UFV culinary instructor Sian Hurly (left), UFV electronics instructor Joel Feenstra (middle), and Coast Salish artist CarrieLynn Victor work on their award-winning gingerbread house. (Greg Laychak photo)

VIDEO: Sto:lo artist and UFV instructors create award-winning gingerbread house

Chilliwack team wins Vancouver competition with Coast Salish design, solid recipe and laser cuts

Sitting among a village of gum-dropped, mostly European-style gingerbread houses, an austere cookie structure stands out, more distinct than its flashy candy counterparts.

The tiny home is an artistic interpretation of a traditional Coast Salish dwelling, similar to abodes that were built for thousands of years along the banks of the Fraser River and its tributaries.

This modern depiction sits in the Vancouver Hyatt Regency, where it claimed first prize in the professional category of Gingerbread Lane, an annual Christmas competition between eager foodies.

An input of ideas, collaboration, and labour were instrumental to the winning gingerbread house’s creation.

But one notable ingredient—or tool, actually—stands out in the recipe.

Joel Feenstra, an assistant professor of electronics at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), explains that the acquisition of a laser engraver by the UFV Faculty of Applied and Technical Studies sparked the idea of a gingerbread house years ago.

“I’ve been experimenting on all sorts of materials from stone to wood to antlers to plastic to bone to leather—pretty much everything.” Feenstra said. “And one of the things I’ve always wanted to do was create a gingerbread house with this because we can cut phenomenally tight cuts.”

He was sure that with his hands-on background and his new piece of equipment any structure would be possible, and very sound.

Feenstra didn’t have to walk far to find his second team member, Sian Hurley, a professional cook and instructor in the university’s Culinary Arts program.

Hurley’s durable gingerbread recipe came to the project well-tested. In a previous job she made 250 gingerbread cookies every Christmas.

“It took me three years to figure this out where it tasted good and was still structurally sound,” Hurley says. “It’s neat to see it come together in a house.”

The secret to great gingerbread: her personal spice mix and a dough that’s been aged for at least a few weeks (six years of practice with the recipe doesn’t hurt).

With materials and tools ready to go, Feenstra and Hurley still needed a design.

“We wanted something that was going to be fully representative of Chilliwack,” Feenstra said. “We didn’t want to make a gingerbread house just for the sake of it. We wanted something deeper than that.”

Feenstra was pointed to well-known local artist Carrielynn Victor, who was excited about the concept, and the group started working on the plan.

“I’ve never worked with gingerbread or lasers before so the limitations were in what the laser could reproduce from a digitally drawn image,” Victor said of the process. “I had a lot of fun going back and forth with Joel figuring out what we needed to do, how to interpret the design so that it could be read by the laser.”

She holds up a precisely carved out gingerbread tree.

“And then of course seeing them in real life makes it so real, it’s so cool.”

The resulting design is Victor’s artistic interpretation of what she knows about the houses structurally with a touch of creative flair, adding windows on the sides.

“There are some elements of what you’d find in a modern design and also what you’d find in a more traditional design,” she said.

Victor adds that the carved house posts of a man in a hat holding a paddle are an important feature of her Coast Salish design.

Details weren’t only in the engravings though.

Mt. Cheam appears in the backdrop, modeled from a photo taken of the peak from Rosedale, east of Chilliwack.

The layout was meticulously thought out as well, with the house facing the water and a Google Earth image referenced for accuracy of the inlet’s shape and contour.

Feenstra created a 3D moulded wood base, with orange flickering LEDs to emulate a fire inside the gingerbread house.

“We really wanted to make sure that this project showed that this is a home that has existed here and that this is who Chilliwack is,” Feenstra said. “To reflect that in the mountains that surround it, in the shape of the inlet … where Carrielynn’s village was traditionally from. And that Carrielynn did all the design.”

In her write up that accompanied the final product at Gingerbread Lane, Victor echoes the sense of teamwork that drove the project and the purpose behind her design.

“Utilizing oral history, graphic design, laser machining, and culinary expertise, the gingerbread house stands proud, representing a relationship of recognition and respect among craftspeople from the Fraser Valley.”

The Carrielynn Victor and University of the Fraser Valley Faculty of Applied and Technical Studies gingerbread house collaborative project can be seen along with many other edible creations at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver, 655 Burrard Street. Gingerbread Lane is free and open until Dec. 28 with donations going to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Award-winning Coast Salish gingerbread house designed by Sto:lo artist CarrieLynn Victor, cooked by UFV culinary instructor Sian Hurly, and pieces cut with a laser by UFV electronics instructor Joel Feenstra. (Greg Laychak photo)

Just Posted

RCMP escort beaver across busy Chilliwack road

Motorists had to exercise patience as the slow-moving creature crossed several lanes of traffic

Rail traffic starts moving after 60-car derailment near Hope

The 60 cars carrying potash crashed along a rail bridge, clean up is ongoing

‘My hands go up to the people’: Chief Harris reflects on other Indigenous communities facing COVID

Seabird Island chief delivers updates on the pandemic, smoky conditions and community happenings

Fraser Valley foursome to hike 70km over mountains in memory of friend

Friends from Abbotsford and Langley to hike from Hope to Tulameen for Brook Morrison

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in Mission RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving RCMP holding cell, police say; family has doubts

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

Report raises questions about COVID outbreak that killed 25 seniors at Langley Lodge

CEO defends leaked document that’s igniting queries about BC’s most deadly COVID outbreak

March to protect old growth, stop industrial logging coming to B.C. Legislature

Organizers say they want to give frontline communities a bigger say in nearby logging

B.C. releases details of $1.5B economic recovery plan, $660M in business tax incentives

Economic plan includes support for employers, as well as training for workers

‘Not criminally responsible’ hearing slated for man convicted of Abbotsford school stabbing

Gabriel Klein was found guilty in March of killing Letisha Reimer, 13, in 2016

Man arrested in New Westminster pier park fire

Investigators don’t believe the public are at further risk and are not looking for any other suspects

UFV wrestler Jason Bains receives four-year suspension for using banned substance

Surrey native tests positive for oral steroid Turinabol, silver national medal removed for violation

Most Read