The Adventurous Creative Merging Her Two Biggest Passions

A creative force with a generous, adventurous spirit, Molly Reeder creates art with both a pencil and a spatula. As an illustrator, her drawings capture the sacred simplicity of home and community. As a baker, she creates rustically elaborate cakes and desserts inspired by her travels and adventures all over the world. Her Edible Illustrations capture the undeniable beauty of such mundane staples as bread and pie, and her ongoing series illustrating bakers in their kitchens evokes home, community, and the smell of cake drifting from a flour dusted kitchen. Molly shared the inspiration behind her work, how she's managed to merge her two biggest passions, and what it's like to pick up your life and move to Hawaii. 

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Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you originally from? How did you start baking and drawing?

Originally I am from just outside Washington D.C., grew up in Gaithersburg MD. I started drawing from the moment I could hold a crayon :) (I’ve always wanted to be an artist) and I started baking as a kid too, helping my mom out whenever she let me. I got started baking professionally in my sisters gelateria in New Orleans while I was going to college down there. First I was just serving the gelato and making coffee, then I started making cookies and cakes on the side because I enjoyed it, then before I knew it I was the full time pastry chef. I learned so much about baking through working there and learning from my brother in law- who is Italian and wrote all of the gelato recipes. I came back to drawing much more so when I turned 30 and decided I wanted to give illustration a go as a career. I’ve been drawing a lot in the last few years, and have found a nice meeting place for interest in pastry and baking and art- food illustration. 

How are illustration and baking similar to each other?

Baking and illustration are very similar in some ways. Both are these processes that require patience and a vision, but also acceptance of time and space and the moment, that will lead the creativity where it ends up. You can have a vision in mind, but it probably will turn out differently in some way than imagined, that’s the beauty of creating. My favorite part of baking is the decorating, besides making something taste delicious, and I just love making food look as beautiful as it tastes. With art, I love making something beautiful looking too, encapsulating some essence of the object or food or person I am drawing. Both require attention and control and playfulness. One relies on taste, the other composition and line. Both need beauty and color and texture and depth. 

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How have you found ways to merge your passions for baking and illustration?

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I decided that food illustration would be a nice marrying of my love of food and baking and drawing. I also particularly love the way food brings people together and is a powerful tool in creating community, so I’ve created visual narratives of chefs and bakers in their kitchen spaces, which is a nice way to combine the two passions as well. I love being able to make a cake, draw the cake, and then eat the cake, having this whole all consuming process of getting to know my subject. Each way it is created presents a different way of knowing it, and I love that. It’s like being a scientist in a way, thorough research! :) 

You recently moved to Hawaii. What made you decide to make the move?

My partner and I had been traveling around, temporarily settled in his old home of Charlottesville, VA, looking for a change of pace and had a bucket list of what we wanted out of a place to live. Before Rob and I met, I had lived in Wellington, New Zealand for three years and absolutely loved it. I knew I wanted something similar but a wee bit closer to family, near the ocean, a change in culture and more diversity. We found Hawaii having all of that. Plus, it’s Hawaii, who doesn’t want to try out living in a tropical paradise. 

What was that process of moving like? 

The process of moving was exciting, especially as I was doing it with my partner and we both felt so sure and ready for a new chapter of exploration. We both have done lots of travel and are natural adventurers, so moving to Hawaii was a very positive experience. I think we have both taken risks in life and realized that those risks are usually worth it and offer a lot of growth. Hawaii has really given that to us. It’s a bit far still from family, but for now we are really grateful to be in such a beautiful place every day. 

Hawaii is such a vibrant place. How does it inspire your work?

It is such a vibrant place!! I love that about it. I used to wear so much black clothing, and I moved to Hawaii and quickly realized how out of place that is there. Hawaii is color and life. It has made me embrace color in my illustration work so much more. I think as an artist sometimes it’s hard to know how to approach color and it can seem overwhelming or scary. Hawaii gave me no choice but to jump in. I’ve so enjoyed drawing the beautiful fruits growing there, pineapple, dragon fruit, papaya. There’s still so much more for me to take in and play around with. Baking with flavors like guava and passion fruit has felt so decadent and wonderful. It’s a very inspiring place to live, full of nature’s abundance. 

You’ve lived and traveled all over the world. How do you create a sense of home in each place?

That’s a great question and so important. Home is important. I think I’ve found elements of routine wherever I have lived that gives me a sense of comfort and joy and something to look forward to. Even if that is just finding a cafe you love and going there once or twice a week for a coffee. Or taking the same walk every evening in a park near where you live. It’s the same wherever you go, even when the places are different. I also am very good at keeping in touch with friends and family and find sharing my experiences of where I am and connecting to them In their lives to be like this nice supportive bridge. I also bring a few favorite stones and pieces of art or letters from friends with me to have in whatever space or room I am living in. Little travel companions that are small but important. 

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Who is a woman who inspires you, and why?

My mother is the most inspiring woman I know. For so many reasons really, but I guess most of all for all of the obstacles in life she has overcome and for the amazing mother she is. She was born blind and raised six children with my father. She has been the editor for a major Braille publication in the states and now serves as the president for the guide dog users association of America. She is an incredible cook and shares her love with people through hosting them and feeding them. She has always been incredibly supportive of me following my dreams and all of the travel I’ve done, even when it has taken me across the world living far far away. I hope to embody the same love she has for me and my siblings for my own children one day. 

To see Molly's work and get your very own print, check out her website