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Commission cancellation changes cheese carver's creations

Sept. 13, 2012 | 0 comments


When "The Cheese Lady" Sarah Kaufmann made her plans to come to Henning’s Cheese in rural Manitowoc County on Sept. 11, she did so expecting that she’d be fashioning a friendly 75-pound mouse from a large block of medium Cheddar cheese made at the plant.

That mouse, which Kaufmann had described in pre-event publicity as having a "Jungle Jim style with a pith helmet and proudly grasping the Wisconsin Cheese logo wheel," had been ordered for the opening of a major cheese retailer’s (Jungle Jim’s International Market) newest store at Eastgate, Ohio (near Cincinnati).

For that promotion, the carved mouse was supposed to stand guard over a mammoth Wisconsin Cheddar cheese.

Kaufmann noted that Jungle Jim’s stocks up to 1,600 different cheeses from around the world in its retail outlets and that the new store covers about six acres.

But shortly before Kaufmann traveled to Henning’s plant, retail store, and museum, she learned that the order for the large mouse had been cancelled.

But she kept the appointment here, which had been extensively promoted in the local area, choosing instead to spend a full working day with a 40-pound medium-aged Cheddar block supplied by Henning’s to make two smaller pieces.

One was a tribute to Henning’s and the other was a likeness of Mickey Mouse, which Kaufmann named Monroe because it would be heading to Green County’s Cheese Days in Monroe on Sept. 14-16 — an event that dates to 1914 and is held in every even-numbered year.

During two days at the festival in Monroe, Kaufmann will be carving cheese blocks into a cow, Bucky Badger, and a cheese maker.

Although she frequently makes her carving from a block of Cheddar cheese, she has also worked with Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, Provolone, and even Blue cheese blocks.

A 75-pound carving would have been a relatively small project for Kaufmann, given some of the large sculptures she has created during the past 16 years of her full-time occupation of cheese carving.

She received a Guinness World Record recognition for a 925-pound sculpture depicting scenes at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Other creations among the hundreds of commissions that Kaufmann has earned over the years have included a six-foot alligator, a 1,900-pound astronaut that stood at a human height of six feet, a 10-foot violin, and her recent 2,185-pound Year of the Dairy Cows creation.

During the United States Cheese Championship Contest, which was held at Lambeau Field in Green Bay in March of 2011, Kaufmann carved a likeness of the Lombardi Trophy in honor of the Super Bowl championship, which the Green Bay Packers had won only a few weeks earlier.

In addition to the sculptures that she makes at her studio in San Diego, Kaufmann also carves while staying at hotels during her travels with her husband and business manager Bill Parry.

For the most part, however, she appears in person at food and wine festivals, state fairs, trade shows, sporting events, civic celebrations, supermarkets, and special events.

During her day at Henning’s Cheese, Kaufmann chatted with visitors, including families with children, about the unique niche that she has carved as her avocation.

Before launching her own carving career, Kaufmann worked as a graphic designer and art director for the former American Dairy Association of Wisconsin and its successor, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

While holding those positions, Kaufmann occasionally hired other cheese sculptors to do what she now does.

After years of farming out that job, she decided to launch herself as a carver of logos, landmarks, famous figures, and legends, thriving at it ever since.

Kaufmann’s appearance at Henning’s was a good fit because the family-owned business specializes in making mammoth cheeses and other large blocks that are sought for major promotions and events and by carvers who make the kind of sculptures that she does.

For the coming months, Kaufmann, a native of Manitowoc, hopes that both the Wisconsin Badgers and the Packers will recover from the shaky start to their 2012 season because their success helps with cheese promotions.

She has had three commissions for cheese carving in conjunction with the Super Bowl.

Kaufmann can be reached by e-mail to sarahcheeselady@san.rr.com or by calling 513-722-6305. She has a Web site at www.sarahcheeselady.com, is on Facebook at Sarah Kaufmann "The Cheese Lady," and is on Twitter @SarahCheeseLady.


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