Photo by Alexandra Grablewski
Raised in Oslo, Norway, Paul Lowe publishes magazine Sweet Paul, which is followed by millions online and is available as a print quarterly in specialty stores nationwide. A food and craft stylist for more than twenty years, Paul is celebrating the publication of his new book, Sweet Paul Eat and Make: Charming Recipes and Kitchen Crafts You Will Love, his guide to chasing the sweet things in life.
Karen: You were raised by women. Tell us about Mormor and Auntie Gunnvor.
Paul: I was raised in Norway by two little old ladies, my grandmother, Mormor, and my great aunt, Auntie Gunnvor. My parents were running businesses and traveling, so I became these two ladies’ entire existence. If I wanted to bake a chocolate cake, we baked a chocolate cake. If I wanted curtains for my bedroom, we made curtains. They were very smart because whatever needed to be done around the house, they would make me help. I had my own little chopping block and own little knife — it wasn’t very sharp — and my own little set of bowls. Everything in our house was cooked from scratch with lots of butter and cream and eggs. They weren’t perfectionists and the cakes would come out lopsided, but everything tasted absolutely delicious.
Paul at work arranging hydrangeas.
Karen: Your grandmother had a motto: “Fullkommenhet er kjedelig,” meaning, “Perfection is boring.” How has her aesthetic influenced your work?
Paul: When I started working as a food stylist, everything looked plastic. Those Thanksgiving turkeys that were perfectly round and plump — you know they were fake and probably raw in the middle. I told people, “I don’t do that. I want food that looks like it was made by human hands. Nothing is more charming.” That was many years ago and now food photography looks very different than it used to.
Karen: How does this idea of simplicity express itself in your book?
Paul: For me, there’s no reason to make a book to show you how clever I am. I wanted a book that people can really use. Anybody can spend $200 and make something pretty, but to make things with what you have around the house already? That’s genius. The same thing with food. A few ingredients, easy steps, amazing results.
A trivet made from clothespin is one of the projects featured in Paul’s new book.
Karen: What advice would you give to Etsy sellers who, like you, want to succeed in a business based on their personal interests?
Paul: Well, you can’t be shy about your work. If you make something unique and you’re proud of it, you have to tell people about it. It’s amazing what writing a nice email can do for you. So if you are an Etsy person, get yourself some beautiful photos. If you make, say, amazing scarves, spend a little money if you can and show those scarves on a handsome guy or beautiful girl, and send your photos to blogs, the local newspapers and the lifestyle magazines. And be really nice to people. The whole craft and blogger community is a really nice place, which is kind of amazing. Just don’t be shy.
I have to say I love Etsy. I mostly buy supplies on Etsy and I can always find anything I can imagine. I am very amazed about the level of talent around the world on Etsy. And when you buy something people are so appreciative and so very, very sweet. I think if the world was run by bloggers and Etsy [folks] it would be a much more beautiful place.
Coffee-filter flowers are another inspiring DIY project from Paul’s new book.
Karen: Any Mother’s Day words for the moms, grandmothers, and aunties on Etsy?
Paul: Well, I think if you have kids and you want them to grow up and be able to do things, it’s important to influence them at an early age. For one thing, teach them how to cook. They don’t need to have their own little chopping block like I did, but they can help in the kitchen. Have them taste different things and teach them to be a little adventurous. And every child is an individual. Mormor and Auntie Gunnvor sensed at an early age that I was a different kind of kid. I was a little more sensitive and intensely interested in certain things than some kids, so try to encourage your kids to follow their unique talents and make the most of them.
Karen: If you were making Mother’s Day brunch for Mormor and Auntie Gunnvor, what would you cook?
Paul: I would make coddled eggs with smoked salmon, Bloody Marys because they both liked little cocktails, and I would make The World’s Best Cake. It’s actually called “The World’s Best Cake” and it’s so easy: sponge cake with meringue and almonds on top, cut in half lengthwise and sandwiched with whipped cream in the middle. I would decorate the table with beautiful flowers made out of coffee filters that I dye with fabric dye, and I would make a trivet out of clothespins.
"The World’s Best Cake."
Karen: I wouldn’t want to close without saying hello to your French bulldog, Lestat.
Paul: He is sleeping next to me. On the other side is sleeping Hugo, my six-month old puppy. I realize I have to make another book. This one included Lestat and the next one will be with Hugo.
Be sure to check out Paul’s new book for an inspiring collection of DIYs and recipes, including the recipe for that amazing cake.
Photo credits: Alexandra Grablewski.
Karen Brown is an award-winning designer and creative director of the Center for Ecoliteracy. Her work has been included in the Smithsonian Institution and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and featured in The New York Times, Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, and on Today on NBC. She believes that the handmade movement is a fundamental force for transforming society and the economy.