, a fake food craft genre created by artist, Kisen Erika. Having a background in doll making, Kisen started making realistic desserts which gained popularity over a decade. I have her books but we don’t have the materials in the US. There are license courses and I am very eager to attend.
Can you give us three specific tips for somebody that wants to start crafting their first project?
First, don’t be afraid to take the first step! “I’m not artistic” is a faux notion everyone should throw out the window. People stay true to this cliché too often. We are all creative creatures unique to no other. Second, make time for yourself. I think incorporating any new routine is challenging.
If you don’t have time, make time. It can be 10 minutes of brainstorming ideas. It’s like fostering a new relationship, in this case, getting to know a new you. Just remember, no one is rushing you besides you. Last but not least, have fun!