Friday, February 7, 2014

Tools Of The Carvers

The larger ice sculptures in Confederation Park are under shelters that keep them out of the wind and sun. This allows them to maintain a translucent look throughout Winterlude. A week ago when I took these shots, the carvers were just getting under way on their work. This first fellow seemed to be giving me the evil eye.

The ice blocks are produced at a facility and shipped into the site (the boxes you see here in the background are what they're shipped in). Tables are set up, along with power lines for the equipment the carvers use throughout the weekend as they work. They're out in the cold, so they're dressed well, and usually have a thermos bottle of something hot close at hand.

I find it fascinating to watch them. They come from all over the world, and here in Canada as well. Aside from our own, we have carvers this year from the United States, Russia, France, Poland, Sweden, Peru, Mexico, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates. The carvers have to have a plan in mind for the number of blocks they'll use for their final product; they can't just get away with looking at a pile of blocks and wondering what they'll carve this time. You can see sketched details on the blocks in this shot as these two carvers are working. This pair are from America and Peru.

The tools they use vary. Carvers start out with chainsaws, and make good use of electric sanders. Along the way they'll employ handsaws, chisels of various sizes, drills, sandpaper, and even blowtorches. And yes... those are irons you see on the table here.

These really are craftspeople, sculpting something that won't last, but which is nonetheless beautiful.

The starting process for all this of course are these blocks. The carvers have their vision in mind, and they hope they don't make mistakes along the way.

As I said, they come from all over the world. This pair happens to be from the city of Yakutsk, in Siberia. Their finished work? Horses, which you will see soon enough.


  1. Yeah, I'm curious about the irons as well. And what becomes of the sculptures once the exhibition is over ?

  2. Ah, so that's how it's done. Fascinating. I'm intrigued by the idea of ice carvers from the UAE...and I confess that the only thing I know of Yakutsk is as a place on the 'Risk' board game!

  3. This is good stuff! I was wondering about the process.

  4. Great to see the making of those wonderful sculptures.
    Thanks for sharing and enjoy your weekend.

  5. @Ciel: I've never seen them actually using them, but I would assume so...

    @Audrey: oui, c'etait.

    @Stuart: they get broken up when it's all said and done.

    @Mike: I was startled to see that UAE entry, especially since you don't think of that part of the world as ideal for this sort of craft. And the first time I really paid attention to that city, aside from perhaps seeing it on a map, would be in the Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman motorbike series Long Way Round when they passed through.

    @Revrunner: it's amazing to watch.

    @Jan: Thank you!

  6. That is so cool! I have never seen the actual process. I wonder about those irons - pretty efficient way to get rid of bits of ice!

  7. What a great post William. Have a great weekend.

  8. It's a little sad that they work so hard for their art...and then it melts.
    Jane x

  9. Fascinating array of tools. These guys are real craftsman. I have an iron I'd love to donate. I can't think of a better excuse not to use it again.

  10. Wow! Takes dedication to use so much energy on a sculpture that won't last! Never thought of sanders or irons being necessary for ice sculpture!

  11. @LondonLulu: a very efficient way!

    @Luis: thank you!

    @Jane and Chris: at least this way it gets immortalized in photography.

    @Sharon: well, it would be put to good use!

    @Cheryl: I was astounded the first time I saw them using blowtorches last year.

  12. This is a very interesting post, I enjoyed it. Thank you William and thank you also for stopping by my blog.

  13. Fascinating to see the background to this

  14. Interesting post that I enjoyed reading.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

  15. I'd ruin a lot of blocks of ice trying to learn...and still wouldn't get it right!

  16. @Denise: thank you.

    @Gerald: glad to be of assistance!

    @RedPat: very cold work!

    @Andrew: thank you.

    @Norma: so would I!

  17. Nice shots. I admire the craft of ice carvers. No room for error.

  18. Irons? Wow, that's cool… or hot, I'm not sure which!

  19. Some of the sculptors come from Mexico and the United Arab Emirates? Hmmm. I wonder where they practice when they are not in Ottawa.

  20. Wowee look at that ice. Lot of different tools too. My questions is the same as EG's. MB

  21. I'm wondering how one gets into this? Is there a course at art school for sculpting that is specifically designed for ice? And UAE??

  22. It's really interesting to see the ice before it's carved. I'm amazed what people can do!

  23. @Bob: definitely no room for error.

    @Linda: it takes great care.

    @EG: that still perplexes me a year later.

    @MB: it really involves a whole lot of different methods.

    @Hamilton: there have to be some art classes involved at some level.

    @Halcyon: their work is astonishing.