Twelve hours spent carving a 3-pound cylinder of chocolate into a life-like deciduous tree have temporarily ruined Baldwin sculptor Karen Bayer's appetite for chocolate.
Not so for Baldwin Community Arts Council president Laura Morford, who, despite sculpting two chocolate baskets full of chocolate-dipped strawberries and nuts for Baldwin's annual Chocolate Auction, scoffs at the idea of staying away from her favorite sweet.
"Are you kidding? I love chocolate," Morford says. "I don't know that I've ever gotten sick of chocolate. It's kind of like Mexican food. I can't think of anything better than Mexican food, margaritas and chocolate."
She's hoping others share her sentiments about the dreamy confectionery and will bid on creations by Baldwin area bakers at the auction, celebrating its 16th year. Chocolate cakes, candies and other inventions will be auctioned alongside artwork and donated services -- all to raise money for arts council programs, such as music, art and drama scholarships for Baldwin youth; art exhibitions; community art workshops; and gallery walks.
This year's auction will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 8 at Baldwin High School, 415 Eisenhower St. Viewing and silent auction bidding begin at 1 p.m. Admission is $1.
Based on attendance in past years, Morford expects 200 to 300 people to haggle for auction items, both edible and otherwise. The arts council is aiming to increase last year's earnings of just more than $4,000 to $4,500 this year.
"With the art programs being cut from the schools, we are trying desperately to maintain some form of education, at least at the elementary level," Morford says. "The junior high and high school will present us with a wish list. We try to provide things they ask for."
A painting by Baldwin artist Rick Daugherty brought the largest sum at last year's auction: $375. A chocolate chess set came in a close second.
Chocolate Auction creations often blur the line between art and food. Bayer explains that chocolate sculpting presents some artistic challenges of its own.
"It melts when you touch it," she says.
Inventively, she worked around the obstacles, melting 3 pounds of baker's chocolate into a coffee can, letting it set and then using clay-carving tools to form a tree trunk and branches. The tree's sweet leaves are made of sugar dough, and the entire creation is sprinkled with edible gold dust -- right down to the tiny squirrel scampering up the trunk.
"I've done sculpture before, but I'd never done chocolate sculpture," says Bayer, who generally adores chocolate. "After you have a whole coffee can full of chocolate, it's kind of easy to stay away from it for a while."