The art of sugarcrafting

Patricia Schmidt Every Friday afternoon on El Punt Avui Televisió, Barney chats with an English-speaking expat. For this month's interview he had a chat with 'sugarcrafter' Patricia Schmidt, from Pastisseria Escribà.
You are originally from Sao Paulo, right? Can you tell us a little bit about the city?
Sao Paulo is the biggest city in Brazil, we have 25 million people, so it's a huge city.
When did you live in Sao Paulo and did you come here straight away?
I left Sao Paulo in 2010. Yes, I came here directly because I fell in love in 2009 with a great baker and pastry chef from Catalonia, who is my husband now. It was all due to local products here that I wanted to represent in Brazil to serve my clients and then we fell in love.
What about Catalonia, what about living here?
I like everything here, I like the way Catalans see things; they have no limits for creating and I find they have an avant-garde way of thinking.
What languages do you use with your husband and in your daily life?
We speak a little bit of everything: a little bit of Spanish, I'm learning Catalan, he is also learning a little bit of Portuguese, it's a mixture of all these languages. It's like a language we have created ourselves.
What about your English? Where did you get your English from?
I was an exchange student when I was 15 years old, and then I started studying English. In my exchange programme, which lasted nine months, I went to a tiny city close to New York City called Newfield, I think there were about 850 inhabitants or something like that.
Did you say that you've been in England?
Yes, studying cakes and cake decorating. It is quite big there.
You said that you are a cake decorator or a “sugarcrafter”. How did that first come about, how did all of this start for you?
When I lived in the United States, the American thing is to buy things and make pretty cakes at home. I thought that maybe I hadn't seen that before in Brazil, so thought that I could do that in my country. But when I arrived, we didn't have all the tools and everything, so I thought that maybe I would study first, finish a degree and then afterwards I would investigate. That's what I did: I finished advertising, but the thing I wanted to do was cake decorating, so I began making them for friends, like everyone who starts, and then I decided to begin studying it and that's why in 2000 I went to a town called Darien, close to Chicago, to the Wilton School of Cake Decorating. I did a couple of courses in pastry making and then in “sugarcrafting”.
Then you started your own business? How did that go?
Yes, it went very well. Brazilians like big parties and investing in making the party bigger than your friend's one. For that you always have to get new techniques and new products.
It was perfect for you then. I was thinking about cupcakes, but I think you go further than just decorating cupcakes, don't you?
I like to make everything in sugar, from modelling figures to flowers. I work with some tools, cutters, for example, and then I paint them with edible paint.
Is it expensive to make something like that? Is it just sugar or is there something else involved?
Yes, I work with different sorts of gums, sugar and nothing else, but it takes a lot of time because you make them, then they have to dry, then the next day they have to be painted, then they have to dry again and then you can assemble them.
Do you do this for weddings here in Catalonia?
Yes, mostly for foreigners, many Russians and so on.
Why do you think that is?
I think because it is not very cheap, because of the time it takes, the skills you must have and also the colours that I use, some of which are from England, so you have to order them from there, and so I think that it is mostly because of the price.
You work in the Escribà pastry shop. Are you part of the setup? Do you work with your husband?
In some projects we have worked together. I have a section that works with the British way of decorating cakes.
You said that this is your work but also your hobby. And you like traveling too. Tell us a little about it.
My husband's and my favourite way of travelling is to go to a country we have never been to before and visit pastry shops, where we eat and learn. We've been in Austria, where we had the opportunity to go to the Demel shop, where they serve the Sisi pastry. They have a really different taste for things and a different way of making them.
Is there any country that surprised you because it had a higher level of pastry making or decorating cakes than you imagined?
Yes, in Istanbul. I never imagined that they were so advanced with cakes and syrups.
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