I would like to introduce you to who I consider the “plastic surgeon” of fondant faces: Sachiko Windbiel. Or should I say Dr. Windbiel? Usually when I see this caliber of work I assume modeling chocolate was employed since it is easier to manipulate. To my amazement and total admiration she creates her fabulous pieces with just fondant (aka sugarpaste)! The only tools she uses to perform her sugarcrafting surgery are an Xacto knife, two simple modeling tools plus a hatpin and a toothpick. And as any surgeon would tell you, she considers it extremely important (and effective) to work with very clean fingers!
If you want to discover how to create gumpaste flowers there are many books, classes, tutorials, etc. available to guide you in this journey. Sadly, in my opinion, when it comes to making a good-looking fondant face with great hair, the kind of instruction being offered out there is very limited. Until I became the Nana of the sweetest little granddaughter, Violet, I did not realize it could possibly be an issue. Now it is a point of concern because I’m quite interested in how to make figurines for future cakes for her. So, when I learned about the extremely talented Sachiko, who offers several online modeling tutorials on her website: https://www.mimicafeunion.com, I was beyond head over heels with excitement.
The Skill Level Needed For Sachiko’s Online Tutorials
When I first saw the photographs of her charming sugar creations I was a tad bit apprehensive about taking the plunge with one of her tutorials. However, when I noticed she offered a course on styling hair, which is something I really, really wanted to learn about, I was totally on board. So, I enrolled in the tutorial: “Fondant Hair Styling”. To my delight it is easy to follow and in my opinion almost anyone can benefit from it. With that tutorial under my belt I made the decision to try another two: “How to Make a Standing Fondant Topper” and “New Path & New Way”. Even though these two do require some intermediate skill level to produce a little girl’s face just like one of hers and even if you haven’t reached that level, you will still take away something from them that can get you closer to climbing the next rung on the ladder when it comes to your modeling expertise.
If you are unsure about looking at instructions beyond your present skill set I would like to share with you my gumpasting philosophy which is “Don’t be afraid to try to emulate work that is more advanced than your present capability because it gives you something to strive for”. For example, when I first started out with gumpaste flowers my go-to mentor was Alan Dunn (and he still is). Admittedly I may never attain his level of expertise, but it has pushed me to want more from myself. So, I say take that challenge and aim for the stars which is what I have done by having him as my inspiration and aspiration!
What You Can Expect To Learn
I think one of the best ways to tell you what to expect is to use Sachiko’s own words: “The Goal of my Workshop is to provide you with both New Techniques as well as New Inspirations… It takes a lot of trial and error and perseverance, but with my patient guidance, I am confident that after you finish watching my workshop, you will have New Skills and Fresh Creative Impulses… And within time, you too can contribute to the ART OF CAKES, bringing your own unique ideas and fun to all your baking projects!!!”.
Some of things I hoped I would learn were how to create a nice selection of hair styles, a cute face, hands with decent fingers and a thin neck that supports the head properly. Anything else would be icing on the cake! The good news for me is I was able to attain quite a bit of this wish list and so much more!
I personally find the hardest thing about modeling is that it is a three-dimensional endeavor which means not only does it have to look good from the front but it also has to from the side and back angles as well. So, I appreciate the fact that Sachiko frequently shows so many different perspectives of her design work because it helps eliminate any doubts or struggles I might be having when trying to shape the piece correctly! I’m not kidding…she even shows you the top view of her hairstyles…Nice!
Just so you know, her tutorials are quite long and range from an hour and forty five minutes to five hours. That is lengthier than most videos, but it is because she shows everything she is doing with the utmost attention to detail.
“Fondant Hair Styling”
To my knowledge there is not another video out there dedicated to just hair and hers will teach you so many variations that you will wonder how she ever came up with all of them. I love the way she meticulously moves the various strands around so that they have just the right movement! Happy, happy! By following her lead it means my figurines will never have a ‘bad hair day’ again!
“How to Make a Standing Fondant Topper” and “New Path & New Way”
In some ways these two videos cover some of the same information, but I seriously learned so much incredible guidance from each of them. So, I’m torn here as to which one I would recommend if you only wanted to purchase one. Here are my thoughts on it. If you like to do traditional modeling then purchase “How to Make a Standing Fondant Topper”. If you want to be on the cutting edge opt for “New Path & New Way”. The reason I find myself hesitant about committing to a favorite video is because I find both of them are rather addicting to watch which means I would hate you to have missed any of her advice from either one. So, if your budget allows it, go for both because I truly believe you won’t regret it.
An interesting thing that I have not seen before is she is not afraid of showing her mistakes. When one happens she will then correct it right then instead of doing a video ‘retake’. This makes the experience very human for me knowing someone with her incredible skill set still deals with some of the same issues we mere mortal modelers face.
The only thing I would say that could be improved is in the production quality in her earlier videos. This is because sometimes the placement of the head/figurine is slightly off camera. However, this situation has been corrected in her newest video. If I was not taking into account my thoughts (i.e. writing a review) about these courses for this article I wouldn’t have felt to the need to even mention it because she produced these videos on her very own and that in itself is a very impressive accomplishment. The reality is when I was watching them it really didn’t bother me that much because I was completely enthralled with her content! So, in my book it is totally worthy of a free pass.
While watching each of these videos I am impressed by Sachiko’s upbeat and positive attitude. It is so refreshing to see someone who truly puts her heart and soul into every minute of what she is doing. I also really appreciate the fact that she encourages you to spread your creative wings and take flight with what you have experienced in her tapes.
With these three videos in my gumpasting treasure trove I feel I have learned so *much* and have even more confidence to create little fondant faces using my own personal style without the aid of a mold. I also now know how to adorn them with some lovely hairdos! So, for me they are a priceless investment in my continual sugarcrafting education.
Below is sneak peek of the face I’ll be using for my sweet granddaughter’s 2nd birthday topper. I think if you like this first real attempt (after a few of days doing a couple of practice runs) you will understand why I’ve become such a real admirer of the very gifted Sachiko Windbiel and her wonderful modeling videos. All I can say is I owe Sachiko lots of Big Hugs and Tons of Kudos! Xxxxx
Update: If you would like to see my completed figurine visit A Mermaid/Under-the-Sea Birthday Cake.