GTPulse: Traverse City Food Blogger Gets Creative With Flavor and Color
“Do you ever get those Facebook ads where they show you everything you should buy?” Jillian Seguin said in response to my delight with her shiny silver phone case that cast an opalescent glow when touched by light. The case makes me think of the art she makes now – something reminiscent of unicorns and a Barbie doll acid trip.
When Jillian told her mother and her academic advisor that she wanted to study art in college she was met with a unanimous ‘no.’ The Alpena native grew up with an itch to create, and she wanted to turn her passion for art into a career by getting a degree in graphic design. After being swayed away from graphic design she was encouraged to study communication, and she did. She may not have studied art, but she hasn’t let that stop her from making it and she’s finding new ways to get creative with her artwork and her food blog, The Tart Group.
“My biggest goal for college was I wanna get as far away from home as possible. The only rhyme or reason to choose a college,” Jillian joked.
Her parents wanted her to stay in-state for cost reasons, so she went almost five hours away from home to Western Michigan University. Communication studies is mostly academic charm school, wherever you study it. There are classes on public speaking, dealing with people in various group dynamics, writing to persuade and motivate, and Jillian wasn’t taken with much of it.
“Organizational communication. I hated it. It was like Alexander Graham Bell, and the history of telecommunications. Stuff that was useless.”
Despite feelings of indifference to the field of study, she landed a job quickly after graduation in Denver, Colorado. What was described as an admissions counselor job at a university there, was actually a job similar to a telemarketers. She was making around a thousand cold calls a day, packed into a cubicle with hundreds of others who were doing the same.
The job in Philadelphia, though still in academia, was exponentially more fulfilling for Jillian. She was allotted more creative freedom and was able to make eye-catching marketing materials through photoshop and graphic design.
As millennials do, she sought to build a career by gaining experience in more than one place.
“My parents are very traditional. You get a job, you work at a company for 30 years and you work your way up and retire and think about your 401k.”
Also as millennials do, she moved back in with her parents when things went south. After leaving a high-stress, uninspiring corporate job in Kalamazoo she felt burnt out and wanted to go home.
“I was in Kalamazoo starting to wrap things up, for maybe another handful of months, and so I had all this time. I said, ‘Well, I’m gonna paint.’ I needed something to do. In graphic design, you’re always trying to please the client. Painting was exactly what I wanted it to be.”
Her paintings are Lisa Frank, candy-coated pieces of my dreams. The abstract, swirls of different colors are sealed with a clear resin that she also utilizes as a creative feature to her art.
“I did a lot of abstract stuff and then it’s coated in resin to give it a really nice sheen, and then I realized I could start sticking things in it so I started putting glitter and stonework and crystal work and it kind of just grew into this very fun hobby for me.”
She expanded on her creativity by learning how to bake, and this past October she started her food blog, The Tart Group. Before creating the blog, Jillian began baking colorful, whimsical cakes for friends parties. She was regularly getting asked to make them and the encouragement inspired her to delve into making other baked goods like croissants and cupcakes.
“I really liked that you could design the flavor profile along with how it looked. I want things to look cool and interesting and fun, but I want it to taste good too.”
Neon colored croissants stuffed with Superman creme, apple-cardamom cinnamon rolls and white chocolate raspberry cake are just a few of the recipes that Jillian has posted on her blog. She also has dinner recipes and is working on a vegan birthday cake recipe. Croissants have been her favorite thing to make so far.
“The process is really therapeutic. It takes three days. It’s something that’s very chemistry oriented and it’s very structured which is funny because I’m a very fluid, free bird kind of person. But, for some reason, that process really spoke to me and then I started adding color, and flavors and fillings and it just took this croissant experience to a different level.”
She colors her croissants with all-natural, plant dye instead of food coloring and she doesn’t claim to be the first person that has made rainbow croissants. Supermoon Bakehouse in New York City has gained popularity for having the colorful confection, as well as other East and West coast bakeries.
Jillian’s sweet treats are available by recipe only, for now. Although she isn’t currently taking orders for baked goods, she’s working on owning a local bakery of her own. When she’s not dreaming up new recipes for the blog, she’s working as the assistant director of admissions for Northern Michigan University. She helps recruit northern Michigan teens to apply for school, and for those students who tell her they want to pursue art?
“I say, ‘great what does that look like? What of those skills can make you employable? Whenever they have a passion I tell them to do what they’re passionate about.”