Daily 49er

Food for the soul, and for the body

Cal State Long Beach professor is showcases her quirky, food themed artwork to the city of Manhattan Beach for a limited time.

Cal+State+Long+Beach+lecturer+Rachel+Shimpock+created+food-themed+jewelry+connected+to+her+childhood+memories.+
Cal State Long Beach lecturer Rachel Shimpock created food-themed jewelry connected to her childhood memories.

Cal State Long Beach lecturer Rachel Shimpock created food-themed jewelry connected to her childhood memories.

Kristi Alarcon | Daily 49er

Kristi Alarcon | Daily 49er

Cal State Long Beach lecturer Rachel Shimpock created food-themed jewelry connected to her childhood memories.

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If you would have asked 13-year-old Rachel Shimpock what profession she wanted when she grew up, chances are her answer wouldn’t have been that far off from what she does now. Since childhood, Shimpock knew her creativity was going to have a lasting impact on her life, and it has lasted through her career at Cal State Long Beach.

“I always drew when I was small,” Shimpock said. “My mom gave me a sketchbook and told me it was a nothing book and it was my job to make it a something book.”

Shimpock’s parents were both high school teachers who encouraged the creativity they saw in their daughter. As a curious child, Shimpock quickly discovered a new passion: cooking.

She began to mesh her knowledge of art into cooking. With her mom teaching her the ropes by her side, Shimpock quickly grew to love the hobby.

“My first memory of food was my mom letting me stand on a chair to reach the counter to punch down the bread dough,” Shimpock recalled. “Cooking was my second art and my mom taught me well. From a young age, I was cooking, and presentation was always important.”

Fast forward a few years, and Shimpock had learned how to make jewelry from various family members, even getting payed for her work on occasion. Shimpock started her own jewelry company named Rachel’s Jewelry. She used plumbers solder, an alloy for joining two metal surfaces by melting the alloy to then create modern fashion rings.

Shimpock’s first official job in jewelry was at the age of 13, when her mom botched the age description on her work permit so she could start working. She then learned basic jewelry making, which never left her.

Continuing that job until she was 21-years old, she decided to go back to school and study jewelry. She received a BFA in metals and jewelry from Cal State Long Beach and an MFA in metals and jewelry at San Diego State University.

A few years after graduating, Shimpock found herself homeless, living in her car for six months following a rough divorce. During this time the comfort she craved the most was her mother’s cooking. In particular, she desired a piece of toast made by her mom.

“I at least wanted to be able to see the toast,” Shimpock said. “Why couldn’t I make a permanent momento? I figured since I was a metalsmith I could figure out something. I thought…we bronze baby shoes, we have medals for sports and accomplishments why not food?”

Once the metal toast was created, it became a medal of honor of food and a comforting memory that would soon inspire her future artwork. Shortly after, Shimpock landed a job as a lecturer at CSULB teaching courses such as introduction to metals and jewelry casting and special studies in metalsmith and jewelry forming.

Most recently, Shimpock has landed her first art show, with her work currently displayed at the Manhattan Beach Art Center. Shimpock was jubilant when she was one of the fifty applicants selected for the Los Angeles center. The exhibition, “HOT STUFF” featured three women: Jill Baker, Jessica Calderwood and Shimpock.

“The artists represented different ways to take a look at jewelry and different objects that were drawn to them,” said Manhattan Beach recreation supervisor Ellen Stewarts. “They all worked with traditional materials and techniques that we don’t normally see everyday.”

Shimpock’s work in particular is eye-catching because all the pieces are replicates of food items, with a special connection to her childhood. All 14 pieces represented an array of healthy and unhealthy foods that she indulged in as a child creating a “fat childhood” theme, as Shimpock lovingly called it.

“My work is a memento of a moment of comfort and I don’t think anyone in my field is doing quite what I am doing,” Shimpock said.

Shimpock said nothing is more rewarding than when someone thinks her artwork is real food, making the endless hours of hard work and precision all worth her while.

Shimpock offered advice for students who may be struggling finding a career in the field of art.

“I’m a hustler, artists are hustlers,” Shimpock said. “You must keep the ball rolling even without rules, security or knowing what’s on the other end. It’s a risk…but once I followed my heart to the ping of hammer on anvil I never looked back.”

The exhibition “HOT STUFF” will be on display at the Manhattan Beach Art Center through May 17. Viewing is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

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