Northern Michigan is famous for breathtaking scenery – sport fishing on Lake Huron, kayaking down rivers, hiking on nature trials, stepping back in
time on Mackinac Island, and eating hot dogs under
a 63-foot sculpture of a hot dog.
Yes. You read that right.
In Mackinaw City, Michigan a new wonder has been
added to the area’s attractions, courtesy of spray foam.
“I sculpted the 30-foot grizzly bear that stands down
the street from the Wienerlicious diner,” says artist
Ron Berman of Berman Studios, Inc., when asked
how his giant hot dog sculpture came to be. “The
owners, Frank N Stuff Inc., saw the bear and wanted
a hot dog on their diner’s roof,” he chuckles, adding,
“Sculptures that large can’t really be marketed. It’s
more ‘word of mouth’ advertising.”
“Word of mouth” definitely describes the giant hot
dog, which has become as popular as the hot dogs
it advertises. In fact, tourists have flocked in such
droves to see the huge wiener situated at the foot
of the Mackinaw Bridge that the Guinness Book of
World Records is now considering it for a “World’s
But what did it take to create this spray foam work
COOKING UP A SPRAY FOAM MASTERPIECE
An artist who has worked on large-scale sculpture
with companies including Disney, Berman developed
his own fabrication technique and opened his own
studio in Clearwater, Florida.
“I’m inspired by the Eiffel Tower
and the Statue of Liberty and the
idea of using engineering and a
steel structure to fabricate a shape,”
Berman describes the basis for all
his large sculpture designs. “It is art
and engineering. When you build
something that big [as a 63-foot
hot dog] it becomes a structure –
especially if it is going to be on a roof.
You have to think about weight, wind-
resistance, public safety, everything.”
Throughout his career, Berman has
struck up friendships with architects
and engineers and he consults with them about his
ideas. Then, he actually sculpts the piece using 3-D
computer programming, and the results become the
actual blueprint for the job.
“The software I use is just like working with virtual
clay. I essentially sculpt the pieces twice – once on
the computer and again in reality. But this saves time,
effort, and money in the long run. The program allows
me to show the welds, the bends, the structural pieces,
etc. This means that when I assemble the exoskeleton,
I don’t need to employ a crew of 25 artists like Disney.
I just need a welder and one or two apprentices to
follow the blueprint.”
Since he has already sculpted the piece in the
computer program, the two-man crew simply needs
to follow the step-by-step printout to assemble the
piece. Berman is on site, directing the construction
of his art, but says, “There’s no guesswork. It becomes
like building a house.”
For the hot dog, Berman used numbered and colored
quarter-inch pencil rods to create the exoskeleton.
“There are over 700 pieces of rod, some nine-feet long,
some bent, some straight, in this piece.” He continues,
“In this instance, a 13-year-old apprentice bent all of
the pieces.” A local welder assembled the armature.
“We initially started the project inside, in mid-January,” says Berman. “It was freezing cold. The
welder could only work sporadically, which was fine,
because once he was more regularly available, it was
warm and the sub-frame went up fast. Once we got
the 50-foot buns assembled, they took up the entire
shop and we had to move the piece outside to finish
Then it was time to spray.
“I’m a urethane man,” Berman states. “I spent years
working for Disney where everything is expanded
polystyrene (EPS), but when I got out on my own,
I met Tim Kearns, who is the grandfather of spray
foam. He taught me all about foam, all about the
machines, the chemical processes, and how to actually
spray the stuff. He showed me that you must consider
each and every pass and consistently follow a pattern.
Spraying sculptures is not like spraying a flat surface
and spray foam gives me the ability to do things that
other mediums do not. Because of Tim, I fell in love
was shaped by a