Cool Art...Literally



Country MoonAmidst the gray skies and gloom that winter days sometimes bring, there is always a bright spot in Shipshewana, IN in late December. Ice chips fly as carvers from all over come to create masterpieces out of frozen water.

This year’s contest, due to weather conditions, was held on December 28 and 29. This time is always a highlight in this quaint rural Hoosier town where visitors come from all over to shop specialty stores that feature handmade items and Amish country cooking. The town also does Christmas right with their holiday lighting all over the small community. Viewing the ice sculptures at night under the lights is even more festive.

Actually, ice sculpting is pretty common in various locations around the country where temperatures permit. The granddaddy of all the ice contests is held in Alaska…go figure! Since 1989, Alaska has hosted the World Ice Art Championship where nearly 100 sculptors come from all over the world to sculpt large blocks of pristine natural ice during the last week of February and the first week of March. The event draws an average of 45,000 spectators and the creations are sometimes referred to as “Arctic Diamonds.”

There are two categories: the single block and multi block and two sub-categories of realistic and abstract. In single block, teams of up to two people work on 3 x 5 x 8-foot blocks of ice weighing around 7800 pounds each. In multi, there can be up to four people on a team and each team gets ten blocks of ice measuring 6 x 4 x 3 feet and weighing 4400 pounds each. Power tools and scaffolding may be used when sculpting. These masterpieces require not only artistic vision, but also knowledge of ice sculpting techniques, strength, endurance and engineering skills. There is even a kids’ section that has ice sleds and ice twirly tops.

This art form takes my breath away. I know from doing my painting, photography and writing that creativity sometimes has its own time frame. However, with ice sculpting, time is of the essence because of the volatility of the ice. Besides that, I would be at a loss as to where to start. Just how do you know how to begin an ice sculpture?

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