Trying Out: Watching the Ice Chips Fly (Week Forty-Nine)
Like most people, my experience with ice sculpting revolves around two events. One: weddings. Sometimes folks have a fancy centerpiece. A swan, a flower, whatever looks romantic in a transparent medium.
The second life event: watching Groundhog’s Day. Oh look, there’s Bill Murray using his repetitive lifestyle to impress Andie McDowell. Neat. Give me a life on repeat and I could do that too.
I think we all know that last part is not true. I thought I should observe a master at work and see what it entailed. (And Frozen defies a few laws of physics.)
An area I frequent is big into Christmas and holiday events. One you will hear about two installments from now. Another crowd-drawer is live ice sculpting.
I was promised a two-hour performance. I was tardy for the first twenty to thirty minutes. I reasoned that all I would miss were big blocks of ice being chipped off, making way for the art that resided in the center.
When I arrived, it seemed like the main work had been done. This sled-shape was present. The man was using power tools to chip away at pieces here and there; then smoothing them over to change their sheen. The nearby garbage can was already full of debris.
Honestly, it was more interesting watching the people that were watching the artist. There was the family over by the staircase that had planned ahead. They were all sharing a warm pizza from inside as they sat on the cold cement outside. They watched, ate, and chatted. It was akin to a family watching a movie together.
The couple to the right of me was engaged in conversation. Well, the guy was. I do not want to accuse him of mansplaining, but it certainly resembled that. He ooh-ed and aah-ed at the technique and style while his female compatriot nodded and agreed. At no point did it appear clear to me that the male had any real insight as to what he was commenting on. Yet he spent much time talking about what he thought.
As always, there was an excitable boy in the front. He was jumping, scurrying, and waving his hands excitedly. Maybe it was the holiday spirit grabbing hold of him. Or maybe he really liked power tools. He was energized, certainly.
Perhaps the most interesting person to watch was the sculptor’s assistant. Sometimes the tall fellow would shovel off excess ice clumps and shavings. During momentous times, he would take a warm sheet of metal out and help the sculptor fuse/melt a preformed piece of ice onto the base. (On the one hand I considered this cheating. I wanted every piece to be cut from one chunk of ice. On the other, it was impressive to see the two pieces adhered seamlessly. It brought back memories of glass blowing)
Yet most of the tall fellow’s time was spent looking at his phone. For long intervals he would stand off to the side in his seasoned boots, his oven mitts set off to the side. It took some of the mystery and artistry out of the experience. Here was his mentor, digging, shaving, and coaxing life out of water. A few feet away, a fellow artist was… watching videos on a phone.
After about thirty minutes, I felt I had experienced the activity. I had hoped there would be some glistening bird or a group of carolers huddled together, playfully adorned in frosty scarves and askew hats. Because of all his work, his toiling, and half an hour of finessing, the artist had produced an almost finished piece. There, on the stage before me sat a chunk of ice that still bore a resemblance to a sled.
No chainsaws were employed. (Drat.) The effort was quite obvious to see. However it became clear during my visit that this was a spectator sport more like baseball than opera. Having food to eat or someone to chat with would have filled in the gaps.
It turns out that I am one of those scoundrels that only truly appreciate the finished project. (It should be stated that the man was working the entire time. He adjusted and toiled every second to make his vision come into being.)
In other arts I might want a peak behind the curtain. When it comes to ice sculpting my appreciation is similar to movies. I do not need to see every camera angle and take. Put the completed ice-swan on the table and move on to the next scene.
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