As children we’re often told not to play with our food. But Ida Skivenes can’t stop herself. Nor does she want to. Because now it’s her bread and butter as well.
Using toast as her canvas and jam and fruits to create cute animal faces, the Berlin-based Norwegian defiantly posted a photo to Instagram in June 2012 with the caption “Meet Mr Bear and Mr Fox (A Defence Of the Right to Play With Food As An Adult)”.
Spurred on by her friends’ positive comments Ida – aka IdaFrosk – began making more art using only her food, depicting the likes of fairy tale characters, animals and even book covers. Ida’s playful breakfast ritual soon began brightening many people’s mornings when, by early 2013, her edible delights were getting Norwegian media attention while her Instagram profile swelled to 100,000 followers.
In an age of food-post-overload, Ida’s unique style of work appealed to the masses – after all, breakfast transcends international borders.
She now has over 280,000 Instagram followers and a book published in seven languages revealing how almost anything can be recreated with food, from Wonder Woman toast to celebrate International Women’s Day, to a cheese version of Grumpy Cat, to the Sydney Opera House using Australian Granny Smith apples and macadamia nut butter.
“I’ve managed to combine things that appeal to kids and adults, while keeping a fairly simple style,” she says. “It’s all homemade and certainly not perfect, and I think that makes it more easy to relate to.”
Commercial opportunities first arose in June 2013, with Ida working on a food recycling poster and another for a supermarket campaign. That same month she decided to take leave from her statistics job to try out the full-time food artist gig.
“I’ve had to learn everything from scratch about a whole new field to me,” she says of her unplanned career change.
”The most important lesson has been being able to put a real value on the work I’m doing and also keeping my integrity while turning this into a full time job.”
So how do you actually monetise arranging food on a plate so you can pay the bills?
“I have had a book published… and while it’s not exactly a best seller, it has generated a bit of income. Besides that, I also have a couple of columns in magazines and have taken on a number of carefully selected commercial projects,” says Ida, who writes for Copenhagen Food Magazine and a German publication in which she turns famous characters into food art.
Her magic can unfold in as little as 10 minutes, but more often than not, each piece takes about an hour.
“The process usually has one of two starting points, either with the ingredient or with a specific theme or image,” she explains. “There are never any sketches, so it’s more of a general idea and ingredient outline.
Not one to waste food, it’s rare an art piece doesn’t make the cut, with Ida working until she’s satisfied. And once the camera has clicked, she doesn’t feel guilty munching away at her beautiful creations.
Her most renowned food art is her Art Toast Project series, where she recreated famous modern artworks. Monet’s White Water Lilies was depicted using apple, pistachio butter and kiwifruit while Dali’s iconic ‘melting clocks’ (The Persistence of Memory) rendition called for some melted cheese. On her blog, Ida admits she found the complexity and emotion of Pollock’s abstract piece Convergence, surprisingly difficult to recreate.
But the most challenging? “The cheese version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night I did for Castello,” admits Ida. “It took four tries to get it right.”
Then there was her fashion-inspired toast for British Vogue. Never straying from her healthy, vegetarian aesthetic, she used a brilliant red capsicum to recreate couture.
“That was most certainly an interesting challenge,” she says, adding she’s recently teamed up with Greenpeace to illustrate “some quite scientific matter – it turned out to be very rewarding in the end.”
The Norwegian artist’s subject matter plays on both the topical and relevant as well as nostalgic and clever, all carefully constructed and well thought out.
“I hope people find a bit of joy and perhaps some inspiration to think more creatively about their own food.”
Images by Ida Skivenes.