Art that is good enough to eat

Betty Voller teaches people the art of sugarcraft.
Betty Voller teaches people the art of sugarcraft.
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As The Great British Bake Off continues to take the nation by storm, the smell of baking is in the air.

More and more people are discovering a passion for making savoury and sweet home-made creations.

COVER SUGARCRAFT       (HB)    MRW      30/8/2014 ''Betty Voller (71) runs sugarcraft classes which are at held Herne Farm Leisure Centre, Moggs Mead, Petersfield''A Madagascan Flamboyant made by Betty Voller ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (142380-7089) PPP-140309-102121003

COVER SUGARCRAFT (HB) MRW 30/8/2014 ''Betty Voller (71) runs sugarcraft classes which are at held Herne Farm Leisure Centre, Moggs Mead, Petersfield''A Madagascan Flamboyant made by Betty Voller ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (142380-7089) PPP-140309-102121003

One of the most popular projects to tackle is making a cake, because only a simple recipe needs to be followed.

Cake shops have started to pop up across the country selling home-made cakes garnished with beautiful decorations.

These look extremely difficult to create, especially with their intricate and lifelike textures.

But with the right guidance and just a pinch of patience, these decorations can be made by almost anyone.

COVER SUGARCRAFT       (HB)    MRW      30/8/2014 ''Betty Voller (71) runs sugarcraft classes which are at held Herne Farm Leisure Centre, Moggs Mead, Petersfield''Nearly finished ! - a Singapore Orchid being supported as it dries, made by Kevin Rose (56) from Portsmouth ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (142380-7064) PPP-140309-102339003

COVER SUGARCRAFT (HB) MRW 30/8/2014 ''Betty Voller (71) runs sugarcraft classes which are at held Herne Farm Leisure Centre, Moggs Mead, Petersfield''Nearly finished ! - a Singapore Orchid being supported as it dries, made by Kevin Rose (56) from Portsmouth ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (142380-7064) PPP-140309-102339003

Somebody who has given a lot of time (and patience) to teaching people the skills of sugarcraft is Betty Voller, 71, from Waterlooville.

Betty organises a monthly session in Petersfield where both novices and experts can go along to learn and improve upon basic skills.

She says: ‘One of my friends started running a course for sugarcraft, so I thought I would go along and see what it was all about.

‘Luckily I picked up the skills quite quickly and decided to buy some books to teach myself.

COVER SUGARCRAFT       (HB)    MRW      30/8/2014 ''Betty Voller (71) runs sugarcraft classes which are at held Herne Farm Leisure Centre, Moggs Mead, Petersfield''A Rangoon Creeper made by Betty Voller ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (142380-7101) PPP-140309-102028003

COVER SUGARCRAFT (HB) MRW 30/8/2014 ''Betty Voller (71) runs sugarcraft classes which are at held Herne Farm Leisure Centre, Moggs Mead, Petersfield''A Rangoon Creeper made by Betty Voller ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (142380-7101) PPP-140309-102028003

‘I became addicted to the craft and wanted to learn as much about it as I could, especially as my son had asked me to make his wedding cake for him.’

Betty adds: ‘I think this kind of skill is a great thing to have, especially for wedding cakes and special occasions.

‘I know that you can pick up similar creations in the supermarkets.

‘But sometimes it’s nice to have a unique design that has sentimental value.

COVER SUGARCRAFT       (HB)    MRW      30/8/2014 ''Betty Voller (71) runs sugarcraft classes which are at held Herne Farm Leisure Centre, Moggs Mead, Petersfield''A Red Passion Flower made by Pat Atkins ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (142380-9880) PPP-140309-102246003

COVER SUGARCRAFT (HB) MRW 30/8/2014 ''Betty Voller (71) runs sugarcraft classes which are at held Herne Farm Leisure Centre, Moggs Mead, Petersfield''A Red Passion Flower made by Pat Atkins ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (142380-9880) PPP-140309-102246003

‘For my son’s wedding cake I made a little pig and duck to go on top as these were the animals he and his wife loved.

‘But if you buy a cake from a supermarket details like this will be absent.

‘After making the wedding cake I became very enthusiastic about my craft and I soon began giving demonstrations for the Portsmouth District branch of the British Sugarcraft Guild (BSG). This then led on to me giving demonstrations at other branches and I even had one of my cakes published in an issue of Cakes and Sugarcraft.’

One of the places she would give regular demonstrations at was Petersfield and when the leader retired she was asked to take over.

Betty explains: ‘That was 12 years ago and I still love it now.

It’s such a great feeling to be able to teach people the skills that I’d developed over the years.’

Betty holds one session a month where she will choose a different flower to teach the group.

Hands-on demos are given and her patient and light-hearted tone makes each of the members feel at ease when learning something new.

She says: ‘Every month I choose a new flower to teach the members and these will either be ones that I enjoy teaching and making myself, or they will be a suggestion from a group member.

‘Some of the flowers can be difficult to make and are often frustrating, but once you see the final result you forget all of that stress and you feel a sense of achievement.

‘Teaching in a group also has its benefits as not only do you get to meet new people.

‘Also, things that some find difficult others will do with ease and will offer to help out.’

The British Sugarcraft Guild (BSG) was born on March 17, 1981, and this is the national group for sugarcraft.

The institution, which has more than 4,000 members, organises an array of events throughout the year that showcase a wide variety of creations.

There are more than 100 branches of BSG throughout the country who continue the traditions of the craft but who also develop new ways of working.

When sugarcraft first came on to the scene, people would make the decorations with sugar – an edible substance that has the benefits of a quick drying time.

However, sugar is a very delicate material to use for moulding and now a vast majority of the decorations made will be created using Modena – a modelling clay that is a mixture of glue and cornflour.

‘Modena allows you to easily mould the decoration and the risk of breakage is reduced.

Betty adds: ‘We have moved away from the sugar and have started to use more of the modelling clay as it is easier to use and is a lot stronger.

‘Things are made in the same way as the sugar and I think some things look nicer in the clay.

‘You can also create decorations with gelatin which, when it’s finished, looks a bit like stained glass.’

This is created slightly differently as you need to make the shape of the leaves and flowers with wires and then you dip the shape into the gelatin.

Betty says: ‘This dries extremely quickly and will keep its shape very well.

‘I like to use this to make poinsettias around Christmas-time as they make great table decorations.

‘It’s lovely to go to the national events that are organised by the British Sugarcraft Guild.

‘That’s because you get to see all of these different ways to create sugarcraft decorations.’

Betty will be retiring from her sugarcraft hobby group at the end of the year as the arthritis in her hands makes it difficult to complete all of the tasks.

One of the group members, Kevin Rose from Portsmouth, will be taking over from Betty as leader of the group.

Betty says: ‘I will still be going to the classes when I hand over the reins to Kevin as I love the craft too much to give it up.

‘I will miss leading the sessions, but I’m looking forward to having the spare time to continue my passion for sugarcraft.

‘The craft is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or you hate it.

‘But I certainly love it and I have yet to find people who truly hate it.’

WHEN: The next session is September 27.

WHERE: Herne Farm Leisure Centre, Petersfield.

HOW MUCH? £25

CALL: (023) 9225 6590