Each lollipop is shaped like a medallion and cheerfully colored. There’s usually a little white image, like a twirly mustache, an elaborate snowflake, or a sleepy owl. Flip it over, and a label details the ingredients: vegan cane sugar, rice syrup, and organic palm oil, among other healthy things.
“I’m really careful about what I eat,” says Brenda Swift, self-taught confectioner and founder of Popette of Pendulum. “I try to give every ingredient diligent research. I read that corn syrup was a GMO-derivative product, and I didn’t want any GMOs. I was vegan, and I found out regular table sugar wasn’t vegan.”
A RISD graduate, Brenda spent years working as a fashion designer. When she returned to Rhode Island, she started dabbling in sugary treats. “I always sketched, I always painted,” she recalls. “I thought how great it would be to doodle on some candy. I just played with it at home until I saw some improvement.”
The process wasn’t easy. Brenda developed her candy for two years before releasing it to the public. Today, Popette of Pendulum is based in Pawtucket, where Brenda operates her industrial kitchen and conscripts several part-time assistants. Her vegan and gluten-free collections appear at farmers markets and on her online store.
“Creatively, it feels the same as fashion,” Brenda muses. “I’m still working with color, with texture. It’s still seasonal. But in fashion, it’s easy to work alone. With food, we’re all so interconnected. We can have a sweater for forty years, but we have to replenish our food supply every day.”