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3 min read - Friday 26th November 2021

Coup de Cake and creative therapy

By Lois Freeman 

How illustration graduate Honor Freeman found space for herself as an artist, baker, and social activist.

Coup de Cake, a project by illustration student Honor Freeman, is not a bakery. Instead, this London-based initiative offers cake workshops that tackle social issues, making them more ‘digestible’ for large audiences. Honor has combined her degree with her love of baking to give voice, and space, to communities of women and minority voices. She has developed a unique artistic practice and a new form of activism - bringing the kitchen to the gallery.

Coup de Cake’s first workshop was focused on women, inviting them to ‘Ice what you want to say to men’. Armed with a piping bag and a square of homemade vegan cake, participants wrote messages of 'call out your mates’, ‘wear a condom’ and ‘let it out, just cry babe’. The edible artworks began to display recurring themes of consent, sexual harassment and accountability. The cakes were then placed together to form an Amish-inspired quilt, a textile which embodies the history of women and craft as a place for creative, emotional and economic opportunity.

Image description: Three images from Honor Freeman’s first Coup de Cake workshop. The first shows a cake decorated with ‘LET ME TALK’. The middle image shows the quilt of cakes created by placing the individual cake squares together. The third image shows another individual cake displaying the phrase ‘Call out your MATES’.

Honor wanted to use her workshop to ‘start a bigger conversation, situated in the wake of the Sarah Everard tragedy and the Guardian Poll, with 71% of women having experienced public sexual assault.’ The women, acting as a microcosm for their wider community, flagged the need for improved sex education targeted at men, awareness of the everyday objectification of women, and increased social and political action towards casual sexism and sexual assault.

Honor’s work contributes to the emerging art genre of creative, interactive therapy. The Tate’s recent drawing exhibition Mega Please Draw Freely by artist Ei Arakawa, accrued large-scale social media attention for its simple yet captivating format, giving the opportunity of emotional and creative release through the collective act of doodling. The process of baking, or decorating cakes, allows for a similar cathartic expression. T he celebratory form of cake nurtures a safe space for communication as participants’ opinions, memories, and grievances are materialised into physical objects. This empowering transformation reveals experiences otherwise hidden by shame or stigma.

‘I wanted the women to have this physical representation of what they want to say to men that they can do whatever they like with, afterwards. Whether that be eating it, squishing it, posting it or binning it, having some form of ownership of the message, some form of autonomy to restore their voice.’

Image description: Two images showing women participating in Honor’s first Coup de Cake workshop. The first image shows participants cutting and biting into their cakes, and the second the initial decoration stage.

The workshops are dedicated to inclusivity. No special talent for baking is required and financial aid is offered for participants who want to take part but cannot afford the fee (which covers essentials only, with any profits going to mental health charities). Coup de Cake has just announced their next workshop due to take place in the new year, ‘Cake Confessions’, which is open to all. Attendees will engage in an intimate session of personal truth-telling through the vehicle of cake.

Coup de Cake exists at a new and interesting intersection between art, baking, therapy and political activism. The sessions help make the benefits of art more accessible and demonstrate how collaborative practice in the form of creative therapy can not only create beautiful, displayable products, but can also form a strong collective voice to heal wounds, spread awareness on social taboos and initiate positive change.

Gatekeeper Magazine© 2021