2004_08_margaretb.jpg1-Where do you live, with whom, how old are you, where
did you grow up?

I live in the West Village with my husband and my cat Francis. I’m 41, and I grew up in Levittown, NY.

2-How do you make a living? Are there other things you do/create regularly that are not necessarily money-making?
I make my living as a cake designer and a sugar artist, which means mostly that I make cakes –wedding cakes, cakes for films, special-occasion stuff. Because it’s food, and because there’s always a client and a deadline and an end point, the artistic process tends to happen on a really sped-up level. I have to think on my feet a lot and come up with ideas and sketches very quickly. In that sense I don’t operate on the normal artist’s wavelength, where you can lets things happen a little more organically. I find I get good ideas if I’m moving, walking around, riding in a cab or a subway, just out of the kitchen for a little while. Right now everything I’m doing seems to have an Indian or Middle Eastern feeling – the colors, the motifs. I don’t think that’s it’s necessarily political. It’s really more about aesthetics. I think it comes from the collective design consciousness. These motifs show up everywhere – clothing, and home deisgn, and fine arts.

I’m also involved, on a non-paid basis, with The Moth, which is an urban storytelling collective. I’m a board member. It’s a group of amazing New Yorkers of many talents an we all work closely with the Moth’s artistic director and executive director. It’s a very hands-on board, and we naturally have to help with getting sponsorship and all sorts of things. For me personally, I like to be as close as I can to the creative decisions. I curated a show myself, two years ago, about food and love, and that was great. Right now I’m working on the annual benefit – it’s going to be November 9, at Capitale, an amazing old Stamford White-designed building on the Bowery, and the theme of the evening is Arabian Nights, meaning that all of the stories told will reflect that theme in some way. We’re looking for headliners right now, and Andy Borowitz is hosting. It’s going to be the smartest, best party in New York.

3-What are some of the more unusual things that people have asked you to represent with cake and icing? Are there objects or ideas you'd rather not create
with cake?

I have to say I don’t do a lot of the things that are strictly representational. More often a cake is evocative of a lot of things. It’s more about coming up with a design that is evocative of aspects of the event, or of the person’s interests. That being said, I recently did a cake portrait of a big pop celebrity. He’s cute in real life, and he was cute on the cake. I painted his portrait by hand. I do everything by hand. In general I don’t make big blocky things. I don’t make computers, stereo equipment, airplanes, vehicles or buildings. They never look exactly right, and even if they do, you just don’t get that much bang for your buck. I mean, it could look exactly like whatever car or computer or airplane, but who cares? It’s just novelty. You could easily and cheaply go to Toys R Us and buy a perfect plastic replica of one of those things. So I just don’t do them.

4-How did you come to write your book, Cakewalk? How long did the process take, and how difficult was it to retain your original ideas and desires for the book?
Friends were always saying I should write a book. At some point, an editor saw me on TV and called me out of the blue, and asked me if I’d ever thought about writing a book. She ended up leaving her puiblishing job and became my agent, and it took off from there. It took me a year from porposal to delivery. In keeping my original vision intact, I was one of those authors who was incredibly lucky. I realized the first editor I was working with had no idea what I was talking about, and she didn’t get me at all. I was about to sign the contract, and I freaked out and called my agent and ended up going with Rizzoli, and it was the best decision I ever made. My editor there gave me absolute full creative freedom. She knew that the best thing to do would be to leave me alone, and she protected me and just made sure I didn’t make a fool of myself. So that was great, and I’d tell anyone who is writing a book, make sure you like your editor and make sure your editor gets you. It’s a privilege to write a book, and it’s very personal. It really cannot start out being about the money. In the end, it’s your book, and your name out there. Especially for your first book.

5-Ridiculous-hypothesis-with-obvious-political-opinion-corner: Would you be willing to work a year of double shifts in a Duncan Hines packaging plant in
order to prevent George W. Bush from taking a second term in the White House?

Oh my God, are there any openings? Yes yes yes yes yes.

I guess we have to prepare ourselves, be realistic and not take our rights for granted anymore, not be afraid, and speak out. Because I’m not sure, even if Bush loses, that the Republicans are going to just leave quietly. They’ve got too much at stake. We have to start thinking like future patriots. My brother is a brilliant political thinker and has very radical politics, and he is always, always right. It’s been very comforting to hear him say, ‘It’s impossible to take over the world. You just can’t do it. The world will rebel.’

Interview by Laurie Woolever