For more than 2 decades, I've been an ice sculptor, mostly for events in and around New Orleans. This means that if it can be made of ice and it's fun, I've probably made it for some crazy all-out party. I am a gold medal ice carver and my teammates and I also have a Guinness World Record for the world's longest ice bar. In 2004, I was ohh, so close to winning a world championship in Alaska. Alas, we came in second...maybe next time. But want to know something about ice sculptures? Ask me!
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Actually Citizen Kane is my Citizen Kane; there are 3 ice sculptures in that movie. But Groundhog Day definitely is significant to ice carvers because of the scene where Bill Murray's character is carving an angel sculpture. That sculpture was actually done by Randy Rupert. (Believe it or not, Bill Murray didn't carve that!) I've competed against Randy in a competition in Youngstown, Ohio. Can't remember how it turned out, but Randy is a very talented ice sculptor.
And by the way, if you're a fan of Jim Carrey or Sean Penn, you might have seen one of my ice sculptures in a couple of movies that were filmed in New Orleans.
The organizers of Ice Art World Championships in Alaska have put together a set of judging criteria that judges at the event use to rate the sculptures. The criteria include things like degree of difficulty, the finished appearance of the sculpture, proportions, use of ice, creativity, expression of emotion and overall impression. The sculpture that I describe in another answer, the bird cage, was off the charts in degree of difficulty and it scored well in all the other categories as well.
Small breaks happen all the time, maybe because I was clumsy, or perhaps I was too aggressive with a tool; there are all kinds of reasons. To fix it, you cut away the screwed up part and weld a new piece on. You try not to do this too much though because it can sometimes be difficult and the welds are visible. But I almost never toss a sculpture and start over again.
That's a tough question. I'd probably call it a tie between several sculptures. But I'll list them with the reasons:
- Cool Brees: a 9 foot tall ice sculpture of Drew Brees that I carved in Alaska a month after the Saints won the Super Bowl; used it to raise a couple thousand dollars for charity: at www.coolbreesproject.com
- Beautiful Chemistry: an abstract DNA sculpture that we made at the World Championships and that earned 6th place: ”beautiful chemistry” ice sculpture in Alaska
- Ancestral Spirit: a 24 foot tall sculpture where I was a teammate of multiple world champion Junichi Nakamura; got 2nd place at the championships and totally wore me out: ”Ancestral Spirit” ice sculpture in Alaska
- my ice dragon: worked on it for quite a while and had it in my freezer until Katrina flooded New Orleans: the ice dragon
And there are some others, such as our world record ice bar and luge and some sentimental favorites.
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I worked at a hotel during summers off from college and used to go watch the chef carve. I don't know that I ever asked if I could try, but one day he handed me the chainsaw and told me what to do. My first sculpture was awful, but the hotel used it for their Father's Day brunch.
For a sculpture that's at something close to room temperature, we usually say that a sculpture will last 4-6 hours. That is to say, it's holding some detail and looks basically like it's supposed to. But it really varies depending on how delicate the sculpture is. And if a sculpture is outside in hot weather or the ac goes out, all bets are off and a sculpture might last only a couple of hours or less. As to how long it is before it's a puddle of water, you're usually talking about a LOT of ice, so there might even be some ice left the next day; and longer than that if it's cold or if it was a really large piece.
This is a tricky question and I'm going to avoid answering part of it, because in at least one case, I believe I have a good idea and this is not exactly a private conversation! But it certainly made me think about many of the sculptures that I've contemplated for various situations and I'll willingly sacrifice a couple of my ideas on the altar of a halfway decent answer. WARNING: If you aren't particularly interested in the minutiae of ice sculpture design concepts you might find this answer overly long and tedious. Most of the other answers in my thread aren't as long winded... Most of the crazy sculpture designs that I've considered are centered on competitions. Crazy, genuinely dangerous sculptures aren't a good idea in most instances because there are liability issues to consider. But at competitions, everybody that will be touching the sculptures sign waivers and are usually experienced. Spectators aren't permitted to get close; otherwise bad things can happen. (Exhibit A: our "beautiful chemistry" sculpture that I mention in a couple of other answers; somebody apparently touched it at a bad time or in a bad way while taking a photo and it came down.) And in competition a high risk tolerance can be rewarding, as long as you pull it off. So there are two concepts that I've kept coming back to over the years. Each time the idea changes a little. Hopefully, eventually, I'll get sick of playing with the ideas and give them a try. But I haven't so far. Now as ice sculptures go, the basic ideas are far from creative or original. I've seen both of my proposed subjects carved before. But I'd like to give them my own spin, and my versions are somewhat more daring than what I've seen so far. Well, at least they are in my head… Idea one: Pegasus This winged horse of Greek mythology has been carved many times in competition; I've even tried it before. But I've never seen it carved where it's supported by little more than its wings. Done right, this piece could be very daring and exciting. Done wrong and it could be a visual mess, even if it doesn't collapse. Generally, one of the best parts of Pegasus in ice are the wings, extended outward and upward, with delicately detailed feathers. But by supporting it with the wings you're taking maybe the best parts of the sculpture and putting them near the base, where their impact can easily be lost. And if the wings are too thick, like they should be if they're supporting a horse, then they don't look like wings. So I've played with various ideas and I've even considered hollowing out the horse so that it would be extremely light. But that's pretty difficult and time consuming and most competitions are intentionally short. So I'm still considering this piece… Idea two: Icarus (winged man falling from the sky) Icarus has also been carved many times and figures with wings are kind of a tired concept at competitions. But again, I'm looking at a very delicate support structure for the piece. His head would be toward the bottom of the piece and if I'm not careful with the design, I'll likely get the dreaded "What is it?" question. People will generally only look at an ice sculpture for a few seconds to try to figure out what it is before those words pop out of their mouth. Part of my job as an ice sculptor is to help them quickly understand what they're looking at. Bad design makes this tough. So when I'm finally happy with my design, maybe I'll give this one a try…someday. Pegasus and Icarus would probably be done as smaller sculptures. Physics helps me out here; smaller sculptures are relatively stronger. In contrast, the main idea that I'm holding back is for the big multi-block event in Alaska. I've competed in the event twice, but I've never led a team for that event. These sculptures are huge, so they can be extremely dangerous. And if I'm the team leader, I'd better make sure I know what I'm doing with a daring piece! G-Rose, if you've made it all the way to the end of this, I'm glad you like this thread and thanks for the questions; they've been fun to answer. This one in particular has been rather thought provoking. Got more? Bring em on!
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