Everybody loves candy, but Robyn Blair Davidson’s passion might take the proverbial cake. After a decade-long career in fashion and brand management, the 32-year-old artist turned her love of all things sweet into a successful Instagram account and a full-time business: She makes in-demand artwork consisting of candy encased in sleek, plexiglass frames, the shape and size of which resemble traditional paintings.
She created her first piece of art without much thought. “I made it because I love candy! I have candy all over my apartment,” she tells us. “I went out to buy a specific wrapper that I love: Dubble Bubble. It’s blue, yellow, and pink. The packaging is an art in itself, and I wanted that art to hang on my wall.” To avoid the DIY effect, she designed plexiglass containers, which she fills with various types of sweets, depending on the piece, then prints them with a bold catchphrase, like “In case of emergency, break glass” and “Life is sweet.”
“You can see the depth and the texture [of the candy], but it doesn’t come out in a way that’s intrusive to the room or to the decor you have going on,” she explains on a recent afternoon at Saks Fifth Avenue, where her creations are temporarily installed.
Right before the holiday rush, Davidson spoke with us about how her fashion-branding past paved the way for her artistic present, her nostalgia-loving clients, and her favorite candy to work with.
What Should We Do: Did working in fashion branding help you establish yourself as an artist?
Robyn Blair Davidson: What I loved the most about what I was doing in fashion was building, launching, and managing—not necessarily the fashion part of it, but growing a business.
I think that the art I create makes a lot of people’s heads turn. When I first made it for me, I had no intention of selling it. But when my sister and a friend saw the pieces, they wanted them, and I made ones for them. Quickly, I made 10, and a friend offered her gallery at which to photograph them. I posted them on Instagram, and suddenly people wanted to buy them. Things have been on full speed since then.
WSWD: Your Instagram account is fairly new—you started it in March. How long did it take you to become a sensation?
Davidson: A friend of mine walked past a store in the Hamptons over the summer; her fiancé noticed my pieces in the store and said, “Those are cool,” to which she replied, “Those are by a friend of mine.” He works for OK magazine, and they wanted to write about me. They called me the “Instagram Artist of 2018”; it was a really monumental moment. I post every single day; I connect to people interested in my pieces through Instagram and I sell some pieces through Instagram…it’s my business.
You know how they added that timing feature, where it tells you how long you spend on social media? I am scared to look at it because I am on my Instagram like people are on their computer all day doing work, because that is where I do my work.
You know how they added that timing feature, where it tells you how long you spend on social media? I am scared to look at it.
WSWD: Do you think your art has a nostalgia-like element to it?
Davidson: I have had so many stories shared with me by private clients who have chosen certain candies based on a time in their lives when they used to eat it, or someone special who used to give it to them. I love that what I do brings out emotions and feelings for them.
WSWD: How many of your pieces are commissions?
Davidson: Seventy-five percent of the pieces I sell are ones I made that people have seen. The rest is working with someone on a custom phrase that has to do with their family or putting together a combination of different candies that they love. Those are pieces for which I spend time speaking to my clients about, working through options and ideas, and having what they have in mind come to life.
WSWD: Are you open to exploring artistic possibilities beyond candy?
Davidson: I think that candy is what I indulge in; candy is my happiness. But I would love to showcase what makes anybody happy, whether it’s makeup, nail polish, or whatever is their version of what candy is to me. I made someone a huge Babe Ruth piece with candy bars and baseball cards. For a mother’s birthday present, we used her grandmother’s old perfume bottles mixed with her mother’s favorite candy.
Candy is my happiness. But I would love to showcase what makes anybody happy, whether it’s makeup, nail polish, or whatever is their version of what candy is to me.
WSWD: Being a successful artist seems both attainable, thanks to platforms like Instagram, and elusive at the same time. Do you mentor aspiring artists?
Davidson: Yes! I just had a meeting with a young artist. We were introduced through email, and I am sure she expected I’d just jump on the phone. Instead, I invited her to come down and meet me. I showed her my pieces in person and spent about an hour talking and letting her ask me questions. She’s supertalented, and I am excited to see where she goes from here.
WSWD: Aside from Dubble Bubble, what candy do you absolutely love?
Davidson: Nerds! Some of them have rainbow colors, which is so fun and happy, and then there are all the other colors: red and blue, purple and pink, yellow and red. I made a piece with all the packaging combined, and it’s one of my favorite pieces right now.
WSWD: New York has a great tradition of candy stores. Have any favorites?
Davidson: I hold Economy Candy very dear. I became friends with one of the owners, and he’s made the experience of candy shopping superfun. He shares the same love for candy that I do. Sometimes I’ll tell him a color that I am working with, and he’s really helpful, suggesting other candies that I would not have thought of otherwise.