A sweet job behind Murray’s candy art displayDec 13, 2021 02:17PM ● By Shaun Delliskave
Raelyn Webster and her 2020 candy creation of the Murray Theater. (Photo courtesy Murray City)
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
How sweet it is that when you mess up at work, you get to eat it, and it tastes delicious. Raelyn Webster, a master artist of all things candy, will again take her palette to Murray City Hall’s canvas. Residents can view her handiwork through the end of the year at the main display window by the city council chamber.
“This year, we are focusing on the Cahoon Mansion (the Murray Mansion), along with a couple of other historic houses. I’ve used John Cahoon’s family as my inspiration and hope to have the whole family in the display,” Webster said.
This marks the third year of Murray’s candy window display, in which she was the inaugural and only candy artist. Previously, Webster spent seven years designing candy window displays in South Jordan and Provo. In addition, she attended school at Brigham Young University as a design major.
“I used to go to see the ZCMI windows with my nieces and always dreamed of being able to make displays like theirs. After they stopped doing them, I heard from a friend that Provo City was trying to revive the tradition, and I got the chance to do my first candy display in 2001, and the city kept them up for the Olympics,” Webster said.
After moving to Riverton, Webster retired from the candy design business and started raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. A few years later, Murray City Cultural Arts Manager Lori Edmunds, then working for South Jordan, contacted her about starting up the tradition for the city. But after becoming a foster parent for refugee minors who came to the U.S. without parents, life got too complicated, so she retired again. But Edmunds, now at Murray City, came knocking again.
“Lori switched to working for Murray City, and she approached me again about doing candy displays for Murray. Somehow, she talked me into it again, and this is my third year making candy displays for Murray City. I have a dream of using candy to illustrate some children’s books, and I haven’t accomplished that yet, so I think that is why I am still doing candy displays,” Webster said.
Last year, Webster recreated the Murray Theater in a winter-like setting with the Murray Park sledding hill, complete with sledders. Towering in the background stood Murray’s iconic smokestacks.
With licorice, jelly beans, and lots of sugar, she crafts almost anything. For Provo, she did a mountain scene with skiers and a train that went under the mountain. She has constructed elaborate sets such as a New York cityscape with an ice skater on the top of a building and a giant blimp that Santa used instead of reindeer. For South Jordan, she paid homage to popular characters such as Snoopy on his doghouse, Frosty the Snowman, Yoda reading a Christmas story to Ewoks, and a working Ferris wheel with Christmas characters.
What was her favorite candy project? According to Webster, “I don’t know if I have a favorite, but my husband, Bill, who helps me with all the structures and mechanical things, loved the Ferris wheel the most. It was pretty amazing how it turned out. He worked very hard to make it work. It was donated to the Festival of Trees.”
With each project, Webster starts with something as inspiration and then looks at the display space she must use and develops ideas on using the area effectively. Then she figures out how to build the support structure and configure any electrical components. Last, she picks colors and researches candy that might work well for the different parts of the display. Then in the spring, she starts construction and works all summer to get it finished.
“The unknowns are probably the hardest,” Webster said. “Every display is different, and we have to figure out how to create a strong but light support structure because by the time it is all covered in candy, it gets really heavy. Scale is another challenge that we struggle with, and then I always want it to be perfect, and it never is. Projects are only perfect in my imagination. Once we start construction, imperfections always happen.”
While working with candy as a medium might be one’s, well… icing on the cake, for Webster, the most appetizing part of the job is watching others take in her work.
“My favorite part is when it is all done, and I get to see how kids enjoy seeing what I have created. I hope it will inspire them to make something out of candy too,” Webster said.