Undoubtedly 2020 has been a turbulent year for us all and as we move into the colder seasons, we would usually expect to be going ahead with our planned winter exhibitions. However, with the uncertainty this year has brought, many of these events have been postponed and subsequently cancelled.
Every year Hamilton Ice Sculptors undertakes the mammoth project that is The Magical Ice Kingdom, an incredible world of ice and snow enjoyed at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland during the festive season. Unfortunately at the start of September the event was cancelled and along with it the spectacular Ice Kingdom that our team have been preparing.
Despite this, we thought we’d take the time to share how long a project such as this takes to prepare, the processes involved and how it all comes together!
How long does it take to prepare?
Although The Magical Ice Kingdom opens in November each year, our team begins creating the sculptures around Easter and as you can imagine, there is the most enormous amount of preparation required.
This project for winter wonderland is the biggest and most elaborate project we work on each year, aimed to evoke wonder in both adults and children alike.
What is the Creative Process?
Our team begins with an initial meeting where we discuss a range of ideas and create sketches centred around the theme for the year, in previous years this has been An Arctic Adventure and last year, A Christmas Carol.
Once the client has been presented with the ideas we then go on to create more specific and detailed designs to scale from which we can begin making the sculptures. In total, we sculpted well over 350 tonnes of ice for The Ice Kingdom alone which means we order single blocks of ice that weigh between 1 and ¾ tonnes. It is only through using these huge blocks of ice that we are able to create the larger ice sculptures.
To get the ice sculptures as accurate as possible, we draw up the design as a rough picture on paper, cut it out and then place it onto the side of a large block of ice. The image is then cut out using the basic paper guideline to give us a rough starting shape that can be sculpted and whittled down until it’s a perfected piece.
This process is carried out by our teams in large walk in freezers using chainsaws, hand saws, and die grinders with special drill bits. As you can imagine, it is an extremely cold process which involves taking breaks to get warm and then going back in to see what detail needs adding.
Some of the sculptures we produce for The Ice Kingdom are made of crystal ice and some are made of snow. For such a large and specialised project we have to increase the size of our team to around 25 people. We have a building team to construct huge buildings out of ice and essentially the construction tent becomes more of a building site than a sculpting site!
A huge quantity of real snow is artificially created with a machine producing a continuous stream of ice flakes which are funnelled into a rectangular mould. This process requires two people to stand inside the mould to flatten down the snow and wet it so that it compacts enough that when the sides of the mould are removed it doesn’t collapse.
This is an extremely strenuous and tiring job that can sometimes last up to 12 hours! Chainsaws and ice chisels are then used to sculpt this enormous block of snow by removing large chunks from the top and working down to ensure the structural integrity of the block isn’t damaged.
When working on this project, our aim is to never create something that resembles the delicate and reserved nature of a museum. Instead, we want our sculptures to be touched, enjoyed and interacted with as much as possible which is why we create works such as ice slides and fun photo opportunities to sit on the ice and interact with the sculptures.
We love the magical sense of wonder people enjoy when entering the Magical Ice Kingdom and the opportunity it provides people to lose all sense of the real life, captivated solely by this world of snow and ice.
We look forward to 2021 when hopefully we can once again create this truly magical world for all to enjoy!