HAVERHILL — Miranda “Mindy” Mitrano is an artist who juggles mom life while operating her two specialty businesses out of her Haverhill home.
Her cookie business is booming in its second year with her approach to ephemeral, edible art, and she’s finding a renewed passion with reclaimed materials for her paper business.
She owns Mindy Paper Art Studio and Mindy Paper Cookies. Both reflect her personality and showcase her graphic design background.
Mitrano has always looked to express and keep her creative mind alive through art. She’s been able to create whimsical and resourceful art. Her passion for the euphoric bridges the gap between the different mediums.
Cookies and paper are her way to never let curiosity and wonderment fade. The themes of her businesses draw heavily on a favorite childhood movie, “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
“It’s my way of keeping my dragon alive and keep a creative spark as an adult because we all know adulting can be hard,” Mitrano says. “It can really bog you down. You have to remember to enjoy the little things and keep that little dragon alive.”
An appetite for art
A picture tells a thousand words, but for Mitrano, it’s a cookie telling the story — that’s how much detail you’ll find on one delectable treat.
In a dozen cookies, unicorns run wild for birthdays or a sunset is painted to announce a birth. These are a few of the original designs — and works of art — that Mindy Paper Cookies has baked up.
However, the breathtakingly, exquisite scenes and characters are only visually enjoyed for how long one’s stomach and nose can resist the mouthwatering scents.
“It’s art that’s ephemeral,” Mitrano says. “It’s not made to last. It’s made for the joy of making it.”
And the taste matches the artwork.
Lauren Merrill has been a customer of Mindy Paper Cookies since being surprised with a batch for her baby shower. Now she’s hooked.
“She gets better and better,” Merrill says. “And when you see the cookies and how they look, you assume that the taste isn’t there, but they are delicious.”
The cookies have also evoked childhood memories for Merrill when she consumes them, reminding her of having tea and cookies at her grandmother’s house.
Mitrano launched her successful cookie venture in September 2020, but the concept took form a year prior as a way for Mitrano to spend time with her son and keep her artistic drive alive.
At her then-part-time graphic design job, she towed along her infant, Henry. She was informed though that when he began to crawl, she couldn’t bring him. Mitrano started to weigh her options.
A lightbulb went off after she was gifted an online cookie-decorating class for her birthday.
“I took this class and thought, this is another way to do art,” Mitrano says. “Look at this artwork I just made on a cookie. Then I started thinking, can I do art on cookies and sell them?”
Mitrano gave herself a three-month window to prepare her kitchen and figure out if she could make this venture work.
“Within less than a month, I was inspected and I had my permits,” Mitrano says. “I go way too fast for myself sometimes. Then I put the brakes on. You can’t bake 500 cookies a week and still play with your son. We are taking it slow.”
Cooking up creativity
Over time, Mitrano has built a following for her cookies, which are all baked in her Massachusetts-certified residential kitchen in Haverhill.
Mindy Paper Cookies offers two signature flavors: browned-butter and dark chocolate. Custom flavors, including the popular strawberry lemonade made from dehydrated fruit, are available upon request.
The browned-butter cookie pays homage to her mother’s baking with hints of almond, while the dark chocolate flavor is made with Ghirardelli chocolate bits and espresso.
“It’s more decadent,” Mitrano says of her chocolate cookie. “You definitely need a cup of coffee with it.”
Each batch is baked with an extra cookie for her delight. Henry, now 3, gets to enjoy her baking, but Mitrano says that drying cookies are hidden from his sight.
The cookies are all miniature works of art with precise attention to detail. She hopes their fantastical feel evokes happiness for the brief time they are enjoyed.
Mitrano teaches her own cookie-decorating classes locally and virtually. She enjoys seeing the excitement of the participants when trying their hands at decorating. And if they fail, it’s easy to make the evidence disappear.
“People get so excited to see the cookie examples, and they say, ‘Oh, I’m never going to be able to do that,” Mitrano says. “Then at the end of the class, they’re proud of this piece of artwork they made. And if they aren’t proud, I tell them, just eat it. Who needs to know?”
Aspiring at-home artists can also order blank-canvas cookies and kits from Mitrano, including coloring-book-type cookies delivered frosted with royal icing and stenciled to fill in with edible watercolors.
Mitrano has been busy developing seasonal holiday designs and kits for families to enjoy together. One design this year is a “Santa & Friends” mini dozen cookie set.
Mitrano offers a gingerbread house kit small enough to sit on the edge of a coffee cup. The kits, which come with “walls,” icing and sprinkles, have been popular, with customers finding it easier to assemble than a typical-sized gingerbread house.
Last year, cookie reindeer “flights” were available and included nine flavors. Cookie Advent calendars are also a big hit. Past holiday flavors have included ginger and pumpkin.
While her paper business came first, Mitrano knows it sometimes takes a back seat to cookies. But time spent volunteering at the Museum of Printing has rejuvenated her love of all things paper.
Staff at the Haverhill museum has even helped her with letter-pressing that she incorporates in her work.
Most of Mitrano’s for-sale paper products include recycled and reclaimed materials. She calls her craft “paper manipulation” because she’s molding paper into unexpected forms.
This includes recycling everything from cards to toy box packaging to pretty gift containers — all for a later use.
Her stockpile is a plethora of endless possibilities.
“My studio is filled with stacks and stacks upon stacks of reclaimed paper,” Mitrano says. “It feels really good not to have to buy new materials to make something. That is important to me.”
Tiny books are her latest inventions. These leather-bound and sewn 2-inch books can hang on keychains or purses or be made into necklaces.
“You can still have that little smile in your pocket to help you get through the day,” Mitrano says.
Mitrano says that half the fun of the tiny books is personalizing them, which she sees during her pop-up classes and her kit offerings that come with a YouTube tutorial.
“You can sew it yourself and work through that process,” Mitrano says. “It’s much more fun to make something than it is to just buy it.”
For the holidays, Mitrano will have tiny-book paper ornaments along with watercolor greeting cards that demonstrate her fine arts training. She’s also dabbling in making her own paper.
Mitrano is also cooking up new concepts both for cookies and paper. She’s developing gluten-free and dairy-free treats. And a “Harry Potter”-inspired tiny book series is in the works — one for each Hogwarts house.