These are some frequently asked questions, answered by professional commercial sculptor, Bill Bywater.
What do you do, exactly?
I create unique, original ice carvings for special events. After being contacted by the host or coordinator for an event, I consult with them to get an understanding of the type of party or event they are planning and to find out if they already have an idea of the type of ice sculpture design they would like. Then I design , discuss, carve and deliver their ice carvings to their event or freezer. I include a drip/display tray and florescent back lighting with each delivery.
Of course, if the event is an ice carving demonstration, I carve the sculpture on site during the event using power tools and chisels.
Do you use ice molds?
Many ice carving companies use molds or preprogrammed routers but I do not. The ice carvings I create are unique and personalized, and each one is hand sculpted by me.
How often do the ice carvings melt?
How much do ice carvings cost?
A typical price could be $350 for a single block carving like the number 40 for a birthday party delivered to Orange, Duchess, Ulster, Putnam or Rockland County. I would bring it to the event an hour before starting time and set it up with a drip/display tray and back lighting.
Another project could be doing a single block demonstration carving for a town park or corporate event in front of a crowd between one and two hours for $500.
Because every ice sculpture I create is designed and carved exclusively for each event, costs vary. Often, the cost is not determined by the design, unless the sculpture requires more than one block of ice. Usually the cost is determined by other factors specific to the event, such as its location. Because the amount of lead time is a factor in the cost, I encourage clients to get in touch with me as far in advance of their event as possible, three weeks at least.
How long do ice carvings last?
Ice carvings will be in good form for three hours and components like wings and fins get more ethereal as they melt. I do not recommend human compositions like ballerinas or soldiers because the facial features soon wash out.
Can ice carvings be displayed outside in the sun?
The cold of winter is a great time to enjoy ice carvings outside for weeks at a time, but in winter or summer the ultraviolet light of sunshine will fracture the ice like a crystal chandelier. For this reason your outside sculpture will need to stay out of direct sunlight. The same is true for outside ice carving demonstrations. Consistent shade can often be found on the north side of a building.
Do you have any tips for using ice carvings as party decorations?
See my page on Six Party Tips.
Do you really use blow torches and chain saws?
How did you become an ice sculptor?
I have a Bachelors Degree in Studio Art with a sculpture concentration from the College of St Rose in Albany, NY. In 1988 I was asked by the owners of a French Restaurant in Newburgh to represent them at a carving competition. (Most ice carvers are chefs.) While attending that carving event and many others I became more familiar with the tools and techniques specific to ice.
Does it bother you to put so much work into an ice carving that you know is going to melt away?
No, because of the fleeting nature of ice as a sculpting medium it can actually be very freeing as opposed to wood or stone. Also I do have a line of my own garden statuary that I cast in high strength concrete. These are my long lasting sculptures.
Where are you located?
I am located in Orange County New York and serve the surrounding area including Western Connecticut and Northern New Jersey.
How far in advance of my event do I need to contact you?
A minimum of two weeks is recommended but some dates do get blocked off so if you know you will be wanting an ice carving please contact me earlier.
(Contact Bill by using his online contact form.)