Ice is nice for UAF carvers

"“All Heading Towards the Same Place, Which in the End- is Only a Beginning," a sculpture created by” UAF students for the BP World Ice Art Championships. Photo by Jessica Hoffman/The Sun Star

By Jessica Hoffman
Sun Star Reporter

With just three days left in the multi-block carving competition, Site 21 of the Ice Park on Phillips Field Road was frenetic with sight and sound; shards of ice falling to the ground, the whirring of a die grinder, a chainsaw growling in the snow. Robert Stugart was coaxing a block of ice into the shape of a man. Seventeen feet above on scaffolding, James Stugart and Yasunari Izaki crafted an ice ladder that reached toward the pinnacle of their sculpture.

This year, for the 2010 World Ice Art Championships, the carvers “wanted to go really tall and big” said Robert or, as his brother James put it, “grandiose.” Standing at about 21 feet, the sculpture is definitely tall. Bachelor of fine arts student Izaki wanted the tall structure but didn’t think he would have to carve the upper portion. “I was freaking out the first time. James said it was okay but I can’t trust James,” he chuckled.

James Stugart, also a bachelor of fine arts student, said it took him some adjusting too. “The scaffolding would move and you’d think the sculpture was moving. Over time you just conquer your fears.”

The crystalline structure features a block of ice with people climbing from four tiers toward a ladder at the peak. On the ground in front are “portals” with ice figures climbing out on ladders that jut out. The ice sculpture is titled “All Heading Towards the Same Place, Which in the End- is only a Beginning.”

“The whole idea is repetition,” James said. “You think you’re going some where but you’re not.” He said one bystander summed it up by saying “it’s like you’re working for nothing.”

This year, the carvers didn’t have to battle heavy snow as they did last year, but the lack of white stuff brought its own challenges. “With no snow, it’s kind of a bummer because you need snow to help glue your blocks together,” explained Robert, “and you’re fighting to get snow and there’s not much.” Because the snowfall has been minimal they can only use the very top layer of snow. The bottom layer contains too many leaves and other debris to use for ice sculpting.

The team had tool issues as well. Robert said their chainsaw chain broke three times. Unlike many of the seasoned ice carvers, his team only has two chainsaws. “Every time Rob touches the chainsaw it breaks,” said the older brother with a smile.

The creation of the tower took more time than they thought it would. Robert said, “Our sculpture here is hollow, it’s like a hexagon shape so we needed our cuts to be really good, so we didn’t have to spend so much time gluing and putting them together. And our cuts weren’t that good, so it took a lot longer to get everything set up and our stack right.”

They had to use the hollow shape because, for the multi-block competition, carvers are only allowed 10 blocks of ice for their project. James said they probably saved about five blocks with this design.

Despite the challenges, Robert was happy with their progress. “Everything’s going really good right now. To see it all up, that’s good,” he said.

The Ice Park is open until March 28, 2010. For more information visit www.icealaska.com

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