An Artist’s Reflection

A rather enormous, Montmorency Sour Cherry tree flourished in my backyard when I was a child in York, Pennsylvania. Every June I would pick a bucketful of ripe fruit for my mother’s homemade pies, just before the birds finished them off. With flour, sugar and a flick of her rolling pin, a delicious goody miraculously appeared from the oven. Wanting to try my hand at that magic too, with mother’s guidance, I succeeded at making my first cherry pie, discovering a hobby that offered sweet rewards, not aware that I had found my future career.

My father, Ralph Carleton Woolley, an inspiring voice teacher, music professor at York College, and a choir director at our Methodist Church, led me to also develop my talent as a singer. He was a very busy men inspiring many people with his love of music. His passion for crafts too, prepared me for much handiwork later in life.
My mother, Louise Solier Ewalt Woolley, an eleventh grade English teacher at York Suburban High School, where I attended, also had a love of theater and enjoyed oil painting as a hobby. So in 1975, at the age of 20, it seemed inevitable that I move to New York City to pursue a career in the performing arts, enrolling at the Sanford Meisner, “Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater”.
As with most struggling singer/actor types, one needs to supplement an income to pay for acting classes, voice coaches and many headshots over the years, like this last one taken at age 33.
In time, only an occasional dinner theater, or summer stock job came along, with but a few small roles of cops and paramedics on soap operas including “Another World,” “Search for Tomorrow,” and “All My Children.” The acting jobs were varied, like working for Marvel Comics, appearing as Spiderman, shooting my imaginary web here and there. That’s me behind the red and blue Spandex in 1977.
Boy did my jaw hurt talking through the elastic costume! It was like wearing a thick rubber band around my head. Ever since then, I have loads of sympathy for actors who must be in makeup or costume for long periods of time. A co-worker, encased in the heaviest of costumes, who appeared with me several times as “The Hulk,” can attest to that too!
But living in New York City was expensive. Baking desserts seemed a far more appealing way to earn extra money than bartending or waiting tables. I therefore chose to follow my heart, when it reminded me what I love to do as a child, and became a free-lance baker, August 1978. Suddenly working out of my kitchen, selling pies, cookies, and cakes to nearby shops and restaurants, and without any forethought, “Cakes By Design” was unanticipatedly born.
Soon more requests for decorated cakes encouraged me to expand my knowledge of the confectionery arts. I learned on my own, simply by doing, and with the help of a couple books, never having any formal training in the fine art of cake decorating.
Hopefully being similar to a famous ancestor, my great, great, great, great grandfather, Daniel Boone, the american frontiersman, I chose to not let fear of the unknown get in my way, and began to explore a new world of cake and sugar art.
For in the late 70’s and early 80’s, few cake artists existed, even in New York City. Plus, it was especially rare to find anyone who made illusion cakes in the shape of objects. One could count them on one hand. So my neuroses began to kick in, thinking I was odd or strange wanting to do that as a career, in place of a vivid dream of becoming a Broadway actor.
However, in 1979, I went to a preview of a new musical on Broadway, Steven Sondheim’s brilliant melodrama, “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” Two friends of mine were cast in the show. So enthralled with the genius of the production, I decided spontaneously to create a chocolate cake in the shape of the main set piece, and dropped it off before opening night at the Uris Theater for my friends and the rest of the cast to enjoy. It would be the first of many illusion cakes that would span several decades.
My friend in the show shared that Angela Landsbury, who played the original character of Mrs. Lovett, liked the tonsorial parlor and pie shop cake so much, she decided to take it to the party after opening night. Ms. Landsbury was very kind to arrange a personal “thank you” note with signatures of all the cast members. To this day, I proudly have it hanging on my wall.

Still being quite split in my decision about careers, I even turned down Martha Stewart in the early 80’s. She wanted to feature me in her first book, “Weddings”. My response to her nice request was, “I am trying to be a professional actor, and don’t want to promote myself as a cake decorator.”
She was disappointed, but ended up mentioning me anyway on page 171. There is a close up in the book of a wedding cake I did at one of the events in Connecticut that she had catered in her early days. Like me, Martha captured images for years while catering, and then eventually put them into a book. Upon looking back, I can certainly see that the Universe was trying to point me towards the right path, but my ego just wouldn’t listen.
However, juggling a cake business and an acting career for about ten years wasn’t easy at all. The cake decorating commissions kept growing in number, but the acting work ground almost to a halt. Then abruptly in 1988, I landed a role in the Gershwin musical, “Let ‘Em Eat Cake.” It seemed ironic, since no other musical has the word “cake” in its title. And a production of the show was rare, having not been performed since its Broadway debut in 1933. The musical score was silent for almost 60 years, laying in a drawer, lost in the attic of the Gershwin estate.
As my part in the production came to a close, I soon rather happily discovered that it would be my last job in show business. Literally one month later, the art of gum paste sugar flowers came across my path, and I was absolutely hooked.
Coincidentally, during the same month, the study of Metaphysics was presented to me in the form of a birthday gift given by my voice coach for “Let ‘Em Eat Cake”. It was a channeled book entitled, “Threshold” by Maurice B. Cooke, who channeled an ascended master soul whose name is Hilarion. Seems I was stepping through a threshold into two very different worlds. This fascinating, alternate way of viewing the nature of reality, remains a powerful interest and passion of mine to this day. I am currently writing a book, hoping one day to publish, “The Symbolic Universe – A Metaphysical Guide to the Nature of reality.”
As if that wasn’t enough to be going on at that moment, the casting director for “Another World” called me again to play another police officer.
I personally don’t like guns at all. Even on a soap, the prop department hands to those who play cop roles, a real gun to use in the scene. Sort of recoiling from the offer, I spontaneously said to her, “No thank you. I am deciding now to leave show business!”
She was a little taken back and surprised that such an important decision was made right on the spot, with her involved too. But after explaining my recent discovery of a lovely art form to sell which was creative and could provide a good living, with me being completely in charge, she understood. I felt my heart was assuring me emphatically to take a different career path, in other words, to let ‘em eat cake!
And isn’t that the main reason most cake decorators love this field? Out of their home, especially in the beginning, they can decide when, and for whom, they wish to work. How empowering is that! In contrast, as an actor, I had found that it was often about giving up one’s power to the producer, director or casting agent. Without their continued approval, no matter how they behaved, one just doesn’t get enough work to survive.
At that point too, absolutely in sync, my gifted partner in life, Michael G. Farace, also a frustrated actor growing weary of the odds of success, climbed gleefully aboard the creative enterprise. Finally, decorated cakes took center stage for both of us!
For the next nine years or so, until 1997, we challenged ourselves with each cake commission that came our way, no matter how small. Capturing all work carefully on film, eventually we were then able to get published, “Cakes By Design – the Magical World of Sugar Art,” now in its third printing.
The book took seven years to publish. Throughout that time in the 90’s, our dear friend, the English clairvoyant counsellor, Paula Christine Roberts, a world-renowned psychic, kept our hopes up over the frustrating years, as there were many twists and turns in the publishing process. Each year In January, Paula would do readings for Michael and I, and we would then barter with a decorated cake for her birthday party. Because she always gave us complete freedom with the theme, some of our best designs were Paula’s cakes dotted throughout the book and now the Magical World of Sugar Art.
Here is the symbol of her Air sign of Aquarius, as the “Queen of Swords” deck of Tarot cards cake.
Months after our two year contract with my publisher ran out, my editor threatened to not even publish the book because pre-sales were so slow. Paula said though in January of 1997, “No. They will publish it. The book will be in your hands by mid-June.” And astonishingly so, exactly on June 15th, the first copy arrived on my doorstep, the realization of a dream for both of us. Not even my publisher knew when it would be completed. Paula’s gift throughout the years has been amazingly helpful, lending always a broader prospective to me on many personal matters!
Deciding to expand teaching and increase cake and sugar flower classes in my studio duplex on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I founded a small school in 1990 called, “The Academy of Cake Art.”
As my classes grew, flower cutters especially were needed for the sugar work. It was at that time I met the very talented artist, Pilar Gonzalez Nugent, owner of Sunflower Sugar Art. Slowly over the years, Pilar encouraged me to design cutter shapes, upon which she would then exquisitely produced them of the finest quality. Every nuance I put into the outline, she lovingly followed with precision.
I am ever so grateful for her help in the initial formation of my product line and now beyond. Besides her colorful dusts and fantastic cutters, I carry also many of her very special silicone molds. To this day we are close friends, very much working hand in hand with the creation of many sugar art products. It is a delightful ongoing process.
And then the Media came… Over the years, Steve Hartman of ABC News, Al Roker, Jeanne Moos of CNN, and NHK Japanese television, all made visits to my cake and sugar art studio. One can view those television events in the menu listing, “Publicity.” And of course too, student after student came through the door, often leaving inspired to explore sugar flowers and cake designing on their own, or even teach and pass along what they had learned.
I gave many lectures on the business aspects too, shot videos of them, and eventually created DVD#6,”Practical Tips Before Starting a…Cake Art business,” Below is an animated visualization of my students as budding cake artists.
Since the camera was on me lecturing, my clever friend, Bill Dietrich, an original cast member of the Broadway musical, “Jekyll & Hyde,” brought to life my idea of showing the audience members who had previously attended the lectures.
Bill is so talented at creating the animations now needed for my DVD productions. What I love about his style and rendering is how specific he got in this case with each cartoon character, the hairdos alone! I coined a phrase, “Mind can be general, but Heart is always specific, because it cares so much to be unique in creation.” Bill has also brilliantly sculpted the original prototype for some of my product line’s most popular and unique silicone molds.
Cake sculpture demonstrations, piping and fondant lessons, and of course sugar flower classes were fun for the students and me as well. I always kept the groups small, an intimate sharing for the best learning experience.
Two years from 1995-1997, Michael and I were regular guest teachers at the Nippon Club in New York City as part of their cultural arts program. The Japanese in particular have grown to love this art form. I was told that our sugar flower lessons were the most attended classes of their curriculum.
And then a devastating life experience occurred in 1998. Michael, my partner in art and life, became fatally ill, and suddenly crossed over into Spirit at the age of 45. Once again, my art form became solace to me in the midst of the enormous anguish of such a personal loss.
I retreated into my teaching as a result, but soon discovered that technology suddenly allowed these cake and sugar flower lessons at my school to be captured beautifully on DVD. Since classes come and go so quickly for a beginner, video just seemed a more practical venue for students to learn, enabling them to repeat the lesson like vocal scales. Furthermore, video close ups enable a student to see the object being demonstrated even clearer, rather than at a distance across a room, so the chance of artful success becomes even greater.
Hence in 2003, I began a series of instructional DVDs that has occupied me for many years, and will for decades to come. I need to personally thank my older brother, Mark Woolley and his wife, Kimberly, for helping me record and edit my first DVD #1, “The Amazing Art of Gum Paste Sugar Flowers.”
Here is a fun photo of Mark’s family visiting a TV production set. Because of me being one of the first “Trekkers” ever, as early as 1966, seeing them with Captain Kirk is a real hoot! Some of you may recognize Laura Woolley from her many TV appearances as an expert on “Antiques Roadshow.” Laura also personally handled the estate sale eventually of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of “Star Trek,” and his wife, Majel Barrett, who played Nurse Chapel on the series, when in 2008, she joined her husband, Gene, in Spirit.
Then in 2007, regretfully, the doors to “The Academy of Cake Art” eventually closed as the DVD productions grew to be more and more complex, now taking a couple of years to shoot and edit properly. My show business experience has made we aware of what is required to produce an instructional video to its best.
Each production begins first by me composing the lyrics and music for a thematic song appropriate for the sugar art lessons. You can hear those opening numbers in the menu listing, “Music Videos.” Adding now my first love of music and singing, to these instructional videos on cake and sugar art is extremely fulfilling. It brings me around full circle.
Then rather miraculously in 2010, right out of the blue, I had the opportunity to move out of NYC after 35 years of living there. I bought a unique house and moved to a small rural hamlet called, Latham, which is just outside of Albany, the capital of New York State. From the home, I now run an online business of cake and sugar art products, while still working on a continuing series of DVD productions. The entire top floor of the house is one big loft space, perfect for office and product storage.
Now, nearly four decades later, at the age of 61, never imagining that I would ever own a 40 foot flagpole, I have begun my latest production, DVD#8 “Spring Flowers In Sugar,” release date 2017. It is my most expansive set of sugar art lessons to date, covering fifteen popular sugar flowers including a sweet, Brown-headed Nuthatch bird.
So that’s it in an opened nutshell, the “yellow cake road” which I took to find career happiness. I needn’t have looked “any further than in my own backyard,” where a magnificent and fruitful Cherry tree once grew.
It is my hope that anyone reading this snipit of my life will relate to it on some level, and feel encouraged to follow through with what brings them the most contentment in life, in other words, what their heart desires. Cake and sugar art certainly brought me endless joy. They can be that for many. But whatever form or endeavor one has in mind to accomplish, Heart will surely lead you to artful success.
Often the mind, symbolized by the brainless Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz,” has difficulty choosing which fork in the road to take. But thematically revealed throughout the dreamy story, Dorothy Gale, following her heart and feelings, decides without hesitation, the proper course to proceed along her journey towards self-empowerment.
As philosopher Blaise Pascal once put it, “The Heart has its reasons, that reason does not know.”
Heart understands deeply that the path each person is meant to take, must be completely unique for them. Therefore the direction one chooses in life, needs to be first, felt inside. Mind cannot give, nor does not know, the specific answer in finding “the road less traveled.”
It is my hope, that the cake and sugar art products I now offer, designed with love over so many years, encourage any artist to reach new heights of artistic achievement. Bring something into this brave new world that is magically unique for us all to see!
May you have a very pleasant stop, while exploring my sweet shop, in the Magical World of Sugar Art!
Scott Clark Woolley
Blossoms from a young Montmorency Cherry Tree I planted in my back yard in 2010.
“If you start with Heart, then He will end in art.”
Video still from 2017 filming of “Spring Flowers in Sugar”.