Tessa’s birthday parties always involve flowers, so it didn’t surprise me when she and her friend Sabrina decided to have a joint Georgia O’Keefe-themed party this year. What did surprise me was the fact that the girls gave us an earful about O’Keefe when we shared their party options at 4 Cats Art Studio, where we planned to celebrate. Van Gogh didn’t elicit any response, nor did Pop Art, or, for that matter, did any of the other cool choices.
Apparently their kindergarten class had studied O’Keefe and had even sketched some O’Keefe-inspired flowers. Since the kids on their guest list had also had this exposure, we figured the party would be a big hit.
Once we’d settled on the theme, it didn’t take long for me to get excited about making the birthday cake. I felt inspired by O’Keefe’s poppy paintings and researched how I might shape a giant flower to create a poppy cake.
This tutorial provided a great starting place for me, and I mostly followed the instructions with one major exception: I super-sized everything. I wanted the flower to cover the entire cake top– an eight-inch square — and spill over the edges as O’Keefe’s flowers do in her paintings.
The tutorial lists some decorating tools needed for the process, but I opted to attempt my poppy without them. Since I started making cakes on a remote island without a great source for obscure decorating tools, I got used to improvising. While it would have been easy to buy these items at Joann’s when I walked over to pick up luster dust, I resisted the temptation.
Rather than use a ball tool to thin the petal edges, I rolled side of a small glass vase over them, which worked just fine. Instead of buying a flower/leaf shaper tool for creating veins on the petals, I lightly scored them with a popsicle stick. Once I started putting the flower together, I brushed surfaces lightly with water rather than edible glue. When I finished, the cake looked great, and I felt glad to have saved myself some money, not to mention the the mental energy required for figuring out where to store these new tools in the chaos of my garage.
On the day of the party, we arrived at the art studio, set down our cake, and relaxed. This felt new for us, since we’re usually running around like crazy people prepping food and organizing activities, all while feeling pretty tired from staying up late the night before to prepare an overly ambitious cake.
This time, though, the awesome instructors had the kids sketching busily right away, so we got the chance to chat with other kindergarten parents and nibble the tasty snacks that Sabrina’s family had prepared.
From time to time, we’d break away from the chips and guacamole to check on the kids’ progress. The instructors clearly knew what they were doing; the kids, ever-focused on their easels, painted impressive sunflowers with intense concentration.
The only one who decided to deviate from the lesson was Eliza, my older daughter. Rather than take inspiration from a real flower in a vase, she decided to paint the poppy I’d made for the cake.
My girls’ O’Keeffe-inspired paintings brighten our kitchen, and I’m tickled every time I see a lovely sunflower hanging on the wall at one of Tessa’s friend’s houses.
I’m thinking these young artists are ready for the O’Keefe exhibit which opened mid-February at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. I can’t wait to take my daughters.