Let Them Eat Cake (But Only on the Weekend)

Artist and designer Corey Moranis on selfies, inspiration, Leonardo, and cake. Such cake.

Kellie Hogan

November 27, 2013 | Cake | December 2013

Kellie: Okay, let me test this recording device. Say something.

Corey:  [Valley Girl accent] Oh my god, I love cake, I love color…

In late November 2013 I called up Toronto-based artist and designer, Corey Moranis (aka “DJ Cosmosis”), to chat about artistic indulgence and her own work.

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When an inconnu contributor showed me these photos of her cakes, I knew it was imperative that we feature Corey in this issue.

Kellie:  So when did you start your cake project?

Corey: Well…[thinking], I did the first one [with Inez] in January. This most recent one was finished in May. We did the photo shoot in one day and then I did all the cakes in two days; my friend Shannon Echlin (who takes all the photos of my cakes) shot them. But the planning and everything took a really long time for me, because [that project] was very well thought out. I really wanted to match the cakes with the things Inez [her model] was going to be wearing. So, a lot of planning had to be done.

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Kellie: [goes to Corey’s Tumblr– “DJ Cosmosis”] Is that your official artist name?

It was a really big joke, and now it’s like, I don’t know [laughs]. It’s a long story of how it got to DJ Cosmosis from Corey.

That’s so funny, in terms of personal brand. Like one time I decided that “Dolphinkickbearbear” was the best name for a person, and now all of my handles are that. I made a logo.

Oh my god, you made a logo. It all started because I was excited for a Joanna Newsom concert so I changed my Facebook name to “Cosmia”- because that’s the name of one of her songs- and then I kept changing it to like Cosmic, or Cosmo, or anything, and then Facebook wouldn’t let me change it any more. And now I can only have my name as those options.

So the first cake thing I did was in January 2013. Last year I was doing themed cakes for art shows at the OCAD [Ontario Collage of Art and Design] student gallery.

Is it better to be able to eat what you wear, or wear what you eat?

I think wear what you eat. Actually I’m not sure if it’s more fun to eat things or more fun to wear things, but I feel like there’s so much inspiration in food for like, fashion; shapes and colors, all the different principles of design… there are so many different places for inspiration within food.

So do you like the art scene in Toronto?

Yeah I do. It’s really great. To be honest it’s kind of hard to answer that question right now, because, I’m not completely removed from it, but I’ve just been working really hard so I haven’t really been going out very much. But the music and art here are great, there’s something happening all the time. If you go somewhere like OCAD there’s tons of opportunity to meet lots of interesting people who tell you lots of things to go to.

Have you spent much time in other big art cities, like New York? I always think about how it seems like “the dream” for an artist to move to NYC. But why, you know?

Yeah! Yesterday I was at work and I got the email from you guys [and I saw that you’re based in New York], and my co-worker was like, don’t you just want to move to New York? and I’m just like, Why? She said, it seems like all the creative people go there, and that’s where everything’s happening. I don’t know. I think if I had a really amazing opportunity, I would go there. But I really like Toronto, and if you have a lot of time there’s so much to do. If you want to stay and stick to your habits it can get boring, but that’s true of anywhere. I like Canada; my family is [in Toronto]. I like New York, but it always seems like I go there at the worst time, where it’s like a heat wave and the whole city is like a big garbage can on fire. It’s on fire because there’s so much happening and it’s amazing, but it’s also on fire because it’s so hot.

Tell me about your project “GalGalz” that hasn’t launched yet.

Yeah, so GalGalz is a project that hasn’t launched yet.

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Both laugh.

The plan was for it to launch… but it hasn’t happened yet. It’s myself and a couple of my friends Vanessa Nicholas and Caroline Macfarlane. They are the programmers at the OCAD student gallery. I think everyone’s just so busy; we’re having trouble getting it together. What we want to do is have an empire, an Internet Empire sort of thing. Like, I’m joking when I say empire, but I’m not. Sort of like a blog, tons of music stuff, kind of like a center for cool things that inspire us. We might have a magazine, and it would be a couple of times a year, or something. It would be online, not sure if it would be in print, but it’s possible. We like the idea of having a theme, and being able to curate an issue.

Dude. Everything you’re saying is exactly what our goal has been with inconnu. Guess we’re not that original. [Laughs]. Our concept from the beginning was to conquer all domains of culture. So this is just step one, like what you’re saying about an Internet Empire.

For me it’s the beginning. My involvement was going to be mainly visual, managing what everything looks like, making interesting gifs and that kind of thing. It’s a completely shared thing. It just hasn’t happened yet, but it’s something we still want to do.

Do you think there’s room on the Internet for all of these creative projects, for everybody’s crazy dreams to come true? That’s something I constantly worry about.

Of course there’s room! The Internet’s so big. I think that if you’re doing interesting things then things can really happen. I’ve had a lot of weird little interactions through Instagram and Tumblr that have risen to great opportunities.

So true. Someone sends you a link and somehow it becomes a big collaboration.

I know you wanted to talk about the age of the selfie. I don’t take a lot of selfies, but I guess the photos of my art are a kind of selfie, because they represent myself. I was thinking more about the age of the selfies is the age of the iPhone and all of this technology that allows everyone the ability to upload and share while they are doing things. A lot of bad and good can come from this. Making connections to people, and globalization, and being able to know what everybody’s doing.

For me, I follow a lot of artists and magazines on Instagram and every day when I go on it, it’s going to inspire me or direct me in some way. Not copying, but educating yourself on what’s happening with art. Just like if you are reading the news every day. It’s the same kind of thing. It’s so informal, you can comment on someone’s Instagram, and maybe they will follow you, and then you’re kind of friends in a strange way.

It’s like we’re all collaborators.

Just from doing cakes, I follow a lot of bakeries, and they’ve started to follow me, and there’s this kind of sharing that’s not competitive. But at the same time, I totally discovered someone today who’s a baker in London, and I feel competitive or something… Not threatened, but I just can’t believe it. [Laughs].

It’s hard to keep your head down and make your art with all of these things going on around you. I tend to get really bogged down by all the amazing shit that’s out there.

I know. Some days are hard because you see a lot of things and it blocks your own creativity. So you need to just chill out. Take a little break from it. Or doing something that’s going to make you happy and inspire you. Come up with a process for creating ideas so that you always have something, like a mind map, or who knows? Definitely it can be really hard to see all this stuff all of the time. Sometimes I’m just like, fuck. Why do I even do this? That’s how I’ve felt today before you called me. I’m just stalking this baker in London and watching all her videos, and thinking, fuck. But at the same time, it’s not my job to be an artist right now. It’s not my job to make cakes right now, so I don’t have all the time in the world to practice my thing everyday.

I really think for every good thing you create, you do a lot of shitty things too. How many times do you have to do it before you learn how to do it well? That’s why it’s so sad when people get kicked off Project Runway for making a shitty outfit when they’re a really good designer, but they get tested on that one day and maybe that one day they’re doing something shitty.

Truly. It is not a good way to encourage the artistic process.

On Project Runway, which I’m watching a lot of right now, one day you’re in and the next day you’re out. That’s really sad and discouraging. I really think you just have to ignore the competition. If you make it your own and make it unique, it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, because yours is different. At the end of the day doing what you want and being authentic will make you the happiest.

all the cakes

Who or what inspires you to keep going? For me it’s friends and collaborators.

I’m very hard on myself, constantly questioning things, which is totally normal, I think. I’ll feel bad about something maybe, but I just need to go to bed and have a new day. The next day I will see something that inspires me again and I’ll forget about all the bullshit. I really don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just saying what is true for me. I’m not like some expert… [Laughs].

That’s not the point! It’s about the process of learning and figuring it out.

Speaking of process, in the age of the selfie….  The reason I am able to document my process is because of the iPhone. I think being able to show your process is an interesting way of showing who you are.

Could you imagine if Da Vinci had an iPhone while he was painting the Mona Lisa? [Laughs].

[Laughs], well maybe he would have painted it differently. For me, I’ve gotten into the habit of taking photos of everything, because I’m making art, and not all of it lasts forever. I’ll document the process, and then when I go home I’ll look at [the photos] and be able to see what parts I like, and what I fucking hate, and change it!

Maybe Mona Lisa wouldn’t have been such a small painting.

Do you like going to the big art museums?

Sure.

It’s old school. I’m just curious, in this age while people are being labeled “digital artists” and we have “net art” and gifs, is a gallery still an inspirational place to go, with all the quiet and stillness?

I think so. There are certain mediums that aren’t the same online as they are in person. At the same time though, I want to make certain collages that are online for the Internet. There’s art that I love that I would never print. I think Internet is it’s own thing maybe?

In terms of your cakes, more sculptural art, would you rather it be viewed in person?

Yeah. Online it’s just a picture. But you can make a different connection to it in real life. Seeing it from far away and coming up close to it. I like them both for different reasons.

IRL is more sensory.

Do you ever see something on the Internet that makes you want to cry? Like, it’s so beautiful it makes you want to cry?

Not very often.

But in real life when you see a painting or a sculpture, more senses are involved. Like, I’m not a crybaby, but…

It’s so great how many online magazines there are, how much globalization there is, but we still really need that IRL community in our own towns.

I love everything online but I still love paper. I collect paper, but I also love when you go online and there are crazy fireworks on a web page or something.

I wanted to talk more about the commercial world of art. I’m not an artist but I always wonder, like, is it constantly in the back of your mind to think, Maybe one day I can make a living off of this?

Well yeah. That’s what I’m thinking about all the time. And that’s what makes me question things all the time. I’m an artist but I’m also a designer.

So there’s more room in design for commercialization then?

 A lot of artists work for themselves, and that’s hard. Even though I’m in school for design, I do a lot of art, so I fear that a lot of the time. But I’ve just started, so I have so much to learn. Just because cakes are a fun thing that I do and people like cakes, great, but that doesn’t mean that’s what I’m going to end up doing. I may end up working for someone else, and I might end up making clothing, I have no idea. I’m just learning to use the knitting machine and I really love it. I feel like there are a lot of opportunities if you put yourself out there, as an artist or designer.

I find that people generally don’t want to spend money on art things. They don’t want to pay for expensive cakes unless it’s for a wedding. That’s really crazy.

It is crazy. Art is inherently a luxury.

Art is a luxury, but it’s also what makes my life inspiring and it’s what I love. Music, art, fashion, all of these things make life exciting. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing as long as these things exist. Even musicians or artists I know who are doing really well are still having trouble making ends meet. It’s kind of funny because everyone agrees that art is important in life, but people don’t want to spend money on it.

I wonder if people don’t want to waste their money on art because it’s a luxury. Like, that’s not important! I need food, water and shelter. It’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs level shit.

I want all of those things! [Both laugh]. But I also want to make art. I guess what I’m going to find out is, will art be the forefront of my life, or something I do after I come home from work. Either way is probably fine, you just have to be realistic. But you also have to shoot for the stars, if you work your fucking ass off, it will pay off.

What are we talking about again?

If you never sleep you can make it as an artist.

Bringing it back to Da Vinci, you gotta try polyphasic sleep. That’s how he got so much shit done.

I’m thinking… at that time, did they have time?

They had hourglasses?

When all the water has evaporated…

How would he wake himself up from his 20-minute naps? No alarms…

That’s a crazy question.

Maybe he invented a system of bells. That’s self-reliance.

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Photo credit: Maya Wilson

Kellie Hogan

Kellie Hogan is the only person who Kellie Hogan finds funny; don’t even try to make her laugh unless you’ve won a daytime Emmy. She gets most of her work done at 3 am, after spending the entire day sleeping, painting her nails, and writing to-do lists. She's a Peggy Olsen at work and a Peggy Olsen in the bedroom. She is the Editor-in-Chief of inconnu.

1 Comment

  1. The CANADIAN DESIGN RESOURCE - Designers to Watch 2015 - […] The Toronto-based artist and designer Corey Moranis (aka “DJ Cosmosis”) is not a food designer, but has been making…

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