(ROCKWALL, TX — September 27, 2018) The State Fair of Texas opens tomorrow to bring tons of fried food, family fun and an innovative butter sculpture that’s sure to spread some joyous wonder.
Artist Ken Robison’s buttery creation, titled “Some Assembly Required,” features the head of Big Tex as seen in the artwork reflecting the theme of the 2018 State Fair season, “Celebrating Texas Innovation.” Butter-sculpted gears surround the head, carved into shapes highlighting Texas innovations such as the integrated circuit, agricultural advances, space exploration, and food innovation.
“To make the butter look smooth, since this is supposed to resemble metal, was almost impossible,” Robison said. “It took a lot more effort than if I were to do a human’s face or a dog’s face, because that has some roughness to it and consequently shows up in the butter since it’s not as detailed. But this is highly detailed work.”
A Margarine Masterpiece
Robison used 1,000 pounds of Southwest Dairy Farmers butter for the butter sculpture, displayed in the Creative Arts Building. The process required constantly monitoring the temperature of the freezer in which he worked. If the temperature dropped below 36 degrees, the butter would crack; If it went above 50 degrees, the butter would melt.
“I could only do certain processes at certain temperatures. Like the smoothing process – it has to be warm enough for me to be able to smooth the butter out, and when it’s too cold I can’t do that. So throughout the process, I had to constantly climb on top of the freezer and adjust the temperature,” Robison said.
To sculpt butter, Robison used tools similar to those he uses to carve clay plus some tools he crafted by hand. He assembled a wire coping saw, which uses a wire in place of the coping saw’s blade, to cut out the gears in Big Tex’s cheeks. The tool allowed him to be more precise with his cuts to give a more three-dimensional appearance to the butter sculpture.
“Sculptors are always tool makers. I’ve taken up to three and half days to make a tool before, but it only took me 15 minutes to create what I wanted to use on the sculpture,” Robison said.
Man of Many Talents
Robison, a Jacksonville, Texas native who has lived in the Dallas area since 1985, has been churning out butter sculptures for the State Fair for the past three years. His first butter sculpture was a grand champion steer featured in the 2016 State Fair. He followed that up with a Mount Rushmore-inspired butter sculpture in 2017.
Robison loves providing a bit of fun flair to his butter sculptures. He sculpted a hidden Velociraptor running through the trees at the bottom of his “Mount Muchmore” sculpture last year. This year, Robison sculpted a margarine Mario in the box of gears sitting next to the Big Tex mechanical head.
“I try to put in a little quirk in the projects I do for the State Fair of Texas because it’s fun for the people who get to see it,” he said. “It’s just something I like to do for a little fun, because that’s what the State Fair is all about.”
Since 1992, Robison has been the State Fair’s go-to guy for completing difficult art projects around the fairgrounds. He handles carpenter work, paint jobs and sign art displayed around the Fair. This year, Robison helped craft picket fences and other aesthetic pieces for the redesigned Little Hands on the Farm area.
“I enjoy getting to listen to people comment on my work,” Robison said. “About six to eight times a year when the State Fair is open, I’ll show people around and tell them everything I know about the State Fair of Texas. It’s been a part of my life for a long time and I really enjoy it.”
What’s New at the State Fair
Along with the innovation-themed butter sculpture, the State Fair features several new attractions this season. The Hall of State will offer a first-hand look at some of Texas’s best inventions in its new exhibit. The new Home on the Range area, located inside the Coliseum, will feature the redesigned Little Hands on the Farm farm-to-market activity for kids, as well as the Children’s Barnyard petting zoo. Folks can learn all about the birthing process of livestock animals at the all-new Livestock Birthing Barn, located at Nimitz Avenue and MLK.
Foodies will want to check out the new Backyard Steak-Out and Pizzeria, located on Nimitz near the Livestock Barns. Cool down in the plentiful shade while enjoying a sizzling steak, brick oven pizza and more.
Thrill seekers will love the three new rides introduced to the Midway this year: The Orbiter, Haunted Castle, and Airmaxx. Visitors to the Midway will also have the chance to win some fun new prizes, including a Big Tex Basketball.
For a complete list of what’s offered at the 2018 State Fair, visit www.bigtex.com.
Story and photos by Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News.
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