It’s difficult to name a business. You want something catchy that isn’t cheesy. Something that relates to what you do maybe? Something that describes you? Mine began as a tongue in cheek comment but stuck. The-Old Piping Bag it had to be!
So who is The-Old Piping Bag?
You might want to grab a cuppa. This could take a while…
I’m Rachel. A 50 [cough] something single mum to three amazing boys – 29, 28 and 15. I have Grade VIII Violin, an ex-biker, qualified British Sign Language Communicator, Teacher in the Lifelong Learning Sector, and qualified hairdresser.
I’ve worked in many fields; in a Family Centre, a Deaf & Hard of Hearing Centre, as a SEN LSA, a PA, for the NHS, as a publican and dental nurse but my really happy, contented place is when I’m creating; trying new things, experimenting and usually making a mess in the process.
The-Old Piping Bag began by chance. One of those curve balls that life throws you. I could have dodged the ball or tried to catch it. I did neither. That ball was fierce. It whacked me square between the eyes. I’m glad it did. I LOVE what I do – most of the time.
I’ve knitted since I was about 7, and have dabbled in lots of crafts: mosaics, jigsaw making, glass painting, prop building, pyrography, felting, paper craft, painting, charcoal drawing, sculpting, crochet, and they all come in very handy when mould making.
I began cake decorating waaay back in the dark ages when all you had was a sharp knife and a couple of petal cutters to work with. The old adage; ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, was so true. Bottle tops, mugs and packaging were used for more than their original purpose.
My first masterpiece worthy of worldwide acclaim shambolic mess, was made when I was a pub manageress; a leaving cake for fellow publicans. It bulged and the icing sagged from the intense heat in the pub kitchen. I put it in the fridge – oops, and…erm…well…poor Mrs J looked like a caveman in drag, as her food colouring eyebrows slowly slid South to become a wobbly tash. But boy was I proud of that cake! I bet you’ve all had early cakes like that? Hmm or maybe not. Ah well…you can’t learn unless you make mistakes.
Anyway…the years went by and my skills thankfully improved. I needed to put a knitting effect on a cake – but how? There were no moulds or impressions I could find at the time, for the effect I wanted. That’s when my able assistant ‘The Voice‘ stepped in to ‘help’. You know the one. The one that niggles at you. The one that thinks it’s sooo clever and then makes you doubt yourself. I listened to mine and out came my knitting needles to make a mat myself.
After lots of
feet stomping failed impressions, I finally succeeded in making a silicone putty impression mat. The double sided Rib/Cable mat remains in the inventory, and although my moulds are now made in a different way, the Rib/Cable is still made to order using blue putty silicone – food grade, of course.
So, putty moulds began to sell but the Voice was egging me on – ‘C’mon! Next challenge!’ My resistance must have been low because I listened again and began experimenting with pouring silicone. I didn’t have a clue how to produce professional looking and working moulds – but there had to be a way…
I sculpted a rough violin, morphed into the Nutty Professor, and my once clean and tidy kitchen became my lab. Pots, scraps of silicone, clay, and wax soon took over. I’d master one step, fail at the next and gave up more than once, cursing the Voice for planting the seed. I’m a stubborn, tenacious old [piping] bag, and finally made a mould that almost looked and worked like something you’d find in a cake supplies shop. Eeek! I’d done it! (sort of – if I squinted, cocked my head on one side and ignored the flaws)
With more experimentation, a LOT more, I made a couple of other moulds, began to sell them and sales went crazy. I couldn’t keep up. The Voice was now shouting: ‘WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!’ Ha! Thanks so much Voice! It was too late – a messy silicone monster had been created and it was hungry. It grew and grew and took over my brain, then my home, and then my life – argh! A few of my long suffering friends were forced kind enough to lend a hand at different times – packing, testing, making tea (THE most important job of all), thank you!
I wouldn’t say my silicone monster has been tamed, but it’s house trained now, (kind of). The Voice has been banished to the naughty step in my brain – it pops out now and then. Sometimes I let it play for a while and regret it because it creates chaos. Unusual, outside of the box ideas are often planted in my head, that I just HAVE to try to make. I quickly realise why no-one has made them before, as they’re often the hardest, e.g, blooming blocks, and end up being the most popular, which of course goes without saying. Other times it’s completely ignored and retreats on it’s own.
So…after 36 years or so, I’m finally working for myself, doing something I truly love to do. It’s hard at times. I’ve convinced myself that haggard is on trend. But do you know what’s really satisfying? It’s when you send me photos of your amazing creations using my moulds. Cakes and gifts give joy right? They create smiles and happy tears. There’s nothing better.
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, with opportunities and projects I never dreamt would or could happen to little old me.
In July 2017 I was chosen from 100’s of small businesses by Theo Paphitis (Dragons Den multi-millionaire) as one of the winners of his Small Business Sunday initiative #SBS!
My products have been used by three cake artists on two series of Channel 4’s Extreme Cake Makers, with little features on a couple of them, (now streamed on Netflix internationally) [gasp]
In 2019 I was commissioned to make some bespoke pieces for one of the teams to use on Channel 4’s Bake Off – The Professionals, (truly incredible!).
There are several tutorials published in industry magazines using my moulds, as well as many customer makes featured in them.
They’ve been used extensively at Cake International, NEC Birmingham, both on competition pieces and part sponsoring large exhibits created by cake artists.
And…my Half Sphere mould and Edible Iris Transfers were in the final for Best Product of 2018 for the Cake Masters Awards (The Cake Oscars). It was an honour to have been nominated, let alone to be in the final!
I’ve met some amazing people along the way; many have become firm friends and colleagues. I really look forward to meeting more.
To all of my existing customers – some who have supported me from the very beginning – a HUGE ‘thank you’ . To all of my new customers – Hello, it’s lovely to meet you!
Happy caking/crafting :)
Rachel x (aka Harold to some cake artists – long story, ‘Old Bag’ to many)
‘You’re never too old…’
P.S. If your Voice is as badly behaved as mine and there are designs you’d like to see made into a mould, then please get in touch – you never know…