A work of art in the form of a 600-pound butter cow
LEWISTON -- When the word butter comes to mind few people think of art, but for a Lewiston woman, 600 pounds of butter becomes a work of art every year.
Barbra Westover has sculpted a cow out of butter as part of the Utah State Fair festivities for the last two years. The project is sponsored by the Dairy Commission, and the purpose of the project is to promote the dairy industry.
"When you believe in a product you want to promote it," said Westover.
Westover got involved in the project when she was asked by the Dairy Commission to apprentice for the job in 1998. Westover said her husband, a dairy farmer, was always saying that the dairy industry didn't get enough advertising. The butter cow has proven to be worth its weight in gold when it comes to publicity. It has become a popular story in the media.
The cow starts out as a frame made of wood and metal, and then the butter is added. The sculpture is only one sided, and that takes 600 pounds of real butter.
The first year Westover participated in the project they made just the cow. Last year cats were added around the cow's feet.
"People love watching you do it," said Westover. The cow is created on sight starting two days before the fair begins, then they work for three days during the fair. It is sculpted and stored in a glass refrigeration unit. Westover said that people enjoy seeing the work in progress.
"It's really cold, you work until your hands can't move," said Westover.
The temperature of the butter is important. If it's to soft, it is hard to work with. The refrigerator is 38 degrees and the butter could be colder than that. Sometimes the butter has too much moisture in it that must be extracted before it will work in sculpting, said Westover.
The butter used to make the sculpture is donated, and stored for use the next year. The butter can be used for sculpting for 3-4 years.
"There is more work getting ready than actually doing it," said Westover.
This project is not a simple undertaking that involves merely a week at the fair. Westover researches extensively before the actual event. She studies the bones and muscles of the cow. She has even gone out into her own corral to measure a cow. She takes pictures and sketches different ideas. Paying attention to details from the curve of the nostrils to the veins on the udder makes the animal look more realistic.
Westover has worked with many different art mediums throughout her life including painting and sketching, but carving is what she enjoys most. When she started making the cow, sculpting was somewhat new to her, but she has found her own sculpting style.
Perhaps that is partly the reason the tools she uses are a bit unconventional. In her sculpting tools one can find anything from household items to a tool used for shoeing horses.
This year the fair will display a new butter sculpture. The sculpture will be of a young girl bottling feeding a calf. There will also be a dog in the scene. Westover's granddaughter will be the model for the sculpture. Westover has already begun her research for the new project, and is excited about doing something a little different.
The sculpture will come to life at the Utah State Fair this September.