Much like ice itself – constantly transforming into new shapes over the course of its life – the ice sculpture business has been changing.
It used to be routine for Gary Ross of Ice Sensations – the largest ice sculpture business within four hours of Charlotte, by his own reckoning – to have several gigs each week that included up to $10,000 worth of ice sculptures. The recession put a damper on that, because giant ice sculptures became a symbol of the excess that led to the economic downfall.
But ice sculptures are still a booming business, because they have become a component of events that’s pretty much expected along with food, music and flowers – it’s just that price points have come down as consumers have gotten more discriminating. Now, an ice sculpture by Ice Sensations starts at $325.
Luckily, technology has helped out – Ross can whip out a chainsaw with the best of them for custom work, but many of his creations are created by computer-programmed machines, making it easier to turn them out quickly. He starts with blocks of ice created in deep freezers at 5 degrees below zero, then “warmed up” to 15 degrees inside the freezer where he does most of his work, in a nondescript industrial building just north of uptown Charlotte. It’s denser than normal ice, with no bubbles or impurities inside.
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Ross’ custom-made creations, depicting anything from animals to corporate logos to likenesses of well-known places, have turned up everywhere from Superbowls and gubernatorial inaugurations to North Carolina-shot television shows such as “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” – and this month’s cover of SouthPark Magazine.
But in the end, all is impermanent. No matter how hard Ross has worked, his creations all eventually melt away. “There have been a few pieces I’ve done that I wish could have stuck around,” he says with a quick laugh, “but for the most part, if they stuck around, I’d be out of business.”
More information: www.icesensations.com.