COVINGTON - Cyndi Foshee's homemade candies, cakes and pies sure look good enough to eat. So good, in fact, that people don't always listen when she tells them the treats aren't edible.
"A lady came in yesterday and popped a gummy bear in her mouth, and I said, 'No, no!' I had just gotten through telling her they weren't real," said Foshee, sitting near her work station at A Bouquet By Betty, a local flower shop owned by her family.
The gummy bears look real and certainly feel authentic, but they're actually made from dyed glue and meant only for decoration on Foshee's creations.
She can make just about anything, it seems, and make it look so yummy you can almost smell the fresh-baked, sugary sweetness.
She makes cupcakes, lollipops, lifesavers and gum drops. There's pecan pie, chocolate and red velvet cakes, and even a glazed ham on her display table.
They're made of resin, silicone, glue, spray foam, Styrofoam, all manner of paint and even sawdust shavings - desserts that look like heaven and won't make you hate your hips.
Foshee's unusual artistry began developing four years ago, when she received an antique stove from a friend to use as a window display at A Bouquet by Betty.
She wanted artificial food to display with it, but some of the items were so costly, Foshee decided to try to make them herself.
She taught herself through trial and error, experimenting with different paints, molds and dyes. Her first creation was a strawberry chocolate cream pie made out of foam, glue and plastic.
She soon graduated to cupcakes and whole cakes. At first, the faux food was used for props, but soon, customers started asking if they were for sale, and a business was born.
Last Christmas, Foshee made her first gingerbread house. She's since made nine more, including a replica of the Newton County Historic Courthouse currently on display at the Covington-Newton County Welcome Center.
Word having spread about her talent, Foshee now takes custom orders and has created replicas of two local homes for residents. The benefit of inedible treats, aside from the lack of caloric content, is that they can be stored and displayed year after year, she said.
The benefit for Foshee is work she enjoys.
"It's my sanity," she said, describing herself as a "mad chemist" at work in her small lab.
"I get in my own little world sometimes ... it keeps my brain going and working," she said.
That's all the more important to Foshee because of concentration problems she sometimes experiences due to a brain injury that occurred more than 20 years ago while she was serving in the Navy. Foshee's skull was crushed when a piece of equipment she was repairing fell on top of her, resulting in brain damage and multiple broken bones in her upper body.
Foshee enjoys her "quiet work" in her kitchen, cooking up gooey concoctions that will somehow become works of art.
For the gingerbread houses, she takes real graham crackers and makes a mold using silicone spray foam. Once the mold is complete, she air brushes the squares to get the brown color and forms the exterior of the house.
Most of the "frosting" is really dyed glue. The same is true of the decorations, like gum drops and gummy bears and even chocolate bars. Foshee makes the molds using real candy, then fills them with melted, dyed glue, which cools and hardens to form the candy shapes.
It takes between three and six weeks to make the larger houses. Her prices range from $150 to $1,000 and orders can be made through A Bouquet By Betty.
Foshee still calls her work a hobby, rather than a profession, because, so far, she's yet to turn a profit. But, it's more about developing her own passion and giving her customers a lasting holiday treasure.
"I hope they have something that they can pull out and enjoy at the holidays, if they choose to do it at the holidays, or just a replica of something they love that they can pass down," she said.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.