My largest job to date with Props Studios was making a range of table decorations for Lady Barbara Judge’s 2011 Summer Ball at the Royal Academy of Art. The event is a fundraiser held every three years at the Royal Academy of Art. The 2011 event was sponsored by Faberge.
The centrepieces for the Summer Ball are always cakes, sometimes real, sometimes fake. The cakes are usually decorated with flowers, crystals and petit fours.
Props Studios were tasked with creating cakes that looked as if they had been iced and, as the event was sponsored by Faberge, decorating them with giant Faberge style eggs that looked as if they too were made of cake.
We made three different types of cake for the event, in varying sizes – a medium sized round cake that formed the base of a column, a medium sized square cake with an arched sturcture on top and a large three tiered cake. All of the cakes were adorned with flowers by Simon Lycett’s team of florists.
The below picture only shows a few of the cakes that we had to make. This was a huge job which took a good two or three weeks to complete in the studio and several hours to complete and install up at the Royal Academy.
The bulk of each cake was cut out of polystyrene. In order to smooth the texture of the polystyrene we coated each cake in papier mache. Once dry, the papier mache cakes were sprayed with a combination of paint and plaster and then sanded down in order to create a thick, royal icing-like finish. Getting the consistency of the paint and plaster right proved difficult, which meant that the cakes needed to be sprayed, sanded down and repainted several times.
Draoed cloth pieces were created for the three tiered cakes, which we painted with plaster so that they would set and then spray painted white. The draping was then fixed onto the cakes and decorated with fake flowers.
For the square cakes, we spray painted drawing pins in pink and cream, then we used a template to plot out the patterns onto the side of each cake and stuck the pins into the holes. We then added bunches of tiny fake flowers to complete the pattern.
On top of the cake we built a wire structure with a metal rod in the middle and a hollow round ball holding it all together. The rod and ball were spray painted gold and we glued strings of tiny pearls to the structure, which was to house a floral display on each cake.
We used drawing pins and fake flowers to create a similar decoration for the small round cakes. The round cakes formed the base of a column of flowers that we then fixed eggs on top of.
Up at the Royal Academy of Art we had to work in stages alongside the florists as they added arrangements to the cakes and then we added the eggs and finishing touches. The flowers looked incredible.
The eggs also started out as polystyrene shapes in varying sizes.
We coated them in a thick layer of a polyfilla-like substance that was spongy and set like a lightweight plaster. We had to put all of the eggs in paint pots and sit them outside to dry. They looked completely bizarre all lined up in the sunshine and they kept wobbling around in the breeze. It reminded me of the egg farm in Ridley Scott’s Alien.
Once dry, the eggs were sanded down then painted in the same plaster/paint combination in matching colours to the cakes and sanded again. We then decorated the eggs using various fake flowers, crystals, gold ribbons and paints. The final effect was completely surreal!
When I went up to install the work it was amazing getting to see the preparations going on behind the scenes of such an enormous event. It seemed like there were hundreds of people there to decorate, arrange flowers, set the tables and put out goody bags. I also got an opportunity to look around the Summer Exhibition which was great.
I like to use movie quotes and song titles as titles for my blog posts. In titling this post, only one cake related movie quote came to mind, which is one of my favourite moments from Mean Girls. It was either that or MacArthur Park. If you can think of any others then stick them in the comments below.