The Dancakes Team Reflects on the Past Year

It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new year!

2019 was one of the most fruitful years in Dancakes short history. So much has happened, and is happening that we thought we should get the Dancakes Team to mark some of our highlights from our last revolution around the sun while we barrel forward into the next one at 67,000 mph.

Hank Gustafson

 

Hank Gustafson - Co-Owner and Manager of Dancakes
Our Pancake Dad, AKA Manager, Hank Gustafson.
2019 was a big year for Dancakes. We added new artists, we had more viral content, we made permanent pancakes a reality, we finally got confirmation that our Pancake Art kit is complete and on its way and we worked more more high profile events then we ever had before. Not to say we don’t appreciate the low-key events, we currently do but there is something exciting about getting an email from a big company, celebrity or convention asking us to be a part of something special.
As the person behind the scenes, running the business, scheduling events and replying to customers, I’ve found myself less and less able to travel for events. Not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just the nature of it. It’s hard to juggle the 9 to 5 schedule I set for myself when I do go on the road, but in 2019 I was able to slip away with the artists and be a part of some cool events that I helped bring to life.
 
This was my personal favorite:
 
March of 2019. It was Gary Con, a DND themed convention set in the heart ofLake Geneva, WI. The literal town where Gary Gygax created the popular roleplaying game. This event was more like a vacation for everyone. It was 6 of us, myself, Dan, Dana, Ben, Lee and Jimmy, plus my friend Nick. The convention was taking place over the course of 4 days. We all drove from St. Louis up to Lake Geneva (about a 5 hr. drive) in Ben’s minivan. It felt like when I was kid and I would take short vacations on the road with my 7+ siblings. Honestly, it’s not always the best way to travel, but for this particular event we tried to save everyone some money as we have become close with the DND community and do our best to work with them whenever we can.
Lee Goldberg getting ready to roll a skill check for Pancake Art at Gary Con.
 
One uncomfortable van ride later we found ourselves at the AirBnB I had setup in a house right off of a frozen lake. It was gorgeous. The event itself was great, the guys made pancakes for several hours every morning and though modestly sized by convention standards our crowds grew daily, which is always a good feeling.
 
Outside of the actual event, we spent 4-5 days with each other and it truly felt like being with family (in a good way). We all went shopping for groceries together, played board games and ping pong together, shared personal stories and to be honest had small fights. There was love and friendship there. It’s so amazing to think about, because who would of thought that when Dan and I started this goofy business that we would create an ever growing pancake family? Full of funny, amazing and diverse personalities.
 
2019 showed me, for the first time, that all my hard behind the scenes work really helped make this crazy company/family come to be. I’m bummed that our e-shop manager D’va, Jenny and our newest artist Ryan couldn’t be there with us, but who knows? 2020 might present us with opportunity to all be at one event together for the first time and I can’t wait for that to happen.

 


Daniel Drake

 

Ursula Major Feeding Daniel Drake Pancake Art
Ursula Major stopped by our studio and took on Dan in a Pancake Art Challenge. Afterwards, as is customary, they fed each other their creations.

Is time weird? Time seems weird to me.

Maybe it’s because of my untethered childhood, moving around all the time, changing time zones, being a kid with lots of background anxiety. I was never any good remembering birthdays, I always slept in, I’ve always had this weird detached relationship with time. 2019 is over? Wow, when did it start? When does anything start. Let me think, where did we start this year?

Reflecting on my calendar, I was on Hells Kitchen in January! That was pretty cool. Bit odd, though, since they film so many years in advance, but it was a lovely feeling and raised our profiles a bit, so that was nice.

We managed to figure out a good way to preserve our favorite pancake pieces, if a bit clumsily. But we’ll soon have a proper workshop and a system in place to really hone our craft there. That’s exciting!

Prince Ea Pancake Art
Fellow St. Louisian and Motivational Speaker Prince Ea.

Our team has continued to grow, and all of the artists have improved considerably in the last year. I feel especially proud of my own progress on in-studio portraiture, which has had a really positive effect on my live pancakes as well. I had been in something of a creative rut and my team helped me climb out of it, so that was lovely. And we added a whole new artist to the team, in the form of Ryan! It’s such a privilege to be able to help give other creative people creative work.

We had another great opportunity to work with Wizards of the Coast to attend twitchcon, and make some more connections in that lovely world of professional nerdhood.

All of it built up to a beautiful trip to Hong Kong that I had the blessing to go on with Ben and Jimmy, which was such a great, exciting, exhausting way to round out the year. It felt quite appropriate, and I’ll cherish those memories for the rest of my life.

I feel like next year is going to be even better, brighter, and bigger for us. But you know what? No expectations. It’ll be what it wants to be, and I’ll be there for my friends no matter what. Happy New Year!!!

 


Ben Daniel

 

Let me be completely atypical with you and say, “Wow! What a year! Where do I start?”

OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way I can start.

Pancake art of a fried egg.
This is as much as I can show you.

I’ll admit that I’m in a bit of a pickle here. Why you ask? Well, because the highlight I’d like to pick is one I can’t actually talk about just yet. I didn’t sign an NDA or anything, but a gentlemen’s agreement was made and I shall honour it. The few beans I can spill are fairly obvious; It involved making pancake art, of my own design, for a large corporation. Yay Capitalism! 

To be completely frank though, it was truly one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had making art and I’m insanely glad that I got to be part of it. Vague enough for you? I’ll be sure to fill in the details when the time is right (soon).

Beyond that I’m going to be very basic and point to our recent trip to Hong Kong. Dan, Jimmy and I spent 6 days wandering around Hong Kong and only had to work for one of those. If there was ever a moment to say #blessed out loud (and I’m still not sure there is), that would be it. I’ll freely admit to being a little road weary at times, we end up travelling more in one year than most people do in a lifetime and it can be exhausting. But it’s important to try and step outside yourself and attempt to grasp the enormity of luck that has graced us, and boy let me tell you, it IS enormous.

long exposure of Hong Kong at night
Travel photography via Dancakes. Downtown Hong Kong at night. What a life.

 


Dana Baldus

 

Dana Baldus is Donkey Pancake Art
Pre-haircut Dana Baldus is both proud and concerned by her pancake art prowess.
Picking out a highlight from a whole YEAR of Dancakes chaos is tough. But if I had to pick one beautiful experience, it would probably be when Dan and I went to New York City to meet a gentleman named Eric, and to serve him exactly one hundred pancake portraits of various celebrities. 
 
The web show simply titled “Man Eating Food” is a series of very short videos that are dedicated to showing Eric silently shoving food into his mouth, chewing, and nodding. It’s a surrealist gem of an internet watch that has amassed a sort of cult following, mostly of very concerned individuals who wonder where Eric is, why he’s eating whatever they requested, and whether or not he’s being held against his will. 
 
Dan and I were hired to provide the food for season three of the show, in which Eric would only eat celebrities asked for by his dedicated viewers. Dan and I sat in front of two small griddles against a wall in a nearly-empty, white-walled studio, working down a list of the world’s most relevant one hundred stars. We sat there for over seven hours, creating portraits one-by-one, and then handing each one off to someone on Eric’s team. They would frequently silence the room, start filming, and cue Eric, who would slowly, carefully ponder the pancake before quietly munching on it. Dan and I would have to sit back from our griddles each time this happened, freezing as to not make a sound, waiting for the director to yell ‘cut’, so we could continue on with our god-given task.
 
This man eats Bradley Cooper like it’s a pancake.
Besides the hilariously surreal fact that we had been flown out and paid to silently feed a single man for a whole workday, I particularly enjoyed this event for the incredible portrait practice it provided me. This event marked the beginning of a period of significant pancake art improvement for me, mainly from trying new techniques due to the atypical set-up of the event. For example, I had decided to try a detail bottle with black batter for line work, totally on a whim, and I learned that it was an alarmingly good approach, even for speed pancakes. I made some of my best portraits that day– my favorite being a shockingly accurate Bradley Cooper– all of which were then fed to a single, schlubby, beautiful man, who in his wisdom, said nothing. 
 

Jenny Harrison

 

Jenny Harrison on Ryans Mystery Playdate
Jenny got to be on Nickelodeon this year. Dreams do come true people.
2019 was an incredible year for me.  My Dancakes travels took me all over the United States, and even across the Atlantic, to work in the Tower of London! I was tasked to pick a highlight from this year, but honestly, there are too many highlights to choose from. I have accomplished childhood dreams, traveled to fantastic places, and created bonds with my amazing colleagues. 
 
Since being on Nickelodeon was a childhood dream of mine, it was a huge highlight of the year to be a guest on Nick Jr, for  “Ryan’s Short Stack Playdate” Ryan’s Mystery Playdate It was so interesting for me to see behind the scenes, and meet many of the people involved in making the show. Everyone working there, including the Kaji family, was super friendly and made the experience an incredibly fun one. As I waited in the Mystery Guest Box, it hit me that one of my childhood dreams was coming true. When the doors opened, it’s apparent that I was beaming with joy. 
 
The real highlight is realizing that I’m making my dreams come true. I have a successful job doing art for a living and traveling to amazing places. On top of that, I have an amazing group of people to do it with, and great memories with all of them. Some of my favorites being, Feeding Alligators with Ben, driving through Washington State with Dan, Photo shoots with Dana in the Philadelphia Magic Gardens, working at the Television Academy with Lee, and  swimming in Miami Beach with Hank, Ryan, and Dana. My job is amazing.
 

Lee Goldberg

 

Lee Goldbergs Partner Ashley with New Baby
Lee Goldberg’s partner Ashley with their new baby, Miles.

2019 was a whirlwind year for me. It involved pregnancy and the birth of my amazing son, Miles Jesse Goldberg.  And I get to share this experience with the love of my life, Ashley.  It has had the effect of slowing my progression as full time pancake artist with Dancakes, but I still get to do Amazing things with our family.

I’ve gotten to preserve and give a monsterous pancake to my friends at Wizards of the Coast DnD.  I get to travel and also can name the members of this bizarre and wonderful company as my best friends. I can’t wait to do my part in growing our company.
Lee’s pancake that has been preserved for all time.

Ryan Lewin

 

Ryan Lewin Family Photograph
Brand new Dancakes Artist Ryan Lewin on a family vacation.

2019 has been a crazy year and one that brought me into the pancake world.  My pancake journey began earlier this year around April, when I was randomly watching some Dancakes time-lapse videos one night with my wife. I thought they were the coolest things ever and said to myself, “Hey, I want to try that”.

I’ve always loved to draw and used to do a lot of commissions, gifts, just for fun, etc. But finding the time to sit down to draw took a backseat after having kids (i have a 5 yr old daughter and 3 yr old son) all while having a full-time job in Finance. Pancake art seemed like a fun way to tap back into my creative side while also having fun with it with my kids (yeah, I know, hard right turn from Finance to pancake art).

My first pancake art attempt was Ariel, the Little Mermaid for my daughter one morning in April.  Seemed like an easy task at the time…I’d been able to draw Ariel on paper before…. But nope…drawing with pancake batter is a whole other story. The pancake ended up horrible! Colors were so sloppy, proportions way off, and I learned a valuable lesson in how everything is reversed in pancake art…oh, and I burnt it. But, we had a lot of fun making it together.  Plus, getting my kids to eat anything is a struggle in itself (pickiest eaters), and seeing that they still ate this weird looking Ariel, I wanted to keep trying.

Ariel Before After Pancake Art
We always try and tell people we were terrible when we started, and Ryan was no different. You know what they say; Practice makes pancakes!

That night I watched some more Dancakes pancake art videos and remember thinking, wow…I how in the world do they do this, I could never get to that level. So, I kept trying, practicing, having fun with it with my kids, went through trial and error on colors, bottles, all of it, and eventually started getting marginally better, where my pancakes at least now sort of resemble what I am trying to make.  I started making my own time-lapse videos of my pancakes and posting it to my Instagram page and got a very positive response with people requesting more. Over time, I started building a following and getting requests for pancake art commissions and live events ranging from pancake art workshops and private parties. The Dallas Mavericks even reached out to me to make pancake art for an event which was so fun! This little hobby has turned into a nice little side gig, and one that is so fun and that I love to do!

Then, in September, Dan reached out to me asking if I would be interested in joining the Dancakes team as a Dancakes artist after seeing my work on my Instagram page! I’ve been having a blast working with these amazing people and getting the opportunity to work some awesome events with them, especially the NBC Premier League Fan Fest in Miami a few weeks ago which was a blast!  They were so welcoming when I first met them in person in STL and are just great, genuine people to be around.  I still work full-time in Finance in Dallas and am juggling life at home with a wife, 2 kids and 2 dogs. But, being a Pancake Artist on top of it is so much fun, brings my creative side back out, and continues to challenge me to improve and get better each day.  I’m really looking forward to what 2020 brings!

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