Iris Candelaria talks cakes, art and being yourself amid social media madness

Photography by Danny Fulgencio.

Find Iris Candelaria at her family’s bakery six days a week.

When she’s not decorating cakes, managing Candelaria’s Bakery or parenting, she’s in the art world.

A self-taught artist, Candelaria throws herself into promoting other artists. She was executive director of Art, Love, Magic for three years, and she volunteers with the Latino Cultural Center.

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Recently she opened Candelaria & Co. on Clarendon Drive at Oak Cliff Boulevard. It’s a permanent location for Candelaria’s side-hustle — those paint parties where everyone has snacks and wine while instructors guide them through the steps.

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With Candelaria & Co., she wants to offer space to other artists to teach their techniques. The studio begins offering metal tooling, pottery and illustration classes this year.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs?

A lot of it is a bunch of trial and error. I take a lot of risks, and for the most part it works in my favor. When it isn’t perfect, and my visions don’t go as planned, I just take it as a learning opportunity. The key to entrepreneurism is really remaining true to yourself. Especially now, with social media, everyone is copying each other and comparing themselves to other people. I have two teenage daughters, and I always tell them, “Do things to stand out and be unique and be yourself.” Stay authentic and true to yourself rather than try to emulate something that is unattainable. 

Do you think risk-taking is part of your personality?
I had my daughter young, and I had to force myself to grow up. I also got married young, and that taught me a lot about myself. I got divorced at 25, and I didn’t have my own identity. I was wrapped up in this other personality, and it took awhile to find myself. I had to learn how to start all over. I had to start from scratch. 

Why is helping other artists so important to you?

Because that’s how I got my start. Art was something that helped me cope with finding who I was. Art, for me, was a release or coping mechanism. Finally, I got the courage one day to post a painting online. A photographer friend was like “that’s really great,” and he asked me to be in a show. I didn’t even know Dallas had an art scene because I was so busy working and raising my kids. And that’s when my life completely changed. It takes just a few people to believe in you and push you to reach your potential. A lot of artists really don’t believe in themselves, and it’s really sad.

How do you achieve work-life balance?

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I call my life “organized chaos.” My house is not always perfect. You have to do some sort of balancing because when you give so much to one end, the other end suffers. I learned that the hard way because I had some health problems. I was working alone in an art studio, and my back went out. I almost fell off a chair, and I thought, I’m going to fall and break my neck, and there’s no one here to help me. So I realized that you have to say “no” to certain things. You can’t do everything, and I was trying to do everything. 

What essential items do you never leave home without?

My phone, of course. Because I’m always working, everything I do is on my phone. I always have a battery pack and extra charger. I always have art supplies in my bag like Sharpies, all different colors, and they’ve come to the rescue many times. I have a writing pad to sketch ideas. Oh, and I always have candy and chocolate in my bag too. It’s like an instant present for my friends or people I’ve just met.

How do you relax?

Mondays are my day off, so I try to schedule absolutely nothing to the point where I don’t even want to talk. I don’t want to speak. I stay at home and watch Netflix and be a lazy bum on the couch and not do anything. That’s sometimes, like after a big event. I have to have quiet time. I’ll even drive without the music on to collect my thoughts. And making time for your friends. Everyone is busy, but you have to get away with your friends and not talk about work, not talk about business but just have dinner and kind of live in that moment.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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