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The story of San Juan as told by its students

The Express

The story of San Juan as told by its students

The Express

The story of San Juan as told by its students

The Express

Cashing In on COVID Creativity

Courtesy of Sheela Zimmel
Sheela Zimels poses for a photo at The Hive in San Clemente, proud of her newest work of pottery; a sunflower plate that she made as a gift for her grandma. The plate took 4 hours to make, not including the week that the greenware will spend in the kiln being fired.

While most students may be off to sports practices, jobs, or starting on homework after school, talented sophomore, Sheela Zimel, can be found in the kitchen making elaborate desserts or in her home art studio crafting high-end pieces of pottery. Zimel is uber talented, but she is also extremely humble despite her amazing gifts. 

Zimel has always loved to make delectable desserts, but really got into baking during COVID, when she needed something to do to make use of the extra time spent at home.

“I made a cake for a next-door neighbor, because they had an indoor wedding, and it was just something to pass the time. Then they told their friends, and I started making cakes,” said Zimel.

Zimel started making more and more baked goods. As word spread from client to client about her incredible desserts, her orders grew too. While she mostly makes extravagant cakes with costs averaging around $2,000, Zimel also sells less expensive treats, such as cupcakes, cookies, and practically every other baked good possible.

 Earlier this year, Sheela Zimel made a 10 year anniversary cake for a local lumberjack and his wife. Zimel used real flowers and twigs from a local florist as decoration on the vanilla and chocolate marble cake. (Courtesy of Sheela Zimel)

“People spread my number and I get random texts every day,” adds Zimel.

Each week the young entrepreneur spends 3-4 hours fulfilling new orders requested by her clients and every couple of months she makes a wedding cake. Zimel has her clients give her design requests on their wedding cake, then she adds her own creativity when drafting up a cake design.

 “I ask them to create a Pinterest board, and then they share it with me and I put their ideas together, draw something out, and show it to them. They either veto it or say yes,” said Zimel.

Over the summer of 2020, Sheela Zimel made a vase out of a technique called “weathering.” Cement is mixed with earth clay, creating a weathered effect. “I had it flipped upside down and I threw the glazes on it, and it just splattered,” said Zimel. (Courtesy of Sheela Zimel)

While Zimel has made many wedding cakes, one in particular stands out: a social-distance wedding cake consisting of ninety-two small, square-sized cakes for each guest including the top tier for the bride and groom.

“I had to bake each one of those cakes individually. That was more like a $5,000 cake,” jokes Zimel.

In addition to her baking business, Zimel also creates stunning ceramics which are auctioned off around the state. Zimel took one pottery class and initially struggled to learn the art medium, so instead she ended up teaching herself the basics of ceramic making.

“I couldn’t figure it out. I bought all of the [ceramics equipment] because I liked it, I just didn’t know what to do. Over time it just became easier,” said Zimel.

After showing her neighbors some examples of her work, the ceramist began to see that customers were willing to pay high prices for her pottery.

“It started with our neighbors coming over for dinner one day, and liking the stuff and taking a few pieces home with them. They showed their friends, their friends came to the house and said, ‘Hey do you have any extra pieces, we will buy them from you,’” said Zimel.

Due to the high amount of interest, she was able to auction the pieces to residents nearby, as well as throughout the state of California.

“I ship [the pottery] to a certain location, they handle it, and then I get the money,” Zimel mentioned.

While she may continue to bake and create pottery throughout her life,  Zimel hopes to become a social worker and have a career as a therapist.


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About the Contributor
Lucy Garibaldi
Lucy Garibaldi, Staff Writer
Lucy Garibaldi is a sophomore at San Juan Hills High School and is excited to begin her first year on the newspaper staff. She is passionate about starting San Juan Hills High School’s first ever podcast! Outside of school, Lucy enjoys baking (and eating her creations!), shopping, spending time with friends and family, and being involved in her church community. Lucy hopes to attend the University of Tennessee and study elementary education after high school.
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