Every so often I’m sent images that truly take my breath away, and I certainly had one of those moments when I first clapped eyes on Victoria Made‘s incredible creations. They are essentially works of art — beautifully sculptural, contemporary , sleek, elegant , and so utterly pleasing to the eye. I immediately felt like I had to get the inside scoop on Victoria Watkin-Jones, the woman behind these works of art (that I’m sure delight the taste buds in equal measure) so I asked Victoria if I could talk to her for my Wedding Smashers series.
She kindly obliged and I was delighted that she spilt the beans to me on how she quit her 9 to 5 to start her business from her home kitchen just 3 years ago, what a typical day is like, and who she’d like to be trapped in a lift with!
So Victoria, what’s the ’Victoria Made’ story? How did you start your company and what’s happened between then and now?
My work life started in hospitality and catering and I always loved the creative element of putting a dish together, though not quite Masterchef standards I have to say! After a very different career change working in the fitness industry – health and fitness is something that’s always been part of me (in varying degrees!), I felt the need to go back to something creative.
The whole baking craze was taking off and wedding cakes seemed the perfect fusion of my previous food prep experience and an outlet for my creativity. I quit my old job in mid 2011 and set up Victoria Made, initially wanting to make cakes just in the Sheffield area. Not long into the business I started getting a bit of attention from further afield and was well received by some blogs so I started to look at shifting up a gear and aiming a little higher. Now 3 years in I have made cakes for Le Manoir, Jess Ennis and been featured in Brides Magazine amongst others. It’s been both a blessing and a curse that things have happened so quickly but it still seems an age ago that I was in my kitchen in Sheffield. My designs really have come a long way from then, it’s been a very quick, steep learning curve!
Now more than ever, standing out and having something unique or different to offer is really important in this industry. How you do feel you’ve done this and do you have any advice for people who want to do the same?
Definitely these days you have to be doing something outstanding to get noticed in a world where everyone has at least two social media outlets. I get a lot of requests from people asking about classes but I always say that the technique part is a very small part — the element that will make or break you are your ideas. I take inspiration from all around, I love minimal modern art and sculptural shapes, nature, past artistic movements.
Doing something that is not in the mainstream is scary but while you can’t always be the best, you can be different… I’m lucky that brides come to me for one of my designs rather than ‘I want a pink one with flowers’ but this is how I set my stall out from the start. It takes longer but is worth it in the end. Originality is everything. Don’t neglect the insides either, make sure you are evolving new flavours to tempt your clients.
What is a ‘regular’ day for Victoria Watkin-Jones like?
If it’s early in the week then baking dominates, then on to making any decorations etc. I limit the amount of cakes I do so I can spend a lot of time on research and ideas — large amounts time on the computer is very normal! I like to squeeze in a run or a walk round a museum or gallery if I can. Obviously a bit of hanging around on social media is a must along with the admin side of things.
Could you tell us about the design process for creating your cakes?
I’m not a huge planner which annoys my husband no end as he is the complete opposite. A lot of times I have something I’ve seen in my head and just do if from there straight onto a dummy. I do a lot of prototypes, sometimes an idea is good in theory but won’t translate well onto a cake and has to be modified. For me actually making a first draught is the only way to envisage a cake properly, these are fine to then photograph and you know where you went wrong for the real thing when you do it!
I think of you as a cake artist! Where do you draw your inspiration for your designs? Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?
Anywhere and everywhere! I love minimal art and sculptural forms so I lean towards these but not always, the world is full of art and design so inspiration is everywhere. I prefer clean lines and designs that you could describe as a bit ‘serious’ rather than frivolous. It’s always very tempting to just pick a flower and use that, looking beyond this is harder but really utilises your design skills. I’m drooling over photos of molecular gastronomy on Pinterest at the moment, the form and colours are out of this world. Food photography and styling really interests me.
What would you consider your signature design element?
No one thing as I do try to be diverse though my modern style is hopefully a giveaway to one of my designs.
Whose wedding cake would you love to bake?
Angelina Jolie’s, I love the fact that she has such an edge to her and get the impression she would want something a little different. She’s come from being a bit of a wild child to someone who’s really gone out and tried to make a difference where she can. Oh, if Tilda Swinton marries her partner that would be amazing too — I love her stylish avant garde looks and work. Orlando is one of my all-time favourite films.
What are some tips for getting a beautiful wedding cake while still staying within a reasonable budget?
Keep it simple, the time it takes to decorate is the main cost factor for most cakes. Approach your desired designer and ask exactly what they can do for you for your budget. It may be that you can have a smaller cake for ceremony and use ‘kitchen’ cake to feed your guests.
If you could be trapped in a lift with any 3 living people, who would they be and why?
Robert De Niro, the man is a legend and you don’t hear much about his private life in the media. Robert Downey Junior, a dying breed of leading men with actual charisma! Finally Deborah Harry, the original rock chick, would love to hear some stories from back in the day…
How do you let off steam?
I do try and keep fit still so I do a lot of running and used to mountain bike a fair bit, since moving to Brighton am looking forward to trying out some Sup boarding (when it gets a bit warmer!). Am known to frequent the odd bar for a good gin or glass of fizz…
What’s your favourite part of your job?
Someone appreciating what you do and including this in one of the biggest days of their lives is always amazing. Turning a germ of an idea into something beautiful is everything for me.
…And the worst bit?
The mess, icing sugar gets everywhere… Time, doing everything yourself gets a bit overwhelming at times. The business side of things is a necessary evil to me, I’d do it for nothing if I could!
Finally, what’s next for Victoria Made?
More of the same really — the more I do the more inspired I am to get my work out there. I’ve got a couple of collections planned for later in the year and hoping to do one of the bigger wedding shows in autumn. I would love to get a book deal at some point, so hopefully working towards that.