I sure wish I could sit in a kitchen with Molly Reeder. I’m 95% sure we lived in Charlottesville at the same time for a blink, but our paths never crossed. If they had, I can imagine us being friends, standing over a mixer, Molly whipping up something delicious and me, well, sampling. A few months ago, I “met” Molly via Instagram, and after falling in love with her illustrations, I commissioned her to do a drawing of my daughter and our GranJan for Mother’s Day. Molly captured the details so well: the little turkey headpiece Harper wore that Thanksgiving; the too-big apron falling off her shoulder; the teaching moment between grandmother and granddaughter; the cranberries in the bowl. I’m so grateful to today’s feature artist for our family treasure. Welcome to The Thersday Series, Molly!
You are a baker and you are an illustrator. What drew you to these two mediums to express your creativity?
I have always wanted to be an artist, since the day I could pick up a crayon. I remember thinking it as young as age four. I love drawing and creating visions and always have. Drawing puts me in a place of presence and observance that feels both scientific and beautifully pure. You get to study something and really take it apart to put it back together again on paper. I love that process. I studied fine art in college but didn’t really start doing it professionally until I turned 30. Baking was more of a surprise—it just sort of landed in my lap. My family has always been very foodie and my mom is an incredible cook. I grew up watching her and helping her when I was invited to. My sister and brother-in-law opened a gelateria in New Orleans while I was studying and living there. I started working for them as a part-time gig while I was in school, making coffee and serving gelato. Slowly I began baking some simple things while I was there—Italian cookies, cakes. Pretty soon I was a full-time pastry chef for them, and then continued to work as a pastry chef for many years after in different bakeries around the world. Baking attracted me for the art and scientific nature of the process as well. Its like alchemy or magic, taking simple ingredients, combining them with the elements and creating something delicious, nourishing and beautiful to eat. I love baking as a medium because it brings people together, it is communal and it is something easily shared and appreciated.
You describe the kitchen as a place of healing, giving, and inspiration. Tell us more about that.
I think kitchens are the heartbeat of a home. It is where everyone gathers no matter what their days are like, their moods are, because everyone eventually must eat. It is a meeting ground, and also a place for creativity. There is something beautiful about the routine of meals. They happen every day in our lives, but at each one something different can exist. A different dish, a different group of people. It is inspiring to share meals, and to share conversation, and I find that they often support each other and bring new ideas and connections to life. I think it is also a healing place, offering sustenance to us when we need it, whether that is chicken soup when we are sick, or fresh baked bread when we are needing comfort, or a decadent cake when we are celebrating. It is a place to share with one another and connect.
What tool, object, or habit could you not live without in your workday?
Meditation is the biggest tool I could not live without in my work day and every day. I meditate every morning for at least 20 minutes, and if I miss that little pause I can feel it for the rest of the day. Taking a moment when the day is fresh is the most beautiful and grounding practice I have. It puts everything into perspective and helps me not to lose track of the bigger picture, that each day is coming and going and we are all here to experience every moment of it, whether that is in work or rest. Other tools I couldn’t live without are my faber castell pencils (especially 2H and 2B!) and good paper. And when it comes to baking—unsalted butter. Its the most important ingredient no matter what I am baking. It just makes everything taste better!
I recently read a beautiful post you wrote about your mother. How has your mom influenced your journey as an artist and a woman?
My Mom is definitely my number one role model in life, and will always be a constant inspiration. She has influenced me in so many ways! She was born blind on a chicken farm on the eastern shore of Maryland, and she and my Dad raised six of us kids together. During that time, she earned her Masters degree in special education, worked as editor-in-chief for one of the biggest braille publications in the country, and now serves as president of the Guide Dog Users Association of America. Not only that, she is a kind woman, a incredible chef, a talented writer and most of all, so unconditionally loving and supportive to my siblings and me. She has always supported my dreams, even when it meant moving across the world to Australia and New Zealand when I was 27. She has shown me how bravery, perseverance and standing up for what you believe in are some of the most important values to possess. She has shared her passion for cooking and feeding people which has now been passed on to me. A love of hosting and taking care of others.
Because she is blind, I developed more of a visual sensitivity growing up, since sometimes I was describing what I was seeing to my mom, seeing for both of us. It definitely helped me take apart the world around me in a visual way that I don’t think I would have necessarily done otherwise.
Who keeps you company in your line of work?
Other women who are doing similar work to me—drawing, baking, creators in general. I feel inspired by sharing time with other artists and talking about our practices, sharing our fears, doubts and dreams. I love baking with other friends and family, creating meals for people I love. I listen to a lot of podcasts while I work since I am usually illustrating for many hours a day. I love On Being with Krista Tippett. And I also love listening to books on audible. Currently, I am listening to Wild by Sheryl Strayed, which is such a inspiring story about her trek across the Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast. Finally, I am trying to get better at taking more breaks within my day, and walking down to visit the ocean is definitely a great company to me.