The next time you watch someone carving an ice sculpture, consider this: They may have prepared a meal for you at some point.
“They’re trained in the culinary arts and
that’s where they get their first taste of it,” says Sam Foster of Sculpted Ice Works. “It’s a course you have to take.”
Sculpted Ice Works will be in Collingswood again this year on Nov. 25, to carve a sculp- ture after the Holiday Tree Lighting, at 7 p.m. As in past years, Santa will descend from atop Borough Hall by way of the Collingswood Fire Department’s ladder truck – just in time for the Borough’s official Tree Lighting. The event also includes carol singing by local choral groups and comments from Mayor Jim Maley and Commissioners Rob Lewandowski and Morgan Robinson.
Then, one of the several artists from Ice Works (yet to be assigned at press time) will set up at the Millennium Clock/Zane Schoolhouse at Irvin Ave at 7:30 p.m. This year’s theme will be a reindeer, say Lindsey Fergusson, Director of Community and Business Development for the Borough.
Based in Lakeville, Pa. (about 30 miles from Scranton), Sculpted Ice Works employs a dozen or so sculp- tors. While many of the sculptors come from a culinary background, that is not always the case.
“We deal with a lot of people that do wood carving too,” says Foster. “And every time I’ve ever talked to a wood carver, they say it’s harder to carve ice…We do have a couple guys that are very, very artistic and they do all kinds of mediums — drawing, sculpting with clay, stuff like that. But personally, I
just like to carve ice.” The sculptor begins with a block of ice 40 inches tall, 20 inches wide and 10 inches deep. They are produced by something called a Clinebell Machine. After being shaved down and smoothed, they are placed inside a plastic liner and put in a cardboard box, on top of pallets, and transported that day to the site inside of a refrigerated truck.
“We cut what would be the fronts of them off so that they’re nice and flat,” says Foster. “And then we cut off all the impurities, like water beads, that have formed.”
It takes about one to two hours to carve a figure, depending on the complexities. Animals tend to be more difficult than inanimate objects because of the vagaries of dimension.
The busiest seasons for carving are in the spring, due to weddings, and the winter season. Besides the many local events such as that in Collingswood, Ice Works sculpts for colleges and a slew of winter festivals throughout the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware area.
Some events, like the Clarks Summit Festival of Ice and the Scranton Festival of Ice, center around numerous sculptures and require an army of sculptors.
“Those are just three of the ones that we do,” says Foster. “And I’d say on average we do probably 40 to 50 sculptures for each one of them. And we go and we line them up all around the towns and outside of businesses and stuff like that. So we’re pretty busy in the wintertime. But I would say that wedding seasons are actually even busier!.