In ancient Japan ice sculptures served two purposes: as decorations and also to keep food cold. Fire and Ice Festivals depict a clash of the elements and also celebrate the changing of the seasons. In Japan these festivals have grown huge, sometimes requiring the building of a small village of ice. Giant bonfires are built and the contrast and the reflection of the flames in the sculptures is quite a wondrous sight. In the United States there are still a few events where fire and ice are actually combined, but it mostly involves ice sculptures and fireworks displays now. Some of the festivals that are advertised as “fire and ice” combine ice sculpting with a chili cook-off. Most of the fire ends up being in your stomach.
On a smaller scale, ice sculptures are still popular at weddings and banquets. A lot of the high-end hotels feature them. It’s a little trickier than it seems. Most people can’t make a full time living as an ice sculptor, so a lot of people do it part-time, sort of like your aunt who makes wedding cakes for members of the family. Some ice sculptors are wood carvers. Sometimes chefs with an artistic bent will be trained for the job. Quite a few of the commercial ice companies have sculpting services. Ice used for the sculptures is made crystal clear by circulating water in a tank that has refrigeration coils. The process filters out minerals and oxygen, which makes ice cloudy. After the ice is perfectly clear, the carving begins. Sometimes chainsaws are used on the larger sculptures. After the sculpture is complete there is the problem of transportation. The ice is very fragile and can easily be affected by surrounding conditions. Some sculptors pack their work in ice cubes while others use Styrofoam and plywood cases. If the package gets jostled, a large crack can develop, destroying about three hours of work and about $75.00 worth of ice.
Here are a few places around the St. Louis area where you can get a decent ice carving done for that special event. Prices are usually in the $300.00-$500.00 range.
Terrence Hamner runs one of the few full-time ice carving businesses in St. Louis. His company, Ice Cuisine, is located at 1919 Geyer. The phone number is (314) 865-4232. Hamner is a former chef and has been carving ice sculptures since he was 18.
Ice By His Design 11300 St. Charles Rock Road. (314) 739-6811. Matt Curtis began carving in 1973 while working for Marriot Hotels as a Banquet Chef. He later became an executive chef for the hotel chain. Ice By His Design offers quality banquet pieces for weddings, parties, and corporate function at reasonable prices.
Ice Age Carvings iceagecarvings.com (618) 344-5621. Prices at Ice Age Carvings start at $212 and include the sculpture, box, drip tray, greenery, setup, and delivery throughout the St. Louis area. An array of carvings is available or you can choose your own. The carvings will generally last six to seven hours.
And finally, if you think that an ice sculpture that will eventually melt priced in the several hundred-dollar range will bust your budget you can always cheat. Reusable ice sculpture molds can be bought on the Internet at places like sculpturesinice.com for about twenty-five bucks. Of course, they don’t look nearly as nice.