We are pulling back the curtains and taking you inside the refrigerated butter sculpture case with Jim and Marie to see how the sculpture is created. They also provide some DIY sculpting tips for those who want to try it at home and enter the NY State Fair Butter Sculpting contest!
I’m Abbey Copenhaver here at Ivy Lakes Dairy in Stanley New York.
we milk a thousand beautiful Holstein cows on our farm did you know that it takes only 48 hours to get the milk from my farm to your local store? today we take a behind the scenes look at how one of our most iconic state fair attractions is constructed – the 2020 butter sculpture.
You may not know it, but the butter used for the sculpture is scrap butter this butter is from packages that might have been damaged or other circumstances that make it unsuitable for sale or consumption so instead of throwing it away it will be used to turn into this year’s butter sculpture once the virtual New York State Fair is over the butter from the sculpture will be sent to a dairy farm in western New York where it will be combined with other food waste and converted into renewable energy to help power the farm. Let’s go to the dairy products building where the sculptors are currently working on the butter sculpture.
I’m Jim Victor I’m with Jim Victor Marie Pelton Food Sculpture. I do this with my wife Marie and I’m here at the New York State Fair where we’re doing our 18th butter sculpture. My name is Marie Pelton and I’m an artist, I’m a sculptor and I’ve been a sculptor for over 20 years. I’ve been into sculpture a long time I started I hate to say it, sounds like ancient history, it’s like 50 years ago.
Sculptors are always looking for jobs and a job came up to do a chocolate sculpture and I had never done a chocolate and it was a portrait a sculpture portrait of Mickey Rooney and Anne Miller for it was a for a broadway show, a publicity thing, I did the job and I took it and I got it and it got me into food and that went over into butter when in 1995, the Pennsylvania Farm Show had an opening there for a butter sculptor and there was an ad in the paper and I got it because I had done chocolate sculptures and portraits and chocolate so that was the beginning and it started to become a thing.
at that point after we do the drawing and the drawing is approved and then we have to start actually building this thing and how we do that is we make the armatures and the armatures are made out of steel and wood and uh marie is the one who usually welds these things together and we bend them and weld them, well I help with the bending and then after that they’re covered with steel mesh throw it in our truck and we drive north to Syracuse and set it up in the butter booth here and start to put butter on it.
when we first start a butter sculpture we always keep it rather warm in there people are kind of amazed when they come in because it’s just like it’s not cold at all in here – and it’s not! The softer it is the faster we can work with it we can put up a figure really quickly with really soft butter. It’s warm in the beginning and then it’s cold in the end. That’s how we work. 10 days that’s what it takes to get a butter sculpture together once we get here.
these are some simple butter sculpture tools i mean they’re sculpting tools you can use them for clay as well and they’re all made probably from applewood it’s a very close grain wood and the butter doesn’t stick to it so much this is my butter hot, just like guys who work with concrete or mortar and so it has a base here so they can set it down on a table or on some flat surface we’re happy that they’re continuing this tradition also we’re happy that we can honor the dairy farmers of new york and we’re able to use their product again in here and and have a great time doing it too.
This year because there’s no fair there’s no opportunity for people to come and see the butter sculpture, which is really unfortunate and all the other great icons of the fair we’ve come up with a number of contests just to keep people interested and the big one is our butter sculpture contest at home.
so what we’re saying to people is buy yourself up to five pounds of butter you can also use sculpting wire and a wooden platform if you like – and and make your best butter sculpture out of it! Go ahead be crazy it can be anything – doesn’t have to be dairy related – it can be anything that you think you can make a decent sculpture out of. and then take a picture of it submit that picture on our facebook page where you can find all the contest rules and regulations and you could be eligible for some really cool prizes.
Hi I’m Marie and I’m going to help you do a butter sculpture at home so I’m going to give you some tips on what you can use right from your own kitchen things that you know of very well like a knife, a fork, spoons, popsicle sticks, a comb – the comb you can use for a lot of texture if you’re doing like a stuffed animal a teddy bear or something like that this is actually a cheese cutter a wire cheese cutter and so this can be good for kind of slicing off of maybe a fresh block of butter this is also a wood cutting board so you want some kind of surface to use for your butter sculpture
so you want to get your butter out of the refrigerator and probably have it sitting on the counter maybe for a good hour or two hours to get it nice and soft because you know sometimes when you take it right out of the refrigerator, your butter can be very hard and it you know when you go to kind of sculpt it or carve into it it can crack and so that’s not going to really work very well for you but if it’s very cold you can also just take it in your hands and easily just kind of warm it up just with the warmth of your hand and if you also notice i’m wearing gloves and that’s very recommended because it’ll keep you nice and clean while you’re doing your butter sculpture.
so what I’m going to do today I think is something simple I’m inspired by life and so I think I’m going to do an apple today so what i’m going to do first is I want to create a base for my apple to sit on. so your butter knife has a little serrated edge on it and it also kind of creates this nice little texture.
and so what I’m going to do now is since my apple is really such a simple shape I’m just going to take some in my hands and i’m just going to form it sort of into a little ball now you can actually build it up from the base if you want. but i just kind of think that it might be a little easier doing it this way and so I’m going to create sort of a ball a basic ball shape whatever size you think you want to do so it’s kind of like a real round shape and then i’m going to poke a little hole right in the center okay on top and from there i just want to start to shape it and apples what you want to do is buy an apple and then use that apple as your model okay it makes life a lot easier i mean everyone’s seen an apple before for sure but if you could just see one you know and then do your sculpture based on that so there’s these little humps sometimes that i remember you know seeing on my apples and then they sort of taper down to a smaller size at the bottom now i’m probably at the point where i’m going to put it down because the more that i handle it the more mushy than it gets when your butter sculpture gets a little you know too soft then you’ll want to put it in the refrigerator for probably an hour or two so i might be able to add a stem or i might be able to add like a leaf to this.
So i’m going to add a little stem here and then I think I’m going to add a little leaf I’m just going to shape it really kind of right in my hands trying to make it well with sculpture, sculpture is full of illusions, and so you’re going to find you know even though leaves are very thin you’re not going to be able to make your particular leaf really really thin like it is in life, but what you can do is make it feel thin just by kind of working on those edges a little bit and making your edges a little bit thinner so I’m going to use maybe my kitchen knife like I would put this in the freezer or the refrigerator right now and make it harder and then so i can go back onto the surfaces and kind of you know just get rid of some of those things that are feel a little bit too loose and sharpen up. Well thank you for watching and I can’t wait to see how creative everyone is and good luck!
wow! There’s a lot that goes into making that butter sculpture come to life!
I’m anxious to see what it will be when it’s finished September 1st – don’t forget come back and join us tomorrow for a look at the cheeses featured in the dairy products building. we will even have a special guest joining us with some savory dairy recipes. If you like to cook then you won’t want to miss tomorrow’s episode see you then!