INDIANAPOLIS -- There’s artisan cheese.
And then there’s cheese art.
So maybe think of Sarah Kaufmann as the Rodin of the cheese sculpting world. She's one of just a handful of professional cheese artists in the United States, and she’s spent the first week of the Indiana State Fair whittling away at more than 1,500 pounds of Indiana cheddar. Cheddar is her favorite medium.
“It’s dense, it’s consistent, it holds up well, it comes in big sizes and it tastes great,” Kaufmann said.
The finished product, which was unveiled Wednesday, features a dairy farm family and cows (in honor of this year’s fair theme, “The Year of the Farmer.”)
Kauffman trained as a commercial artist, and she got started in the medium while working for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
“'Sarah, Sarah, you can carve cheese for us,'” she recalled her employer saying. “And I said, ‘What?’ They sent me a block of cheese, they sent me the tools, I carved a sculpture, sent it off and the next weekend they said, ‘Sarah, Sarah, we want you to carve more cheese.'”
That was nearly 20 years ago. Now Kaufmann travels the country, doing commissions at places like the Indiana State Fair. She’s also in the Guinness Book of World Records for the 925-pound cheese roller coaster that she made at the Wisconsin State Fair in 2011.
Kaufmann’s cheese sculpting always attracts a crowd.
“The people are right there," she said. "They come and lean up on that wall and talk to me and ask me questions. The adults sit here for 20 or 30 minutes. I love it.”
The sculpture has a new venue this year and will be on display at the Purdue Agriculture/Horticulture building until the end of the fair, when it will be recycled into bio-fuel.