A macabre Martha Stewart might be a fitting description of her if Christine McConnell was more like Stewart. She is no doubt macabre. A more appropriate description might be the Edward Gorey section of Bloomingdales. McConnell makes cakes, evening gowns, lingerie and pretty pictures—but it’s so much more than that. Her first pictures posted on Instagram four years ago had hundreds of likes. The ones she posted last week are nearing 10,000. McConnell has a new book out—Deceptive Desserts: A Lady’s Guide to Baking Bad—and it’s Amazon’s No. 1 best seller in the cake baking category.
And while McConnell is an accomplished baker and skilled seamstress, those skills are not what makes her an Instagram sensation and a regular inhabitant of Reddit’s front page. McConnell has a distinct eye for—and fascination with—the kind of pop culture remixes that a generation bombarded with media naturally makes in its own head. A perfect example is her modeling for what she described as the Farrah Fawcett poster (1976) by way of Wednesday Addams arriving at Camp Chippewa (1993). Two things that themselves happened 17 years apart and more than 20 years before her pose.
brandchannel spoke with McConnell about what it’s like to be a brand, scaling something that is herself, picnics with Jason Voorhees and looking for that brand that “complements” what she does.
brandchannel: You sew and bake and photograph and are part of every “product.” So how does the Christine H McConnell brand grow and scale without losing its Christine H McConnellness?
Christine McConnell: To be honest, I’m not a very self-aggrandizing person in real life. I personally think of myself as more of an artist than a brand. I use myself in my photos for a variety of reasons, but it was never my intention to become the face of a brand.
I rarely do things that don’t appeal to me and that won’t change over time. I still feel like a fledgling artist and am just getting started. I’m really excited to see where all this goes and how good I’ll get before my day is done.
brandchannel: You’re on the front page of Reddit all the time. How important has social media been to building your brand?
McConnell: Reddit has taught me a lot in many ways. It’s definitely thickened my skin as far as criticism goes and I’ve learned that some people complain simply for the sake of complaining—it’s not always as personal as it seems. Also, you’re never going to be able to please everyone. Doing what you personally love and are excited about is the quickest road to success.
brandchannel: You were once called the “Queen of Creepy Cookies” and you made your reputation by channeling Martha Stewart by way of Morticia Adams. But with exploding popularity, have you found yourself leaning toward projects with more widespread appeal? I mean, Halloween Jason Voorhees-themed picnics aren’t for everyone.
McConnell: Absolutely not! Pleasing the majority doesn’t really factor into my decision-making. Everyone has a different line of “what’s too far” and mine seems to fall into a popular field of creepy but fun. I’m sure I’ll do something in the future that won’t go over well with everyone but life is short. You only get so many ideas and you should explore the things that excite you. At the end of the day, I do this for me and sharing it is just a super neat bonus.
brandchannel: You were recently commissioned to do gifts for the cast of movie Triple 9. Have you been approached by any consumer brands interested in partnerships? And would you be interested in that? What’s been the biggest unexpected part of your work?
McConnell: I have been approached and am not opposed to it. It just hasn’t happened yet with a brand that complements what I do.
Getting to meet and talk to people I’ve always admired has been a really amazing and unexpected bonus. Dita Von Teese really showed me that you can live in whatever era you find most beautiful. I’ve since met and spent some time with her and I really value that experience… BTW pictures do her no justice, she’s incredible.
brandchannel: Rachel Ray for the next generation. A fair assessment of Christine H McConnell’s future?
McConnell: My dream would be more along the lines of a female Vincent Price type. I’m having a lot of fun with this and not really counting my chickens before they hatch.