In our harried, bedraggled, exhausting city, there's so much talk, all the time, about slowing down. That's why we decided to go to a party where we could relax for a few minutes and learn how to personalize our very own individual-sized cake.
This was at Make Meaning, an experiential crafting shop on the Upper East Side where kids and kids-at-heart alike can make one-of-a-kind glass jewelry, paint ceramics, customize soap, create candles and use a pre-baked cake as a blank canvas. (There is also a location on the Upper West Side, with many more to come across the country.)
Darcy Miller of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia helps our reporter personalize a cake at Make Meaning, an experiential crafting shop on the Upper East Side.
This particular party was hosted by Darcy Miller of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia MSO -2.12% . It should come as no surprise that Ms. Miller is an all-around crafting genius. And thankfully she was there because, even though this is an activity meant for kids, we are not sure how our cake would have turned out without her.
"OK," said Ms. Miller, realizing that we were probably going to need particular assistance. "What color do you want the cake to be?"
This is not such an easy question to answer, but we've always liked purple, and that sounded better than green, so that's what we said. A mini-cake was removed from a refrigerator and placed on a kind of mobile Lazy Susan. While it rotated, we sprayed it with edible, purple paint that looked maroon when wet. This kind of concerned us.
As we sprayed, Ms. Miller not only looked after her young daughter who was decorating her own cake, but perused the racks at Make Meaning for various accoutrements that could help make our cake the best ever.
"Do you like dinosaurs?" she asked. Who doesn't like edible dinosaurs? Those were added to the top of the pile, and, well, the impending cost of the cake. (Make Meaning is not the cheapest place in the world; you need to pay for a day or annual pass on top of all the merchandise you make. But how could you ever put a price on experiences experienced, lives lived, the making of meaning?)
Ms. Miller left us with some purple fondant to roll and mold with cookie-cutter shapes. We found this harder than it sounds, but Dylan Lauren and Robert Verdi came over to entertain us while we worked. Mr. Verdi admired the hue of the cake, which was, at this point, starting to look a darker shade of violet. Ms. Lauren snacked on fondant right out of the bag.
"I just love the taste of it," she said.
Dan Nissanoff is the founder of Make Meaning. He described himself as a "serial entrepreneur." He has worked in semiconductors and online shopping. Raising two young children in New York City led to brainstorming the concept of Make Meaning.
"As a parent, I wanted to spend as much time with my children and that time was limited," said Mr. Nissanoff. "I was willing to spend money to increase the quality of time I had to spend with my kids, in a world where the Internet is diminishing communication skills and kids are growing up much faster."
As he developed the business, so came some criteria. There had to be magic to the crafting, but it had to be safe. The projects had to be something you couldn't really accomplish at home, but they could not have a steep learning curve.
"And there had to be a wow factor," he said. "Like, 'Wow, I can't believe I did that.'" Make Meaning, he added, "is a plug-and-play concept. We can add an idea or we can take away a concept." His hope, as he opens more locations, is to deliver even more concepts, "but there's so much as is that you could come back for several years."
So far, Mr. Nissanoff's favorite activity is making soap. "The possibilities in soap-making are endless." Children, especially, he explained, don't usually want to use or consume the products they've made. "But you have to," Mr. Nissanoff said. "You have to accept that it's going to go away."
Our purple cake was nearing completion. It just needed a finishing touch or two: A few more dinosaurs glued onto its side and a fondant "M" placed front-and-center. When we got home at night, we spent a lot of time staring at the cake, debating if we should leave it as is and relish in the pride of having made it.
Instead, we cut a piece and tasted it.
Write to Marshall Heyman at firstname.lastname@example.org