Last week we featured an interview by Peggy Tucker that addressed being on the “old” end of ageism. Today we are going to feature the young end with Jarid Altmark.
Jarid Altmark discovered a passion for baking and decorating cakes at the age of 12, sold his first cake at 13, entered his first competition at 14 (taking first place and best of the teen division) and now, at the tender age of only 16 is not only making cakes for clients but teaching his skills to others across the country. He does all this, of course, while being in high school where he is no slacker. He is taking four advanced placement classes and is the vice editor to the year book and somehow manages to keep up with an absurd amount of homework.
Anna: Who were your biggest supporters when you started this?
Jarid: My parents. They got me sets of tools with minimal knowledge of what they even do and were always willing to help. Once I started meeting people in the industry, one of my biggest supporters was Sharon Spradley. We would message each other almost every day and she claimed me as her sugar son. Now I have a lot of talented supporters and sugar heroes that I am so honored to know like Mitchie Curran and Mark Desgroseilliers, and so many others.
Anna: Did anyone discourage you or were there “haters”? How did you deal with them?
Jarid: I am sure there were, but honestly, I really try not to think about that stuff as I am here to make cool stuff and show people how to do it.
Anna: What is your biggest obstacle in pursuing something like this at such a young age?
Jarid: Balance is probably my biggest obstacle. I have to balance my workload from school, my social life outside of the cake world, participating in the cake world, my social life in the cake world, collaborations, competition cakes, classes, and throw in eating sometime in there, because who doesn’t love food? But please don’t take that as a complaint or feel guilty, because I thrive when I am most busy and love getting to do all those things, especially eating.
Anna: How do you juggle school, life as a teenager, and your sugar art pursuits?
Jarid: I am going to say that I don’t. I just make it work. School is always the first priority. I get home every day and do my homework. After that, depending on the night, I have time to work on other things, whether it be related to cake or not. Odds are that it is cake related. I’m not a late night person so that helps me focus on getting things done.
Anna: Do you ever get discouraged? How do you handle it?
Jarid: Sometimes I actually do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with that much going on at once. I never give up, but no matter how stressed I may be, things get done. My teacher this year told us his favorite hippie college professor’s famous phrase was “Panic. Breathe. Do.” Panic as loud or as long as you need, breathe, take as many breaths as you need to, then do. Don’t look back, just work and get it done.
Anna: How did you educate yourself in baking and sugar art?
Jarid: Craftsy! And way before that it was a ton of youtube videos. And in the end I learned a lot on my own. I also took a lot of classes with people to get different points of views on techniques and teaching classes.
Anna: Do you have a mentor?
Jarid: I don’t think I have a mentor per se, but a really good support group.I was afraid of trying...but I just embrace it. Click To Tweet
Anna: What were you afraid of and how did you overcome your fear?
Jarid: I was afraid of trying. I haven’t necessarily overcome it, I just embrace it. I now purposefully try new techniques to push myself as an artist. I used to do tons of research and then still freak out over simple tasks. I just don’t let myself freak out anymore.
Anna: What are your long term plans for yourself and going forth in this business.
Jarid: I definitely plan to continue teaching. I’m going to go to college and major in business and hopefully minor in art. The business degree will almost just be a safety blanket. But I also think I may one day want to open an all in one cake studio/ supply store. I hope to eventually teach internationally and start up my own line of (secret) products.
Anna: What have you learned so far about yourself, doing business, and creating beautiful things?
Jarid: I have learned that I am an artist. I knew that I was always artistic and creative , but with creating my own designs and experimenting with a variety of materials I have proved myself an artist. I found that I thrive off stress, and I tend to work faster at night. I learned that I have molten hot hands and that I am impatient. I’ve learned what kind of student I am and how I like to be taught and how to teach. Above all I have had to learn a lot of life lessons that normally you get over time and I have gotten them in two years.
Anna: What advice would you give to a young person who wants to get into a world occupied by adults?
Jarid: I would say don’t dream, do. Goals and dreams are nothing if you don’t try to accomplish them. Take initiative and risk being denied.
If you would like to see more of Jarid’s work or see where he will be teaching next, please follow him on Facebook.
Have you done anything in your youth that stretched the norm?