Last night a friend and I went to Nashville, Indiana, and visited their amazing public library to see Donia Justice and learn about sugar and chocolate sculpting. The event was free and we had a lot of fun in an hour and a half.
There was a nice crowd, almost filling up the entire room which is in the basement. From the front, we didn't realize how big the library is. They have a lot more parking than our public library has.
Donia was busy setting things up and chatting with the crowd when we arrived about 10 minutes before the start. We left right after my friend's work and had a bite to eat at one of the few restaurants open that evening. I don't understand why restaurants in what is really a community based on art and tourism close before 5pm or even 10pm.
She primarily worked with sugar and showed us how to make a couple types of flowers, the basics of working with sugar to sculpt, and demonstrated how much patience is the necessary ingredient with a sugar church. Sugar, she told us, isn't difficult to work with but I was very pleased when she said that sculpting with chocolate is even easier. While she mentioned Wilton's as a source of her supplies, she gave the pros and cons of using more readily available ingredients, too.
Here is a bowl of sugar flowers. Donia is a traditionalist, she wants sugar decorations to be mostly white but here we see some light color. I laughed when an audience member asked if they could make something red or purple with sugar and our sculptor got this horrified look on her face.
This is a sugar plate. I loved the fact that Donia made things simple giving us a lot of hints about how to make shapes using every day items. She also focused on what was practical not the most expensive or the most fancy. Plus she pointed out that if you make a fancy plate, you don't have to do much decorating on the cake.
Sugar sculpting requires a lot of time and space. Time not as one continuous period of work but a lot of down time waiting for ingredients, objects, and decorations to set enough to work with. Of course if you have to let each stage of your sugar building dry before you add the next wall or roof or other necessary, you need the room to lay it out in. Donia told us that she has a studio in her home even though she is officially retired. A sugar plate or bowl or whatever can last 3-4 years if stored probably. She stores hers in simple cardboard boxes or tupperware.
Chocolate is easier to work with but also trickier in some ways I thought. First, what you make with chocolate may last up to 6 months and I'm sure that's because of the fats in chocolate. Second, it will set very quickly as you work with it, in a matter of an hour or so so you have to work faster.
You can make plates and containers as with sugar but in my shapes it seemed to me. We see a plate that was auctioned off on the lower right hand sight, a small round rustic bowl, and a box of chocolate to hold chocolates in! The white you see is white chocolate.
This is probably my best photo from the night. A chocolate bowl, semi-sweet is what Donia loves working with, and again chocolate to eat inside. You can eat the bowl too, it tastes like Tootsie Rolls. White chocolate is more difficult to work with because it starts to melt quicker as you manipulate it.
I hope you can make this out. This is a chocolate bowl of maple leaves with chocolate acorns in the center. She showed us how to do the acorns and they are surprisingly easy. I might even be able to make them.
Donia Justice is retired now but she had a long career that I look forward to revealing to you all in a forthcoming interview. Thank you to the Brown County Public Library for hosting this event. Sadly I cannot go tomorrow afternoon for the hands on workshop focused solely on chocolate.