artratcafe CAFE – Playing With Your Food #4 – Christel Assante – eggs plus…

Owl Egg. C. Assante

Staying with the theme of eggs, Playing With Your Food #4 looks at the delicate egg sculptures of French artist Christel Assante.

Assante creates custom designs for buyers, working in mostly quail and goose eggs. Each egg takes her about 3 to 4 days to sculpt. The eggs are lit from a small bulb placed inside through a hole in the bottom.

Assante Egg

In an interview with  Assante talks about her approach to her art: Tell us more about you, how did you start to work on egg shells ? Have you an artistic education ? 
This question is always the most difficult for me, indeed, I don’t know at all what pushes people to adopt this so special technique. It happens often without knowing why. I actually likes drawing on this so symbolic shape, on this so pleasant material because very porous which allow numerous different techniques … The egg shape allows to present scenes which evolve as you turn around it. I like this idea … 
I have always drawn a lot, but, I have a scientific education, not artistic.

Egg CA Detail287

At the interview Assante is asked about preferences in her media:
I always use true eggshells, because I like the material and the magic of the result sometimes so fragile, that’s the most interesting for me. I carve from the ostrich egg shell (the biggest) to emu egg shell, and also nandu, goose, pheasant, duck and quail egg shell. I do not work at all with chicken eggs !! Why? Good question !!

Egg CA205

My own first question would be about what tools can produce such intricate detail in such a hard and delicate surface. She answers this in the interview (follows);  however, I must say it all sounds too simple for a beginner to undertake – a knife and vinegar?!!!! Has anyone out there had experience at this art form?
It is not necessary to have lot of material to start carving eggs, a knife and some vinegar are sufficient to begin with, then you can buy a mini drill. Those of good quality have good performances and avoid most of vibrations (which remain the true problem). Then, don’t forget to use diamond coated drill for the best result … I always bring my equipment with me when I exhibit to show people … but, the best is to practice, at the beginning, sometimes I spent one week on one egg without being sure of the result !!! But, I am very stubborn and I remade the same model until I succeeded.

Egg CA 288

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Credit and Thanks due to:

artratcafe CAFE – Eggs…Redux

Because it is spring here in Vancouver, and almost Easter, eggs are on my mind and featured on the Cafe’s menu this week.

Our fancies turn lightly to spring and sensual longing and fertility and well, yes, sex.

The name Easter comes from Eostre or Ostara, the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe. Ostara represented spring fecundity and the love and carnal pleasure that leads along that flower strewn path and in pagan times an annual spring festival was held in her honour. Ostara was a playful goddess whose reign over the earth began when the Sun King journeyed across the sky in his chariot, heralding the end of winter. Ostara appeared as a beautiful young woman carrying a basket of brightly coloured eggs. Her magical companion was a rabbit who accompanied her as she brought new life to dying plants and flowers by hiding her eggs in the fields.

The egg is a symbol of new life. It stands for the renewing power of nature and by extension the attraction between female and male that results in new growth and fertility. This segue shell lead us to the following eggstremely sensual extract from the book: 1933 Was A Bad Year by John Fante:

“Dorothy was at the sideboard, breaking eggs and spilling them into a bowl. Just watching the oval things crack in her white fingers and spill forth with a golden plop created a series of small explosions inside me. My calves shuddered as she scrambled them with a fork and they turned yellow like her hair. She poured a bit of cream into the mixture and the silken smoothness of the descending cream had me reeling. I wanted to say, ‘Dorothy Parrish, I love you’, to take her in my arms, to lift the bowl of scrambled eggs above our heads and pour it over our bodies, to roll on the red tiles with her, smeared with the conquest of eggs, squirming and slithering in the yellow of love”.

Image Credits from top in order:

Easter Eggs inspired by Lichtenstein – artclubblog21.

Ostara by Johannes Gehrts. 1884.

Victorian Woman with Eggs and Smiley Toast from Google Images. Origins unknown.

artratcafe CAFE – Playing With Your Food #3 – Carl Warner

Chocolate Express

Chocolate Express

Playing With Your Food #3 presents British photographer, Carl Warner. Born in Liverpool England in 1963, Carl now lives in Kent and works from his London based studio near to London Bridge’s colourful food emporium of Borough Market. Having worked as a photographer in the advertising business for 25 years Carl stumbled on the idea of making landscapes out of food just over ten years ago and these ‘Foodscapes’ have now brought him world wide acclaim for his very own unique and individual art form.

Cabbage Sea

Cabbage Sea

This has led not only to many commissions for international clients such as Nestle, Unilever and General Mills, but also to a publishing deal with Abrams books which saw the launch of his first book ‘Carl Warner’s Food Landscapes’ in November 2010. His work has been used in children’s hospitals, childhood obesity clinics, by nutritionists and many other good causes to promote better eating habits in both children and adults.

Cucumber Bridge

Cucumber Bridge

Warner blends photography and art to make highly conceptual visual images – broccoli are miniature trees that can create vast forests of connected treetops – Italian Parmesan cheese wheels are rugged, plunging cliffs – smoked salmon is lapping water at sunset reflecting the blazing colors of the sky. In a sense, he’s just a big kid playing with his food.

Salmon Sea

Salmon Sea

In the picture above, a pea pod boat sails away from a land made of bread and potatoes, over a sea of salmon. Warner is an artist who makes one think about food and interact with food on a different level that captures our fondness for illusions, brain teasers and fairy tales all at once.

Vege Head

Vege Head

Carl Warner’s food  images are photographed in different layers and the images can take up to two or three days to build and photograph and then a couple of days retouching and fine-tuning. Carl shoots his scenes using a Hasselblad H3D39 and retouches them on his Mac in Photoshop.
His main influences are Ansel Adams and films such as The Wizard of Oz and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Bread Village

Bread Village

Warner explains his creative process in the following video:

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Credits and Thanks due to:


artratcafe CAFE – Playing With Your Food #2 – Prudence Emma Staite

“Dita von Cheese” by Prudence Emma Staite. Based, of course, on popular burlesque performer Dita von Teese.

“Dita von Cheese” by Prudence Emma Staite. Based on popular burlesque performer Dita von Teese.

The second in artratcafe CAFÉ’s new series Playing With Your Food presents Prudence Emma Staite from Gloucestershire, England. Prudence is a contemporary artist who works almost entirely in chocolate, although as you see above she also works in other edible mediums.  Prudence wants people to experience her art with all of their senses. She creates jewelry, paintings, sculpture, games and even entire rooms from chocolate –but the sweet stuff isn’t her only favorite medium –  She also made sculptures of the Colosseum, Spanish Steps and Pope Benedict XVI using enough pizza dough to make 500 pizzas for an exhibit at the Museum of London.

prudence-emma-staite-pizza (2)

brilliant-food-sculpturesRelax in a this chaise lounge made of chocolate by Prudence Emma Staite.

Munro food artPrudence has also recreated famous art works using Smarties. This is a recreation of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Munroe.

smarties-renoir_1248687iAnd this is her Smarties recreation of Seurat’s Bathers at Asnieres.

Prudence-Emma-Staite1Prudence also used Smarties as her medium in this recreation of Banksy’s Clean Streets Maid graffiti.

bikesculptureAgain, using chocolate, Prudence expresses her understanding of bicycle technology in this chocolate sculpture.

This is sweet and certainly food for thought. It reminds us that anything can be used as a medium for expression. Prudence’s use of everyday edibles to express her creativity is inspiring and opens us up to outside-the-chocolate box thinking. What will you do with all of those left over goodies from Christmas?

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Credits and Thanks due to: Wikipedia / Google Images / / / V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, east London /

artratcafe CAFE – Playing With Your Food #1- Arcimboldo

Whimsical Portrait by Arcimboldi

Whimsical Portrait by Arcimboldo

Today artratcafe CAFÉ begins a new  series – Playing With Your Food. This series will feature historical and contemporary artists who use food in their art – both real and illusionary.

Self Portrait by Arcimboldo

Self Portrait by Arcimboldo






This week the featured artist is the Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527 – 1593). Arcimboldo was an Italian painter famous for creating imaginative portrait heads made entirely of  fruits, vegetables, flowers and fish. His conventional work, on traditional religious subjects, has fallen into oblivion, but his portraits of human heads made up of organic objects, were greatly admired by his contemporaries and remain a source of fascination today.

In 1573 Arcimboldo created a series of heads based on the four seasons. All are oil on canvas and can be seen in The Louvre, Paris, France.



Arcimboldo was perhaps the first artist to use food to create an image, though his work was in paint, not made of actual food. From a distance, his portraits look like normal human portraits. However, individual objects in each portrait were actually overlapped together to make various anatomical shapes of a human. They were carefully constructed by his imagination.

Art critics debate whether Arcimboldo’s paintings were simply whimsical or the product of a deranged mind.  A majority of scholars hold to the view, however, that given the Renaissance fascination with riddles, puzzles, and the bizarre, Arcimboldo, far from being mentally imbalanced, catered to the taste of his times.









Vertumnus – 1591 (oil on wood. exhibited at Skoklosters Slott. Balsta, Sweden) was particularly appreciated by everyone, especially by the Emperor Rudolph 11. It is a head-and-shoulder portrait of the Emperor, showing him in the form of Vertumnus, the ancient Roman god of vegetation and transformation.

The job of a renaissance court portraitist was to produce likenesses of his sovereigns to display at the palace and give to foreign dignitaries or prospective brides. It went without saying the portraits should be flattering. Yet Giuseppe Arcimboldo painted his royal patron, the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, as a heap of fruits and vegetables. With pea pod eyelids and a gourd for a forehead, he looks less like a king than a crudité platter.

The Admiral

The Admiral

Lucky for Arcimboldo, Rudolf had a sense of humor. And he had probably grown accustomed to the artist’s visual wit. Arcimboldo served the Hapsburg family for more than 25 years, creating oddball “composite heads” made of sea creatures, flowers, dinner roasts and other materials.

Arcimboldo’s work had a surreal quality long before the advent of the Surrealist Art movement, and his ‘food portraits’ no doubt inspired many of the other artists who will be featured in this series.


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Credits and Thanks due to: Wikipedia / Google Images /

artratcafe CAFE – Pumpkin Time…

As the rain and clouds of autumn hide the sun from us here in Vancouver I am thankful for the appearance of the pumpkin, nature’s substitute for glorious summer sunsets. This glowing orange orb warms us under the grey and overcast skies of the season. At artratcafe CAFE we are, of course, familiar with the wide variety of foods that can be derived from the pumpkin, and because the temperatures are dropping to chilly we are offering the warm hug of comforting Pumpkin Soup to our visiting friends and we include the recipe in this post.

But also, because we are so closely associated with Mr Art Rat, we are interested in the artistic side of food, and when it comes to pumpkins this interest must involve the Halloween related carving of this seasonal fruit (vegetable?). In honour of this tradition we have put together an exhibition of some of our favorite pumpkin sculptures, along with some paintings of and on pumpkins and other miscellaneous pumpkin related art including pumpkin / Halloween poetry. (All due credits at end of post).














Theme in Yellow by Carl Sandburg.

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o’-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

The Witches Song from Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and bling-worms sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

On a dark, dark, night
In a dark, dark wood
In a dark, dark house
In a dark, dark room
In a dark, dark cupboard
On a dark, dark shelf
In a dark, dark box
There was a GHOST!




Superstitious by Shel Silverstein.

If you are superstitious you’ll never step on cracks.
When you see a ladder you will never walk beneath it.
And if you ever spill some salt you’ll thrown some ‘cross your back,
And carry’ round a rabbit’s foot just in case you need it.
You’ll pick up any pin that you find lying on the ground,
And never, never, ever throw your hat upon the bed,
Or open an umbrella when you are in the house.
You’ll bite your tongue each time you say
A thing you shouldn’t have said.
You’ll hold your breath and cross your fingers
Walkin’ by a graveyard,
And number thirteen’s never gonna do you any good.
Black cats will all look vicious, if you’re superstitious,
But I’m not superstitious (knock on wood).

Pumpkin Soup – Ingredients:

  • Small pumpkin (remove the seeds and stringy bits, cut into large chunks, peel). You can sub for 2 med size acorn squash if you don’t have pumpkin.
  • 2 sweet onions, chopped
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp organic coconut oil
  • 4 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 2-3 cups hemp or almond milk (this makes it creamy)
  • 4-6 cups stock or filtered water
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Method:  Preheat oven to 365F. Place pumpkin chunks, onions and sweet potato into a large baking dish with 1/4 water in dish.

Bake until fork-tender, about 45-60 minutes. Remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool.

Once cooled, place all the roasted ingredients into your food processor and the raw garlic. You may need to do this in batches depending how large your processor is.

Add in some hemp milk or filtered water to help blend. Once blended, move the mixture to a large pot on your stove. Add the remaining hemp milk, water and spices. Allow the soup to simmer for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally on low to medium heat.

Sprinkle some raw sheep’s milk cheese and arugula on top. The natural sweetness of the nutmeg is warming and lovely. If you let it sit overnight in the fridge the flavours will mingle and be even more smashingly delicious the next day. Serves 6-8.











Image Credits – from first to last – Pumpkin painting by Ulrike ‘Ricky’ / Next three pumpkin carvings by Ray / Scary Halloween Pumpkin, artist / Witch Face Carving, artist unknown – / Tribal Face by Mina / Old Postcard from Google Images / Pumpkin Soup from Google Images / Pumpkin painting by unknown first grade student – / Painting on Pumpkin by Susan / Quasimodo carving, artist unknown – / Spider carving, artist unknown – / Old postcard from Google Images.

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Q: What do you get if you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by its diameter? A: Pumpkin pi.

artratcafe CAFE – Berry Picking Memories 3 – Goosegogs…

This is my third and final post of childhood memories, picking berries in England.  Today I remember Goosegogs:  (All due credits at end of post)

During my childhood summer holidays I always spent two weeks with my mum’s parents, Nan and Granddad. I was very close to my maternal grandparents who eventually came to live with us in the seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare in Somerset.

My grandparents lived in a humble, dark and mouldering Victorian row house in Bristol. My Nan was a superb cook and Granddad was a prize-winning gardener. They had a small back garden packed with flowers and vegetables but this wasn’t enough space for Granddad, so he also cultivated an allotment, (a rented garden in a shared acreage).

My great joy was to go with him to his allotment and spend blissful hours digging, picking fruit and exploring the wild lane ways that surrounded the garden like a maze. I still remember the hot, dusty, fertilizer and tobacco smells of his tool shed, the sensual, smooth feel of new potatoes against my fingers deep in the warm earth and the sun filled songs of blackbirds and robins. But mostly I remember the taste of gooseberries.

Goosegogs we children called them and we knew instinctively when they were ripe and raided everyone’s garden because everyone had at least one gooseberry bush. They grow well in England’s damp climate and have been enthusiastically cultivated and eaten there since the 15th century. My Granddad was no exception and grew enough to supply both of our households. Nan and my mum used them in jam, tarts and other deserts, my favorite being Gooseberry Fool. This creamy desert may be only appreciated by gooseberry loving Brits, however; I recommend that all of you try it at least once.

Here is a classic recipe for it taken from the world famous food writer, Nigel Slater’s column in the British paper, The Observer:

Nigel Slater’s Gooseberry Fool. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin. Smooth, timeless and soothing, the Fool is simply crushed fruit folded into whipped cream – perfect for summer. That said, I like my fools to have a slightly rough texture, with crushed, cooked fruit in among the cream. This is easy to do if you crush the cooked berries with a fork rather than sieving them. The seeds add important contrast to the general creaminess.

The Recipe:  Serves 6
450g sharp cooking gooseberries
3-4 heaped tbsp sugar
300ml double cream

Top and tail 450g of sharp cooking gooseberries. Tip them in a pan with 3 or 4-heaped tbsp of sugar and one or two of water, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until the fruit has burst. Cool then chill. Crush with a fork. Whip 300ml double cream till thick, but stop before it will stand in peaks. It should sit in soft folds.

The Trick:  Use sharp cooking gooseberries, not the sweeter, fat dessert varieties. Other than that, it is all in the whipping of the cream. Put the bowl in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes before you pour the cream in. Whip slowly, with a hand whisk. Stop once the cream starts to feel heavy on the whisk and will lie in soft, undulating folds. Fold in the fruit only when it is cool. It will curdle if still warm. Don’t leave it uncovered in the fridge for long; otherwise it will absorb all the other flavours in there. Parmesan fool, anyone?

The Twist: Elderflower, in the form of flower heads simmered with the gooseberries or a drop of cordial stirred in with the cream, is a classic. Red gooseberries will produce a sweeter, slightly murky-coloured fool. The best twist is to ripple a spoonful of lightly crushed, cooked berries through the finished fool to give a ripple effect, adding texture and interest.

Gooseberries have a unique flavour of their own beyond compare. Many discerning writers have paid them compliments, but the words of little Marjorie Fleming, “Pet Marjorie,” the youthful prodigy of Sir Walter Scott, are most memorable. Wrote Marjorie in her quaint and charming diary shortly before her death at age seven: “I am going to turn over a new life and am going to be a very good girl and be obedient…here there is plenty of gooseberries which makes my teeth water.”

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Credits – Special thanks to: – for gooseberry information and the whole last paragraph.  Nigel Slater and The Observer for the recipe, and Google Images for the illustrations.