‘Tik Tok Nana’ — that’s what Anita Wright’s half a million TikTok followers call the 75-year-old cake and "acrylic piping" artist.
You read that right — acrylic piping is a thing. Just as you squeeze out buttercream through a pipe to create designs on a cake, you can squeeze out acrylic paint in shapes of peonies and roses on a canvas.
Wright, who is primarily a cake artist, has found only four or so "good" acrylic piping artists around the world on social media; and she, a resident of Queensborough, just happens to be one of them. It's a skill that has turned her into a local TikTok star.
Learning what acrylic piping is all about
She discovered "acrylic piping" for the first time in April 2022 — she recollects seeing an artist on social media piping what she had thought then was buttercream onto a canvas.
“I thought, that's weird. Why is she doing that? And then I realized that it was paint that she was putting on.”
Nevertheless, she was intrigued. She went to Opus Art Supplies and Michaels to get the right paint that would allow her to do the same — she couldn’t use just any acrylic paint because they were all too soft to hold the shape of a design.
“But they (the staff at the art stores) didn’t know what I was talking about,” she says.
So she went through the social media pages of those who practised the specific art, and looked for the art supply brands that they had tagged on their posts.
Finally, she found a company in Miami, Florida (Gaffrey) that sold acrylic paint that was the thickest out there.
“It’s still a little softer than my buttercream,” she notes.
A little over a palm-sized tube costs $20. But given Wright’s impressive list of TikTok followers, the company simply gives the paints to her for free in exchange for a shout-out.
Though few have heard of "acrylic piping," Wright has a huge fan following for her art.
Pointing at a canvas filled with blue and white acrylic flowers, she says, “I did this one on my (TikTok) live yesterday. And before I finished my live, it was sold,” she says.
So far, she has done 34 commissioned works — that’s in less than four months. All the sales came via TikTok.
Social Media live demos, a part of daily routine
At her apartment that overlooks the Fraser River, the kitchen counter is crowded with several trays of dried orange, pink and white acrylic flowers; and on the kitchen island rest paint tubes and canvases for her daily TikTok live demos.
“I go live between 1 and 3 p.m. pretty much every day,” says Wright, who starts off her days working out at the gym and walking her dog, before prepping for live TikTok.
Given the set routine, she has built a loyal group of followers who tune in to watch her make the acrylic art everyday. And Wright never fails to deliver: “My head is spinning with so many ideas,” she says.
Ironically, Wright was never into art until her retirement — she worked as a marketing manager at American Express for 12 years before starting an event management company of her own in Toronto.
During her "semi-retirement," she started taking cooking classes for people (teaching courses such as ‘how to make 30-minute meals’ or ‘how to bake pies’) at a community centre, and found that most were, in fact, more interested in learning how to decorate cakes.
So Wright did some courses (via online and through Wilton, a retail store for baking supplies) and was “shocked” how easily she was able to do it.
When she moved to Vancouver in 2017, she started off baking custom cakes for people — about "eight or nine cakes, and five or six dozen cupcakes a week."
On becoming a hit on TikTok
She would have simply stuck with it, if not for her grandson’s playful wish of seeing his nana’s cakes on TikTok.
Around Christmas time, 2020, “He said to me, oh, Nana, your cakes are so good. You should be on TikTok. Typical of older people, I went like, ‘Tick tock? No, I don't do dances.'”
They ended up uploading a few videos of her cakes on TikTok, “with no hashtags, nothing.”
Next summer, Wright baked a cake for her daughter’s birthday. At the party, she cut the tall cake in one swift motion, just the way she saw it being done on TikTok and Instagram. “It was a 15-second TikTok, I think,” she recounts.
“By morning, it had nine million views.”
Wright was “hooked.” “I was like, ‘OK, now what?’” she says.
Her followers continued to billow up with little effort from her side. “Once I got 1,000 followers, I started going live. And then they just started flocking to me and I had no idea why.”
It was not just the cake; some of her other videos managed to break the internet, too.
“One day, I peeled some mushrooms, and people lost their minds,” she says.
“One day, I told people not to wash their chicken. That went viral — not in a good way. I got so much hate. You have to be thick-skinned.”
And Wright is quite thick-skinned. Which is why the incident never stopped her from showing up the next day with a brand new live TikTok demo for her followers.
Over time, though, the sessions have been less about the art, and more about connecting with people.
Wright has people telling her that she helps them with their mental health — that “I'm their bright spot in the day” or that “I'm the reason that they get through the day.”
They tell her their woes through private Instagram messages — “that their dog died, or they've just discovered they've got cancer.”
What started off as just a hobby, has now become sort of a “responsibility,” she says. “I do feel a bit of a commitment.”
“I am generally happy,” says Wright.
But as ‘TikTok Nana’, she feels: “I have to be really happy.”
@tastyentertaining Help me learn this skill. What do I need to know? #painting @gaffreyartmaterial #piping ♬ As It Was - Harry Styles
Video produced by Harry Linley.