Ice Sculptor

By TACP Staff on July 09, 2021

Ice sculptures are created by highly-skilled artists who carve impressions out of ice. The perishable aspect of ice sculptures makes them exceptionally unique in both development and use. Artisans typically create for high-profile events, expensive restaurants, hotels, private parties, conventions and the like. With the inherent element of urgency, ice sculptors must be able to work efficiently, with great precision and also, be able to work with a notoriously extravagant and demanding clientele.

What Is Ice Sculpting?

As its name suggests, an ice sculpture is a sculpture made of ice. These types of sculptures were first made in the 16th century by the Chinese. Hunters and fishermen of this time would freeze buckets of water and carve out the center. Candles could then be placed in these primitive ice sculptures, and they could be used as primitive lanterns.

The Russians, however, are credited with the first ornate ice sculptures. In the middle of the 18th century, Empress Anna Ivanovna of Russia decided that she wanted to have her own ice castle. All aspects of this large palace were made from ice. The palace even came complete with ice trees, animals, canons, and cannonballs.

Today, ice sculptures range in size from small table centerpieces to large ice buildings. The smaller ice sculptures are usually made for parties and other events, like weddings, holidays, and birthdays. Larger ice sculptures, on the other hand, are usually created during large ice festivals, devoted partially to ice sculptures.

Regardless of the size of an ice sculpture, each one is usually created with large blocks of ice. Smaller sculptures are created much as other sculptures are created – small chunks of ice are removed a little at a time to create the desired effect. Larger ice sculptures, however, usually involve attaching large ice blocks together with water before carving them.

What Does a Ice Sculptor Do?

Before even a small chunk of ice is removed from a budding ice sculpture, an ice sculptor must first come up with an idea and design. In many cases, this design is dictated by the sculptor’s clients. If this is the case, an ice sculptor will usually meet or speak with his client before starting a sculpture to determine the client’s wants and needs. At other times, an ice sculptor may be solely responsible for coming up with the idea for a sculpture as well as creating it.

Once an ice sculptor has decided on what type of masterpiece he wants to create, he must then obtain a suitable piece of ice. The most desirable pieces of ice are rather large and completely clear. Since regular water has a tendency to become cloudy when it freezes, special measures must be taken to create suitable blocks of ice. Moving water that freezes slowly, for example, often yields the clearest ice. This can be created by naturally frozen water, such as that from a river or lake. Special machines can also be used to create especially clear ice blocks with distilled water. Particularly creative artists can also create colored water by using food coloring as well.

After the idea has been sketched and the ice has been obtained or created, an ice sculptor then starts creating his masterpiece by removing small bits or ice from the block. This can be done using several different tools. Some tools that are use for sculpting ice include chainsaws, chisels, rotary tools, files, rasps, and torches.

Since ice melts quickly in warm temperatures, may ice sculptors must be able to work very fast to create their masterpieces. Once the sculptures have been created, some artists are also faced with the task of delivering them intact and unmelted. For this, refrigerated trucks are often used.

Related: How to Become a Sculptor

Ice Sculptor Education & Training Requirements

Some ice sculptors re talented – and lucky – enough to start their ice sculpting careers with virtually no formal education. For instance, some organizations and art schools may run weekend workshops and seminars to teach the basics of sculpting ice.

More in-depth art programs, however, will usually give serious artists a chance to develop their skills necessary for an ice sculpting career. A sculpting degree, for instance, can help serious artists learn the necessary skills and techniques needed to accelerate in an ice sculpting career.

Culinary arts degrees are also helpful for anyone interested in an ice sculpting career. Many culinary schools offer courses in ice and food sculpting and staging.

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Ice Sculptor Salary and Job Outlook


Determining the salary of an ice sculptor can be difficult, especially since it is considered to be a seasonal art profession in many parts of the world. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, may be able to offer some insight about the salaries of ice sculptors. In 2018, for instance, fine artists – including sculptors – made an average salary of $49,380. In that same year, culinary arts professionals that offered special food services made an average salary of $52,800. Learn more about Sculptor Careers.

Job Outlook

A professional ice sculptor can work in a variety of different environments. For instance, these professional artists might work solely with banquet halls, restaurants, or catering companies to create exquisite pieces of ice art. They might also choose to open their own ice sculpting business. Many talented ice sculptors also choose to participate in ice sculpting competitions, which are usually held in colder climates. These competitions are usually sponsored by cities and large organizations that pay large amounts of money the winners.

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