Lindsey Johnson’s artistic confectionary business, Lady in the Wild West, was born of one significant moment.
It was 2016, and the interior designer had just moved to Jackson from her hometown of San Clemente, California, with her home-builder husband, Jeremiah Johnson, and their three sons.
She was having a tough time transitioning from beach life to mountain life.
“It was a huge change,” Johnson said. “We came here to build and design homes. My husband ended up doing that.”
The opportunity to pick up where she left off as an interior designer didn’t present itself, so Johnson, 37, found herself at home with her three sons.
“We live in the boonies in north Jackson, and I was up there with my kids in this house without neighbors and without friends or family,” she said. “As a creative person I was starting to feel like a hamster off its wheel.”
Johnson was outside shoveling when she slipped on some ice.
“My kids were like, ‘Mommy, mommy!’ and I was like, ‘Just leave me here,’” she said. “It was very pathetic and sad.”
‘Be the buffalo’
Everything changed that same day when Johnson decided to load the kids up and take them to Teton County Library.
“There was a woman there who was wearing this buffalo hat,” Johnson said. “I walked over to her and told her I loved her hat.”
The woman said, “Well, you know the story of the buffalo, don’t you?”
The woman explained that, rather than running away, buffalo run into storms that come their way.
“She said they have a choice to charge the storm or run, and every time the buffalo chooses to charge toward the storm,” Johnson said. “She said, ‘When you’re struggling, be the buffalo.’”
The conversation gave Johnson the chills.
“I was looking at her like, ‘Wow, this means something,’” Johnson said. “I needed to put my creative spirit into something or else I wasn’t going to survive this. It’s my motto now, and it’s how I approach everything.”
Spark of culinary creativity
Johnson immediately started researching how to bake in high altitude and teaching herself to take photos of her kitchen creations.
She started Lady in the Wild West as a blog for cakes, cupcakes and cookie recipes, and it quickly grew into more.
“People started asking if I was selling cakes for birthdays and weddings,” she said. “It just kind of happened.”
Johnson applies her design and artistic skills to her baking, and the combination results in stunning, almost-too-pretty-to-eat creations.
“I established the basic skills, and now I feel like everything I bake is like edible art,” she said.
The designer, confectionery artist, writer, photographer, wife and mom is as busy as she sounds. The holidays are a demanding time, and, now that she’s taking on wedding cakes, so is summer.
“I bake every day,” Johnson said. “There are times I have to make 150 sugar cookies for an event, and royal icing takes a day to dry so I’ll have cookies all over the kitchen. The kids won’t be allowed to go in there, because the next day I ice all the cookies and the next day I’ll package them.”
Johnson’s business has outgrown her kitchen.
“Having one oven is so hard,” she said. “But I have three mixers, and one of them is huge. My dad got it for me for Christmas, and it was the best gift ever.”
Johnson is thinking about opening a commercial kitchen sometime soon, but the details are still being worked out, she said.
Drawing from inspiration all around
For now she’s enjoying creating unique desserts for her clients and her family.
“Just last week we had cake for dinner,” she said. “It happens all the time.”
Her children, 14-year-old Hatton, 5-year-old Killian and 3-year-old Soren, don’t complain.
“Our house always smells good,” Johnson said. “The kids are always excited for a yummy treat. My 3-year-old has an apron, and he loves to throw the butter in the mixer and crack the eggs. He’s learning all these life skills, and it is such a cute way to teach them and spend time with them.”
Johnson said she has “the ultimate sweet tooth” and enjoys combining her love for sugar with her love for art.
“I wish I had done this years ago,” she said. “It’s something that brings everybody joy.”
Johnson finds inspiration in her surroundings — the mountains, the elk in her backyard, the Western vibes of Jackson, illustrations in her kids’ books.
“There is something so magical and fun about it,” she said.
And of course, the buffalo that sometimes roam through her yard.
“When buffalo show up in our yard I honestly think they are there for me,” she said.
In the next few years, Johnson’s goal is to create a book.
“I want to do a baking book that is mountain-inspired that involves my family and our lifestyle,” she said. “I want to share techniques that I have learned and things that are inspired by where we live. And I hope it will inspire people.”
See more of Johnson’s work at LadyInTheWildWest.com and on Instagram @ladyinthewildwest.