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Eight Ice Sculpting Secrets for Making Memorable Art

In the Fire

Ice sculpting has become a multi million dollar industry. From buffet accents to individual serving dishes, it's come a long way baby! Years ago brides looking for swans and hearts for their weddings were the bulk of our work. Now our clients range from Aerosmith to ZZ-Top.

Disciples of Certified Master Chef Daniel Hugelier, my business partner Derek and I both began our careers as culinary students and eventually focused our profession on ice sculpting. We're so fortunate to love our jobs so much it feels like we haven't worked in over 20 years.

The Tools of an Ice Artist

As in many areas of culinary arts, technology has propelled the evolution of tools. Meat slicers, electric mixers, and convection ovens are welcome additions to our industry. As for ice sculpting the proliferation of power tools, beginning in the 1970's, electrified the innovation of methods and product diversity. In recent years we have seen a flood of new concepts challenging the general public's notion as to what an "ice sculpture" actually is.

Specialized ice companies employ computer controlled sculpting machines to create displays. This precision and speed translates into accuracy and productivity allowing a chef the ability to offer their clients a quality sculpture that would otherwise be cost prohibitive.

Eight Principles for Conceiving a Memorable Work of Ice Art

  1. Structural integrity should be of foremost concern as a display that crumbles has little impact.
  2. Don't feel that you need to reinvent the wheel when composing your sculpture. By using a technique called marcottage (the technique of building a larger work by using fragments of smaller pieces or previous designs) you can still achieve a unique display. A composer doesn't invent the note, he just arranges them. This method was used frequently by Rodin. Variations can be made by changing texture, positioning, size, or even proportion, as is often the case in fantasy style art.
  3. Even when creating a totally unique figure, the artisan should always keep the proportions close to reality in order for the creation to be somewhat believable.
  4. Ideas are manifestations derived from one's own experiences. By gaining exposure various types of art, the ice artist will increase the bank of ideas from which to draw.
  5. Try to capture strength, balance and movement of the subject. Make it natural and graceful.
  6. Fuse lines, or unnatural seams throughout the design, will detract from the sculpture. To prevent this attach sections of ice at a naturally occurring line so the seam lines compliment the composition. For example at a waist line of a human figure.
  7. Changing the angle of the design may provide a sense of movement or give a different perspective to the design. The greater the difference in angle, the more impact the changes will have on the design.
  8. Taking the block apart and fusing it back together, like using a wider wing span, will help inflate your creation beyond the static, block-like figure. The addition of accessories related to the sculpture can be used as symbolism and help make the design more interesting.

Ice sculptures are a temporary medium that leave a lasting impression whether at wedding or the Oscars. Although the methods and tools have changed, the statement ice sculptures make when displayed is still thunderous. Derek and I both have fun creating them, even after two decades, and we can't wait to see what the next 20 years bring.

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