Our ice carver can totally blow up your ice carver

Rebecca Coleman / Sun Star Reporter
March 8, 2011

Paul Pharr, a UAF sophomore, was part of an American ice carving team, competing in the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. Pharr had to carve inbetween and after his classes in order to complete his sculpture "Our university can totally blow up your university," within the time alloted. Heather Bryant/Sun Star

For the past six years, sophomore Paul Pharr has been an active member of the ice carving community. For this year’s World Ice Art Championships, he captained a two-person team for the single-block competition and was a member of a four-person team for the multi-block competition.

Pharr’s single-block creation is titled “Our university can totally blow up your university.”  It is homage to UAF’s Poker Flat Research Range.  Not many schools have rocket launching facilities, and UAF is one of them.  The carving itself is comprised of a standing polar bear and a launch site with a rocket about to explode.

“I’m pleased with how it turned out,” Pharr said.  “I’ve never carved anything that tall.  The bear turned out, and the rocket looked like a perfect shape.”

For Pharr’s multi-block creation, his team decided to make a ’50s diner.  They titled their piece “Blast from the past.”  Included in their sculpture is a ’55 Bel Air.

“People could walk by and guess that it was a ’55 Chevy, so that made us feel pretty good about how the car was looking.”  He said that the only part of the team’s creation that he could claim as his own was the car’s bumpers.  To make them realistic, they had a model car, so he modeled the bumpers after it.

Working around the limited amount of time allotted to carving dictated by contest rules has been a challenge for Pharr with his class schedule.  The single-block competition allows only two and a half days to carve, which means “a lot more work if you want a lot of details,” Pharr said.  The multi-block competition allows a much greater amount of time, so carvers are able to pace themselves.

“Last year, I got excused from my classes for carving,” Pharr said.  This year, his strategy has been “work on it, leave, and come back and keep working” so he can attend his classes.

The single-block competition ended Feb. 24, and multi-block ended Friday, March 4.  Pharr is glad to be done, saying, “It’s very strenuous work.  You’re outside on your feet for 10 to 12 hours at a time.  I’ve never been as sore as I have been after a day of ice carving.”

Pharr first got involved with ice carving when he took a weekend class, and the person teaching it told him to carve in a junior tournament. Pharr proceeded to win first place in the abstract division.  He said that ice is very easy to work with and has a lot of potential.  Starting out, he had to understand the basics of chisel use, the properties of ice and how different weather conditions affect ice.

“Basically, it’s mostly at what temperature, what can you do?” Pharr said.

The World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks is one of the largest ice carving competitions in the world, including about 100 carvers from a variety of countries.  Pharr hasn’t gotten many opportunities to interact with many of the foreign carvers because there are “language and skill barriers,” he said.  For example, the winner of the single-block competition, Junichi Nakamura, only speaks Japanese.  Pharr does, however, have friendships with carvers from Poland and Spain.

Pharr’s masterpieces, as well as those by the other worldly carvers, can be viewed at the Ice Park off of Phillips Field Road until March 27 with a $10-per-person admission.

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