Beautifully clear, perfectly shaped pieces of ice have become widely available for important social functions, but few people know the work that goes into creating them. Ice sculptures have been around for centuries, and the desire for them as decoration has grown. Many standard sculptures are now created in factories, but unique pieces are still made by hand. Either way, this is a time-consuming process that requires quality control at every step to be successful.
Freezing water into ice is a simple process, but there are extra steps when creating ice for sculptures. The finished product must have no cracks or cloudy areas, so pumping air into the water as it freezes is done to eliminate these issues. The water is generally frozen into large blocks by commercial ice companies, and quality control is part of what they offer. Once frozen, the artist then has several ways to create their sculpture.
Power tools have become an integral part of ice sculpture creation, and they allow pieces to be made quickly. This is one reason these pieces are more readily available, but there are also more artists trained in this discipline. Some ice factories use programmed lathes and routers to create standard sculptures. An artist that creates a custom piece often uses a chain saw, router and other small power tools to carve the pieces.
Whether a piece is made by hand or machine, shavings are brushed off the piece to ready it for the final step. An ice sculpture that has not been polished looks cloudy and dull, so polishing the piece by hand is the final step before placing it. Polishing is accomplished by lightly applying a blowtorch to the completed sculpture. As the outer layer of ice melts, the beauty of the clear ice sculpture emerges.