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

Have you ever created an ice sculpture to "woo" someone you were interested in? What was it... and did it work??

Asked by Blue Lou over 11 years ago

Well, if using an ice sculpture to propose counts as wooing, then yes. It was an angel holding the ring frozen in and yeah, it worked ;)

What's the temperature of the room where you do your carving?

Asked by Mr. Freeze over 11 years ago

I like to carve at about 17 degrees F (in a big freezer), but I've carved in a range of temperatures, all the way from about -25 degrees F (Alaska) to about 95 degrees F (Gulf Coast in June).

What are the rules that govern competitive ice sculpting? Is anything and everything fair game and you're only judged on the finished product? Are any kinds of tools or support structures not allowed?

Asked by Stu over 11 years ago

There are a few different organizations that have set up specific guidelines for ice carving competitions. For example, Ice Alaska, which runs the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, has guidelines governing final judging of the sculptures as well as how carvers are allowed to go about creating their sculptures. Regarding the judging portion, without going into too much detail, the guidelines offer advice to the event judges and break down judging into a series of categories that the judges can use to rate a sculpture's quality. These categories cover both the technical and the creative aspects of a sculpture and the judges are instructed to consider only the sculpture, not the sculptor(s). As for what carvers are allowed to do while carving, it can depend on the competition, and also on the sanctioning organization. (Many events have no sanctioning organization.) But there are some basic rules that are common to almost all events. 1) sculptors have to create their piece within a particular time limit 2) they can only have limited outside help (such as lifting a very heavy piece of ice) 3) they can't use computer controlled tools like CNC machines to make the sculpture 4) the sculpture must be all ice and only from the ice that they were initially provided for the competition (that means no support structures) 5) particularly racy sculptures are usually frowned upon because a lot of kids show up at carving competitions 6) carvers can't interfere with other carvers unless it's a safety thing Most other rules resemble common sense and I'm sure that I've forgotten an obvious one or two. But the gist of it is: ice sculptor(s) + a lot of ice + a lot of sharp hand and power tools + a surprisingly short time limit = anything from an amazing work of art that will soon melt away, to a pile of ice chunks that used to be a sculpture until somebody miscalculated. I hope that answers your question. If not, feel free to ask another; thanks!

How much do ice sculptures cost? Like, say if I wanted a giant swan for my wedding or something?

Asked by David1 over 11 years ago

Ice sculptures in many cases involve a lot of artistry so there can be wide variations in the price of a particular sculpture depending partly on the skill of the ice sculptor. Other factors that affect the price include items frozen in the ice and complex white snowfill or color graphics or designs. But to give a guesstimate, I'd say that for a single block sculpture (from a single 300 pound block of carving ice) you might see a range of $350-$800.

How do you keep it from melting ?
How long did it take to carve?
how long have you been carving ?
how long will it last ?
Dr . Ice do you have a mini character , like mini me ?
do you think you can take over the world with Ice ?

Asked by Iceartist over 11 years ago

Yes, your first four questions combine to be a great example of the typical barrage of questions that an ice sculptor gets at sculpture set up time. And I'm sure that was your intent and that you already know the answers. But for those who don't:

you don't (The sculpture is usually brought to set up in some sort of insulation though; before that it's usually in a freezer.)that one depends on the sculpture, but the range is usually between 10 minutes and 10 hours (average: 1-2 hours)a long time, over 20 yearsat least 15 to 20 minutes...

Actually, #4 is a for fun answer that I use to get a reaction. At the time the question is usually asked, it's about 30 minutes until the party starts. Therefore, it would be melted before anyone saw it if this was true. Their eyes always widen in surprise and you start to hear them say "What!?" But the real answer is usually about 4-6 hours, long enough for all but the longest parties.

5. Unfortunately, mini-me melted. He was a mini-snowman made from the paltry amount of snow that fell in New Orleans on Christmas the year before Katrina. But he'll be back some day...

6. I am working on my giant freeze-ray gun. If I can't get that to work, then it's simply a waiting game before the whole universe is MINE! That's because one theory has it eventually just becoming cold, desolate emptiness. Such a happy thought! (I'll also need some hard-core cryogenics for that though.)

If the temp outside is below freezing, will an ice sculpture remain EXACTLY the same? For example, if you come back on day 2 of a multiday competition, do you have to first check to see whether there was any change to the sculpture overnight?

Asked by Oscar over 11 years ago

In the scenario that you're describing, it's unlikely that there was a change in the sculpture, unless it snowed or somebody broke it (that has happened, although not to me). But over a longer period, even if it stays below freezing, the ice can change, mainly in two different ways. The first is sublimation, where the solid ice doesn't melt but goes straight to vapor. This happens more if it's very dry or there's a lot of air movement (which is why you have to wrap sculptures in a walk-in freezer). Or, if the sculpture is exposed to direct sun, and it's below freezing, but not too far below, the sunlight will start causing small fractures inside the ice. As the exposure to the sun continues, more and more fractures show up, they'll start to join, and the ice will get "gray" and much more fragile. Eventually, it might even turn white and be extremely fragile. So protection from sunlight is important for longer competitions, except when it's extremely cold. Oh, I almost forgot. There is one other thing that could happen, but that happens only when certain circumstances are met. Oddly enough, ice will bend. This is called "ice creep" and has actually been used in the construction of a building from ice; they needed the ice to bend so that it would curve into the right shape for the building structure. My main ice creep experience was in 2009 when we made the "beautiful chemistry" sculpture that I mention in another answer. The top of the sculpture stretched out unsupported for quite a ways and and as it turned out, one part of the sculpture started to bend, apparently as soon as we finished working on it. In a 24 hour period, the tip moved about 20 inches. I was curious about whether it would keep going, but I had to leave Alaska not long after and apparently the sculpture collapsed the next day when somebody touched it while taking a photo. So I never found out how much further it would go. But extreme ice bending doesn't happen very often, although it is an issue at times. So I suppose the correct answer to your question is: the sculpture would not remain EXACTLY the same. But except in unusual circumstances, you probably wouldn't notice the difference.

Is there a Michael Jordan of ice carving? Like, a guy who's basically acknowledged as the best there is, and a favorite every time he enters a competition?

Asked by brown4u over 11 years ago

It's funny you ask your question that way. I just recently updated one of the sculptor galleries on my ice carving info site (update: that site is now gone, but I'm working on a new one) and I compared him to MJ in the intro text. His name is Mark Daukas and he was just about unbeatable at ice carving competitions in the 90s. I had previously compared him to Lance Armstrong, but well, you know.

However, Daukas doesn't compete anymore and today, the most Jordanesque ice sculptor is probably Junichi Nakamura. Over the last 7 years, he's won 10 out of 14 World Ice Art titles that he went after. (You can win 2x each year; 2 different types of competitions and both are team competitions). A lot of Junichi's success comes from his willingness to take risks that other sculptors can't stomach. In the last 10 years, at least 3 of his huge multi-block sculptures at the ice art championships have collapsed prior to judging (check out this video: ice sculpture fail) and another collapsed well after judging when somebody tried to use a leaf blower to clear snow off of it.

Incidentally, Junichi and Mark Daukas have competed against one another at least once, at the 1992 Olympic Arts competition in Hamar, Norway. Junichi and his teammate came out on top, although in kind of a weird way.