Ice Sculptor

Ice Sculptor

Dawson List

22 Years Experience

New Orleans, LA

Male, 52

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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47 Questions


Last Answer on July 19, 2020

Best Rated

What happens when you make a mistake and chip off a bigger piece of ice than you intend? Is that easy to fix? Can you actually re-attach it somehow, or do you have to work with whatever's left?

Asked by Bostonian over 11 years ago

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.

How did you get into ice carving? Were you always a good artist? Did you one day just decide it looked cool?

Asked by NYG over 11 years ago

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.

How is a 'world championship' in ice carving judged and by what criteria?

Asked by brown4u over 11 years ago

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.

Sorry if this is obvious to everyone except me, but where do the giant blocks of ice for your sculptures come from? Do you freeze them yourself in some sort of giant mold? How about the truly enormous blocks for carving competitions?

Asked by pp4 over 11 years ago

That's actually a very good question. There are generally two sources for the blocks that ice carvers use day to day. The first is the icehouse style of ice block that is mass produced by ice companies. The old-style icehouses that I occasionally visit in my area have rows and rows of "cans" that are suspended in a freezing solution. These cans are filled with water and freeze solid over the course of a couple of days. They bubble air into the water through long metal tubes that they pull out just before they get frozen in and the water movement caused by the bubbling action helps make the ice clear. However, these blocks rarely are completely clear because salts and air get trapped in the center. So they end up looking like a mostly clear block of ice with a white core in the center. These blocks are relatively cheap, but they're often not ideal for carving because of the white portion in the center. The other main source for carving blocks are specialized ice block makers called Clinebell machines (although Clinebell Equipment Company no longer makes all the machines). Blocks from these machines are slowly frozen completely clear over three or four days and the machine is set up in such a way that you can freeze stuff into the block as it's being made. (Ice carvers freeze all kinds of stuff into ice blocks for events.) Each of the machines only makes one or two blocks at a time, and they take longer and the blocks are usually better quality, so the blocks are more expensive when sold. But because the machines are smaller and self-contained, ice sculpting companies are often able to own their own block machines rather than buy blocks from an ice company. Both the can blocks and the Clinebell blocks are of a similar size and usually weigh somewhere between 250 and 400 lbs. The "standard" is 300 lbs. These blocks, however, are tiny compared to the giant blocks we carve in Alaska, or the ones they use to build the ice hotels in Sweden and elsewhere. The blocks we use in Alaska are harvested from a frozen pond using heavy equipment and might weigh anywhere from almost two tons to over three. The ones used for the Swedish ice hotel come from the Torne River. There are also a few giant ice block machines in the world that make blocks of a similar size to the natural Alaskan and Swedish blocks.

What's the sculpture you've done that you're most proud of? Is there a picture of it online?

Asked by bruuuuuuce over 11 years ago

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: On my commercial ice sculpture website in the Saints section: (I doubt you'll have much trouble figuring out which one it is.)

- Beautiful Chemistry: an abstract DNA sculpture that we made at the World Championships in Alaska and that earned 6th place: (it's the twisty sculpture)

- Ancestral Spirit: a 24 foot tall sculpture with an eagle at the top where I was a teammate of multiple world champion Junichi Nakamura; got 2nd place at the championships and totally wore me out. At the same big ice link as above. It looks SO small on a website, but it was HUGE!

- my ice dragon: worked on it for quite a while and had it in my freezer until Katrina flooded New Orleans: It's the red dragon on the right side.

And there are some others, such as our world record ice bar and luge and some sentimental favorites.

Is that a standard hardware store chainsaw you're using or do they made special chainsaws for ice carving?

Asked by juliojones over 11 years ago

In the pic that is/was on the front of the site where I'm carving a dog with a chainsaw, that's a standard Stihl electric chainsaw, which is a very high quality saw that costs about 3 times more than a Craftsman saw, for example. Ice carvers do tend to modify their chainsaws, however, especially the chains. We take off a lot of the safety features so that the saw will cut faster. Most of these safety features are designed to protect woodcutters from kickback, which is where the saw tip comes back at the operator so hard and so fast that it's impossible to stop; very dangerous! Ice doesn't create kickback like wood does though, so we don't need the kickback safety features; they just slow us down, and a lot of the time, we're kind of in a hurry!

What was the raciest sculpture you've ever been hired to make?

Asked by G-Rose over 11 years ago

I've been expecting this question to show up sooner or later ;) The raciest sculptures that I've made are exactly the ones that you think that I've carved: the anatomically correct ones. Most of them are ice luges too. All kinds of parties go on in New Orleans and for some of those parties, those sculptures are a perfect fit.