2015-02-12 / Around Town

Creating Art from Ice

By Hannah Bishop


Ice carving artists will create their signature favorites during the Ice Sculpting Demonstration outdoors at Long Wharf Mall on Valentine's Day. The pieces will remain in situ until they melt. Ice carving artists will create their signature favorites during the Ice Sculpting Demonstration outdoors at Long Wharf Mall on Valentine's Day. The pieces will remain in situ until they melt. Ever wonder how ice sculptures are made? Or what sorts of tools are used to create these magnificent works of art? Find out all about the process on Valentine’s Day at Long Wharf Mall when six ice sculptors will be practicing their craft during the Newport Winter Festival.

Sculptor Sean Skelly has been a mainstay at the festival since it began 27 years ago, only missing two or three demonstrations. He discovered his passion for ice sculpting as a young chef, shortly after landing a job at Salve Regina University, creating designs for the cafeteria and receptions. He got hooked early on and hasn’t been able to quit.

Although he no longer works as a chef, Skelly still enters demonstrations and contests. He loves not only the artistry involved but also the social interaction. “I love meeting people and explaining what I do,” he says. “The kids get a real kick out of it.”

Skelly says birds, fish and winged creatures are crowd favorites. The most difficult piece he has ever done was at an earlier Winter Festival, a 12-foot-tall medieval castle set atop a hill. Typically, his sculptures take two to three blocks of ice, each weighing in at about 300 pounds, and are completed in three hours. Each artist has his favorite tools; Scully uses a chainsaw, sander, drill and at times even a blowtorch to perfect the details. Some visitors are fascinated and watch the whole process, he notes.

What will he be sculpting for the big event? “I’m not sure yet,” he laughs. “Typically for a demonstration, I just go with what my mood is that day. Since it’s on Valentine’s Day, maybe I’ll do flying hearts – who knows?”

Professional ice sculptor Louie Manzoni, from Warwick’s Art in Ice, has been a fixture at Winter Festival since 2000, shortly after joining the company full-time. The expert carves about 500 blocks per year, but only participates in three demonstrations like the festival. “Essentially, I pack up my whole shop to do them,” he said. “For the rest of the year, I work at the business and transport the pieces.” He handcrafts ice art for weddings, corporate functions, and private events.

The Johnson and Wales graduate joined the company full time in 1999 and now owns the business. Although he mainly showcases his talents for commercial purposes, he has competed in ice sculpting competitions all around the world. Manzoni plans to make different sculptures for the festival, using one block of ice for each.

The biggest challenge for the artists? The weather, Skelly says. The sun is the enemy and temperature needs to be just right. “It needs to be below freezing but if it is too cold both sculptors and guests can be miserable.”

Fortunately for both artists and onlookers, Saturday’s forecast calls for overcast skies with temperatures in the 20s, perfect for ice sculpting.

TO GO:

WHEN: Feb. 14, 11 a.m. - 2:30
p.m.
WHERE: 12 Long Wharf Mall
COST: Free
MORE INFO: 401-847-7666

Return to top