Jim Victor and Marie Pelton

Jim Victor & Marie Pelton are a husband and wife team based out their home and studio in Conshohocken, PA outside of Philadelphia whose typical pieces of art can contain hundreds if not thousands of pounds of food material.  These large and life-sized sculptures are created for a variety of events like fairs, product promotions, or tv shows.  Typical food materials they use include butter, cheese, chocolate, fruits and vegetables as well as candies and even bacon and beef jerky. However, butter sculptures have been their bread and butter throughout the 25+ years they’ve been in business. For the most part, the butter sculptures are created for State and County Fairs in the US and Canada. Some of the state fairs they’ve worked at are the Great New York State Fair, the Pennsylvania Farm ShowEastern States Exposition (known as the Big E), Nebraska State Fair, California State Fair, and more as well as many County Fairs across the country. Many of which are listed below. 

The most popular themes for the butter sculptures are generally agriculturally based subjects such as cows, farm scenes, farm families and equipment but can also include portraits of people in the news as well as anything else topical such celebrations of anniversaries or an Olympic years. Butter sculptures require a climate controlled room typically referred to as a butter booth. Jim and Marie adjust the temperature in these rooms to suit the level of firmness needed for sculpting the butter material. The colder the room; the harder the butter and vice versa. Some Fairs have them do the sculpture secretly in preparation for a big reveal but there are other fairs and events that prefer the duo to work from start to finish,  sculpting in front of a live audience to completion over a period of about 10 days.

Additionally, their extensive food sculpture portfolio also includes other materials like cheese, chocolate, fruit/vegetable, candy, caramel, and even beef jerky and bacon commissioned for Public Relations Events and promotions for top  brands such as Subway, Chipotle, Kraft, Land O Lakes, Cabot Cheese, Organic Valley, Keller, Lactalis, Mars, Hershey’s, Werthers, Fini Candy, Farmland Bacon and more. The sheer variety of materials they’ve sculpted in over the years has kept Jim and Marie on their toes and made their experience of sculpting in food fresh and challenging. Every sculpture they do is unique and they’ve gotten good at adapting to the different materials that clients proposes. Generally, they’ll do some experiments first and see how best to use the materials. Some of Jim’s favorite projects were the NFL Draft-picks that were made into Subway Sandwich sculptures using Subway ingredients. Being able to use these materials in a way where people could recognize the ingredients and use the shapes, colors, and textures for portraiture takes terrific artistic dexterity and boldness. An experience underscored with fun and imagination.  One of Marie’s favorite projects was the Mt. Rushmore made from Werther’s caramel products. They incorporated 2 different types of soft caramel as well as Werther’s caramel popcorn and the hard candies. The overall conception for the project was to carve an understructure for Mt. Rushmore out of styrofoam in a good amount of detail and build up the sides of the mountain with the caramel popcorn then roll out and pull the soft caramel over the heads of the 4 Presidents and have it appear as if the caramel was oozing down the size of the mountain. Of course, executing this conception took quite a lot of persistence and time, culminating in a unique and endearing caramel rendition of an iconic monument. 

Marie and Jim are both graduates of the Sculpture Department of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Jim attended 1963-68; Marie: 1999-2003. Jim did his first food sculpture in the early 1980s when he was commissioned to do chocolate portraits of Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller as a promotion for their 1000th performance in the Broadway play, Sugar Babies. His first butter sculpture was done for the Pennsylvania Farm Show in 1995. Marie began working with Jim in 2000 and have since traveled together throughout the U.S and abroad, creating food sculptures for entertainment as well as education. Food sculptures are opportunities to teach the public not only about  food and where it comes from and who harvests it etc but also demonstrates and educates about the process of art, it’s roll in society, the messaging conveyed by art and with food sculpture specifically sustainability and recycling. 

One of the most frequent questions that we get is, “what do you do with the butter (or other food materials) after you’ve finished with the event/project?” The answer is that it gets recycled. Food like other organic waste products can be put into an anerobic digester and turned into electricity. There are many farms throughout Pennsylvania and across that nation that use this process to breakdown manure and can take the food products we use for sculpture to light up a whole town. We’ve also given butter to processors of kitchen oils (SUNY and University of Southern California) where they’ve turned it into energy. 1000 pounds of butter can be turned into 80 gallons of bio fuel. The butter material we get from the dairy plants is waste material to start with, meaning that is was contaminated in some way and cannot be eaten. It is comforting to know that the food material we use for sculpture will be made into energy.

Besides food sculpture they have done numerous commissions in bronze, steel, cast stone, and resin. The thinking and processes that we use for creating food sculpture is the same for any traditional material. You have to know what your materials can do and how to use it for the effect you want.

List of State Fairs:

Arizona State Fair, California State Fair, Delaware State Fair, Florida State Fair, Minnesota State Fair, New Mexico State Fair,North Dakota, North Carolina State Fair, South Carolina State Fair, West Virginia State Fair

List of County Fairs:

Southern California Fair, Perris, CA – The Big Fresno Fair, Fresno, Ca – Tulare County Fair, Tulare, CA – Miami Dade County Fair, FL – Great Jones County Fair, Monticello, IA – Barnstable County Fair, Falmouth, MA – Montgomery County, Gathersburg, MD – Ozark Empire Fair, Springfield, MO -Monmouth County Fair, NJ – Delaware County Fair, Walton, NY   Erie County Fair, Hamburg, NY – Saratoga County Fair, Ballston Spa, NY  – St Lawrence County Fair, Gouverneur, NY – Elizabethtown Fair, PA – Harford Fair, PA – Juniata County Fair, Port Royal, PA – York Fair, York, PA – Middletown Grange Fair, PA – Anderson County Fair, SC – Border Fest, Hidalgo, TX – Heart of Texas Fair and Rodeo, Waco, TX – Burlington Chocolate Fest, Burlington, WI – Sweetwater County Fair, Rock Springs, WY – Champlain Valley Exposition, Exxon Junction, VT –

Special Events:

Guinness World Record: Lactalis Butter Sculpture 2015, Guinness World Record: Mars Chocolate Nut Bar 2020, Terry Labonte Power Of Cheese Car: Cabot Cheese 2002, Kyle Bush Chocolate Racecar: Mars 2009, Festival Walk in Hong Kong 2007, “Sweetest Day the Jeep Way”: Chocolate Jeeps 2007, Academy of Natural Sciences: Chocolate Stegasaurus 2004, Butter Butterflies 2006, Little Italy, NYC: Sorrento 2003