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Unseen Battles Collaboration

Pretty Witty Blog

Unseen Battles Collaboration

The above statement is so true. Whether it is the mother who is about to cry because she just had an argument with her 2 year old and feels so alone or the teenager with anorexia who can't get 'out' of the illness. Humans are not good at spotting when someone is struggling. On the whole, humans are also pretty terrible about talking about illness - especially mental illness. It was therefore with JOY that I saw this latest collaboration - the Unseen Battles Collaboration - which gives such a powerful voice to illnesses that we often just don't talk about. 

I have always believed that a cake is more than just a bunch of ingredients. There are also times when cake really does become ART. Art in the purist sense because, just like pictures in an art gallery, cakes can evoke emotion, they can make you cry, they can make you laugh, they can make you see things about a person that you may not have seen before. 

The recent Unseen Battles Collaboration is just stunning and is a perfect example of this. A small group of just 10 cake artists (and they really are artists - all of them) have focused their talents in a way that will make you stop and think. The pieces in this collaboration are very emotional.  Look at them more than once. Study them. Look at the detail.  Then look back again. Just like a painting on a wall, you will see a different thing every time such that each time you look, you will wonder what more you can see in the image. 

For more details on this collaboration, you can view their facebook page here.

Below are some incredibly moving examples of their powerful work. If it does nothing else, it will stop and perhaps make you think about those hidden battles that your friends, colleagues and family may be struggling with: 

Anorexia by Shannon Bond Cake Design

This cake, to me, is simply stunning. Shannon's work has always been perfect, and always been breathtakingly beautiful. In Shannon's own words, this cake symbolises her personal struggles with eating disorders when she was younger. She describes how there is a scar that will remain across her life forever that relates to that time. She choose to transform that scar into something else by, amongst other things, speaking about her story and showing that recovery is possible. For her piece, Sharon transformed her symbolic scar into a phoenix. Sharon says that 'It represents not only the freedom and hope of recovery, but the rebirth and transformation in which we can emerge from the ashes of whatever life circumstances have been'.  For me, this cake needs no words, it is simply breathtaking and very powerful when you consider the message behind and within it. 

Fibromyalgia by Erin Schwartz of Stacked

This was the first piece that I saw in my time line and at first I thought it was representing a victim of abuse. When I then read what it was about, I was speechless. My assumptions were wrong and I had never even heard of Fibromyalgia. As Erin explains: 'Fibromyalgia is one of many invisible illnesses that involve daily, uphill battles. It is most widely known for the chronic, widespread pain and tenderness throughout your entire body. There are areas of your body that feel like they have been beaten and should be gruesomely bruised and yet, the skin shows none of this. But all the pain is very real. Many don’t know the other symptoms of Fibromyalgia, which include sleep disorders, fatigue, problems with memory and clear thinking (often referred to as “Fibro Fog”), anxiety, depression, migraines and more. Some days are okay, while others feel seemingly impossible to function because of the overwhelming pains. It’s an extremely frustrating battle and the stress only makes it worse'.

By choosing to illustrate this in such a graffic way, Erin is highlighting the silent pain suffered by those who are trapped by this illness.  That education is so important to help prevent us from judging one another. 

Dementia by Laura Saporiti of Laura Saporiti Sugarland

This piece is about Laura's father and dementia. Laura describes how she lost her father to dementia one year ago. She explains how losing somebody because of dementia means losing them slowly. In her words: "A word, a memory, a connection, a meaning - every day a small piece flies away, while the person fades progressively in their own autumn". The person in the hand painted picture is her own father, and his is the fading writing, taken from a letter he wrote to Laura. This piece is just overwhelmingly emotional and possibly one of the most beautiful cake representations I have ever seen.  Sitting and looking into Laura's father's eyes makes my eyes fill with water - it is an amazing piece.

Autism by Theresa Täubrich of Crazy Sweets by Theresa Täubrich

This piece represents Autism and is so clever. It shows how people suffering with autism cannot always filter incoming information - often different sounds and noises all seem equally important. This can then have the effect that autistics can withdraw not being able to distinguish which is the path to take. Theresa's son is autistic and every day she sees his struggle with himself. The piece is modelled on her son and the representation of a self imprisonment is so powerful. She also perfectly captures the innocence of a child and the maturity of a young man in her modelling. It is a really special piece. 

Anxiety by Liz Marek of The Artisan Cake Company 

This piece by the amazing Lizzo Marek just stopped me in my tracks. It represents anxiety and it is something so many of us secretly struggle with (including me). Liz describes about how her struggles with this once made her physically sick at going out to dinner with friends and how she couldn't explain this. Why did this stop me in my tracks - it did because it bought memories I had tried to bury rushing back. 7 years ago, I was unable to attend my own sister in law's hen party but never understood why - the feelings of panic, the inability to breath - none of it made sense. I couldn't even stand up at one point. No one understood me. Everyone got angry with me and that just made it worse. I couldn't go and I ended up in a really bad way. For me that story ended so badly and I was never forgiven by that side of the family - I haven't seen them in 7 years and I received cruel messages from them for a long time. I slowly learnt how to manage it and slowly learnt that the way they treated me was awful.  It made me stronger and made me realise how to believe in people. If only I had had Lizzo's piece - it is exactly 100% how anxiety feels. It is a horrendous disorder. Thankfully, my husband understands it and over the years helped me to manage it such that my life changed for the better.  

Lizzo's piece is so emotional. So honest, so heartbreaking.  It belongs in a museum. I could look at this piece for hours as it brings so many emotions. 

Migraines by Jeanne Winslow Jean Winslow Cake Design

Jeanne Winslow is an artist who I really admire as even when she is making a powerfully emotional cake, she still manages to make it breathtakingly beautiful. This piece represents the Unseen Battle of Migraines which Jeanne explains her son has suffered with for many years. She explains how her cake describes the pain her son spoke of as "being so intense that getting up to take medication or go to the bathroom is almost impossible". Migraines can last up to 72 hours that may include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. This piece is inspired by artwork from Migraine Action of the UK and I could not think of a more descriptive way to describe this battle. It is just brilliant. 

Bipolar Disorder by Eleonora Pchemyan

Eleonora is a royal icing artist and in her stunning piece she has depicted bipolar disorder. This is a personality disorder which often causes a deep wound both to the patient himself and to those around them. Eleonora explains how 'A change in the mood of euphoria before deep depression can last for years and without proper treatment can only worsen and bring to suicide. We all need to be more attentive to people!'. I really like the way she has used colour to show the multi personality in one face and overlapped the faces to show it is not a simple lineal division that we can spot but a complex illness that is often hard to spot. Another fantastic piece. 

Alzheimers by Isabel Tamargo of Tartas Imposible

Isabel's facial work in cake sculpture is second to none. This piece depicts ​Alzheimer's  - the most common form of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour. Isabel's main reason for choosing this illness has a name, "Maria". Isabel previously worked in a nursing home carrying out activities with some patients. Many of them had mental decline, memory loss in different grades, dementia and of course Alzheimers. Isabel explains how it is hard work for anyone who feels empathy in this environment but for her it was much worst because she met an old woman called Maria who reminded her so much of her grandma.  Her mind was trapped in her twenties. She was smart and very liberal for her time and sometimes treated Isabel as one of her University classmates. Isabel recalls her some days were great and others her world darkened because she could see the hell inside her. It is a stunning and emotional piece of work.


Panic Attack by Silvia Mancini of SIlvia Machini Cake Art

Silvia Mancini has chosen to represent Panic Attacks. She took inspiration from a picture of the photographer Nhu Xuan Hua entitle "fear". She explains how every time you have a panic attack you feel like you can die at any time because something horrible is going to happen or you start to feel really worried about something really ordinary. She explains how alone you can feel - just like with Lizzo's anxiety depiction. You can't explain to anybody how you feel because you are ashamed. Silvia suffers with panic attacks and this is a very moving piece that shows such vulnerability on the face of her model. It is just brilliant. 

Dementia by Ewald Notter 

The last piece in this collaboration is by Eward Notter and is dedicated to his father who suffered from dementia. Eward explains how 'The bottom represents birth, then life, wealth and wisdom in full bloom...colorful and rich. The top of the piece represents how the illness took over. Life became more quiet, black and white with a few signs of hope, but mostly lost, confused and captured in its own dying world'. This is a truly beautiful piece of art and perfectly illustrates what I said at the beginning that cake / pastry / sugarcraft is more than food - it is Art. 

This is a truly wonderful collaboration. It has been hugely emotional looking at all these pieces. I am just in awe of these amazing artists and what they have created in this collaboration. 

You can see more details pictures in the collaboration facebook page. As a reminder, the link is here. This is certainly a collaboration that I hope does a repeat next year. 

Before I sign off I want to also give a big shout out to Erin Schwartz for sending me all these pictures and really to this whole group who have created something really very special in this collaboration.

Have a great weekend all

Suzi xx

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