kunc-header-1440x90.png
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

'You Never Know Where Cheese Takes You': Dairy Sculptor Savors The Moo-ments

Cheese sculptor Sarah Kaufmann poses with her masterpiece, depicting "Great Dairy Moo-ments in Cheese History" on display at this year's Indiana State Fair. It weighs in at almost half a ton.
Courtesy of Allison Pareis
Cheese sculptor Sarah Kaufmann poses with her masterpiece, depicting "Great Dairy Moo-ments in Cheese History" on display at this year's Indiana State Fair. It weighs in at almost half a ton.

A 930-pound sculpture made its debut at the Indiana State Fair on Friday. It happens to be made out of cheese — yellow and white cheddar, to be exact.

The 7-foot-wide carving, called "Great Dairy Moo-ments in Cheese History," includes cheddar renditions of the first dairy cow to arrive in the United States in 1521, and the cow jumping over the moon.

Sarah Kaufmann, the sculptor, has been carving cheese for more than 20 years, doing it full-time for the past 15. The Wisconsin native, whose work is an annual attraction at the fair in Indianapolis, says that cheese carving just comes naturally.

As she told NPR in 2011, "The cheese found me."

Indiana's American Dairy Association commissioned this year's project. Kaufmann started drafting the blueprint for her masterpiece months ago, and it'll be on display until the fair closes on August 19.

Kaufmann and three assistants chiseled away for a week before unveiling their sculpture on Friday. It includes a cheddar carving of the first dairy cow to arrive in the United States.
/ Courtesy of Allison Pareis
/
Courtesy of Allison Pareis
Kaufmann and three assistants chiseled away for a week before unveiling their sculpture on Friday. It includes a cheddar carving of the first dairy cow to arrive in the United States.

Kaufmann, who previously worked as an art director in the dairy industry, gets her material directly from cheese makers in 640-pound blocks. Before the Indiana State Fair opened last weekend, Kaufmann and her three assistants used a forklift to pick up blocks of cheddar and put them on stage.

Then she put chisel to cheese.

She and her crew have been carving for the past week as passersby watch the carving take shape. Visitors drank milk and ate string cheese at the sculpture's debut on Friday.

Most of the time, her canvas of choice is cheddar, "because it's dense and consistent, it holds up really well, it's a great price, it tastes great and it comes in big sizes," she says. Kaufmann also carves Gruyere, aged Gouda and — one of her favorites — BellaVitano, a cow cheese from a Wisconsin-based company.

Kaufmann also has carved at multiple Super Bowls, and makes the rounds at other state fairs every year. She shows her work at supermarkets, trade shows, weddings and parties.

"You never know where cheese takes you," she says with a laugh. "I have many cheese adventures."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: August 9, 2018 at 10:00 PM MDT
The audio version of this story indicates that Sarah Kaufmann's cheese sculpture at the Indiana State Fair is 960 pounds. Kaufmann misspoke. In fact, the sculpture weighs in at 930 pounds.