If you are planning a family vacation this winter there is nothing cooler, in the most literal way possible, than seeing a beautiful ice carving. These sculptures are essentially made entirely out of ice. Sometimes it can be hard to believe that the giant statue of a cherished childhood cartoon character or the amazing building that you are seeing could be an ice carving, but it is, and someone has spent many hours creating it for your enjoyment.
An ice sculpture can be created in one of two ways. The first way is to start with a large block of ice. Traditionally in places like China these blocks of ice would be taken from frozen rivers. The ice would be cut and sawed and chipped and chiseled until it resembled a specific shape or design. Today ice sculptors have many powered saws and chisels to help them perfect their work. While many people might think of an ice carving as having to be a giant sculpture, this is not always the case. Almost 500 years ago in China, hunters would use ice to carve ice lanterns in order to help them see at night during the winter. Nowadays artists who specialize in ice sculptures do not have to go down and cut a frozen block of ice or snow from a river. In fact most artists who do an ice carving will purchase large numbers of blocks of ice that have been specifically formulated for sculpting.
The second way to create an ice carving is to use a mold. The mold will have been predesigned to help create an ice sculpture that is extremely detailed and exquisite. Of course using a mold doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no skill or talent involved. In fact creating the perfect ice is one of the most difficult tasks an ice sculptor will need to do for his art. Ice can be broken down into three categories. Crystal ice is clear and the hardest to make. It is created by using filtered de-ionized water that has been frozen slowly. It can take several days to properly freeze the water until it becomes crystal clear ice that has a consistency suitable for carving. The second type of ice is white ice, which resembles snow. This type of ice is much easier to make than crystal clear ice; here the water is frozen quickly to give the appearance of snow. Colored ice is created by adding colored dye to the freezing process. In order for the color to be even throughout, the dyed water needs to be stirred consistently during the freezing process.
Depending on the size of the ice carving and the temperature of the environment, an ice sculpture can last anywhere from a few hours to a few months. Large ice sculpture displays, including those with structural buildings like igloos and castles, are kept in cool environments to help the ice carving last longer. With proper care the beautiful ice sculptures will be enjoyed and marveled at by people from around the world.