Beyond the pictures of lattes and selfies on your newsfeed, there are a number of artists creating some mind-blowingly creative images—from elaborate conceptual art to 15-second video masterpieces. I spoke to one of the most creative of the bunch, professional typographer and stop-motion food artist Becca Clason, who uses food to create truly stunning works of art.
I create the final scene and lettering first, then shoot it in reverse, so by the end of my shoots, I've already removed and ruined the design.
Alejandra Ramos: How did you first conceive this type of art?
Becca Clason: About a year and a half ago—after picking some vegetables from my garden to make fresh salsa—I styled the word "fresh" out of the produce on my kitchen table and was suddenly hooked. I then started a series of floral typography using flowers from my yard, my mom's yard, and even from the front of a dental office.
Later in the year, with cold weather and no more available flowers, I moved things indoors. I started using food or objects around my house and posting my designs online, which got a great reception.
AR: Where do you get an inspiration and then turn it into art?
Becca Clason: I wander the aisles of the grocery store sometimes, to see what I haven't tried yet. I feel things out and play. But when I work with clients, they often dictate the type of food or material I can use for the project, and then it's my job to figure out how to showcase it creatively. I always create sketches and write detailed descriptions of what the materials are, and how I'm planning to move and animate things.
AR: How many still photos go into a typical stop-motion animation?
Becca Clason: It depends on the desired length of the final video, but the 15-second Citi videos ranged from 80 to 150 photos each.
AR: It must take incredible concentration for an extended amount of time to create stop-motion food art. Are you able to take breaks?
Becca Clason: When I'm working with food or plants, I can't take a lot of breaks because if the materials are not dry like oats, salt, or seeds, they will change appearance over time, so I have to move as quickly as possible. I usually create the lettering first, and then style things around it. If the lettering is something dry that won't change appearance, I can take a break to cook dinner or something. If it's not, I'm hard at work in my studio for hours at a time. Sometimes all night!
AR: The art you've created for Citi's Food for Thought Campaign to support No Kid Hungry is so imaginative. What inspired you to turn seeds and candy into type?
Becca Clason: I'm not the first or even the second to create lettering out of food! It's been happening in advertising for years. I remember seeing a magazine ad in a doctor's waiting room about six or seven years ago. The ad was for a granola bar, and the lettering was created out of oats, with strawberry accents. I loved it so much that I tore it out and took it home with me to put in my inspiration pile. I told myself that I'd make something like it someday. I still have the ad, actually!
AR: What is your favorite material to work with?
Becca Clason: One day I decided to experiment with honey and it was a mind-blowing experience, because the appearance of honey changes depending on what color background you put it on and how the light hits it. I realized that on a blue background, honey looked like water droplets. Water droplets are a hard thing to create in a photograph, so I was ecstatic. I actually used honey in a design that required splashes of water.
AR: Have you ever tried an ingredient that just doesn't work?
Becca Clason: I tried making a lettering piece out of toothpaste once, and it turned into a big mess. Toothpaste isn't very forgiving because you can't move or adjust it once it's down on your background. Noodles are also hard. I tried using cooked spaghetti for a project, and they wouldn't stay shaped at all. They were too slippery and started messing up the rest of the design when they moved.
AR: What are some of the trickiest materials you've worked with for the Food for Thought shoots?
Becca Clason: The sticky rice was initially the hardest, because I wasn't able to easily manipulate the rice into letterforms due to it sticking to my fingers and everything else it touched. Later in the series, the ice cream parlor shoot became the hardest one, because melting ice cream and time-intensive stop-motion animation don't mix very well. I had to get creative and move things very quickly across the screen.
AR: What happens to the art after you create it?
Becca Clason: It's extremely temporary. I create the final scene and lettering first, then shoot it in reverse, so by the end of my shoots, I've already removed and ruined the design.
AR: Any plans to make a cookbook out of your illustrations?
Becca Clason: It's something I'd love to do at some point. The recipes I've created previously aren't creations out of my own head, so I'd have to figure out what types of recipes to use and how to credit them properly, since most cookbooks are original creations. Maybe I need to find a cook or baker to team up with. It would be very time intensive, but a lot of fun!
Becca's art spread awareness of Citi's Food for Thought campaign, which helped Citi donate $1 million dollars to No Kid Hungry this year—enough to provide 10 million meals to children.