On the Cover: How to bake a cake, Charlotte Collins-style

Charlotte Collins had never painted a real cake before. Last November, the Providence-based artist baked a vanilla, gluten-free cake topped with the neon-pink pills prescribed for their chronic migraines. They staged a photoshoot for their creation, and painted the resulting images.

“All the cakes I’ve painted before are fake cakes.” I was only nominally familiar with this concept. Collins continues, “They’re these things that sell for so much money, and it’s just like a useless cake.”

These faux-confections were the latest fad in home decor a few years ago. The cakes are the symbols of a design movement Collins is a huge proponent of: maximalism. No longer must one Marie Kondo their belongings out of existence. Under maximalism everything has a home, even expensive cardboard and spackle cakes whose sole purpose might just be to collect dust.

Collins is something of an expert on internet microtrends. After being diagnosed with chronic migraines while living in Alabama, they returned home to Topsfield, MA. Collins was unable to work for ten months. So, she focused on creating and drew inspiration from what she saw on the internet. “I was really into online aesthetics like maximalism… and DIY creations on Etsy.”

“It teaches you a lot, to get sick,” Collins says, noting that “everyone at some point will have their body not work. You get old, your body shuts down. I just had it happen a lot younger. It humbles you.” Being unable to work a day job gave Collins the time to create and develop their own philosophy regarding creativity and capitalism.

“To me, DIY and creating is a way to escape from capitalism… we’re forced to work so hard and we have no time to express ourselves… [DIY allows us to] carve out a space for ourselves – you don’t need to buy that trending thing online, you can make it yourself. You can make it better.”

And so, Collins didn’t need to buy a trendy fake cake. She could make her own. For Collins, cake is a way to celebrate life with chronic illness.

“Not being able to work and be a part of society for so long makes you just grateful when you do get to achieve even very small things.”

Following her diagnosis, Collins accomplished several creative achievements. She launched her own Etsy shop: Sand Cherry Creative and began participating in local-art markets like the Anti-Robot Club. They also established their own zine, Art as Liberation. The zine is a collaboration between nine artists, and features both written and visual art. In what seems like a fitting end to a year of creative fervor, Collins is having their first solo art show at The Collaborative in Warren, opening January 11.

True to Collins’ anti-capitalist philosophy, they were just as happy to emphasize personal triumphs along with professional ones. Right now they’re practicing yoga and learning to cook for themself. I asked if their cake had anything to do with this pursuit. They laughed and said no. “Frankly right now, it’s a lot of frozen vegetables.”

To view more work by Charlotte Collins, follow her on Instagram @ charlottecollinsart and stop by her Etsy store at