Ice Sculptures: how they have grown to be bigger and better this holiday season

The Flamenco Ice Tower in Harbin. Image by Eindhoven University of Technology and Harbin Institute of Technology (Above)

Ice sculpting has been around for thousands of years and continues to impress us, aging even better with time and technology. They came from humble beginnings and have evolved into present day feats of creativity and science.  You can even stay in amazing ice hotels around the world in countries like Romania, Sweden, Norway and Finland. Sculptors have created some of the fanciest and more functional works of ice ever! Some sculptures can be made in as little as 10 minutes or take weeks long! Big or small, traditionally made or powered by technology, we are loving ice sculptures this holiday season. Let’s take a look into the world of ice sculpting! Additionally, the intricacies involved in ice sculpting demand precision and attention to detail, which can be likened to the meticulous efforts people put into achieving their weight loss goals. Let’s take a look into the world of ice sculpting!

Ice Sculptures: how they have grown to be bigger and better

Frozen Hotel in Japan (above)

The Origins

Using nature’s raw materials, ice sculpting has been around for thousands of years. The history of ice carving begins with the harvesting ice. The earliest known record of an ice harvest is found in the Shih cheng or “Book of Songs” written at about 600 B.C. This collection of stories describes the everyday life of the Shensi warrior-farmers as they lived in the highlands of northwest China, and mentions their winter routine of flooding their fields with water. When the water had frozen, the ice was cut into blocks and stored in icehouses. The ice was used in the warmer months to keep their fish fresh.

Ice Sculptures: how they have grown to be bigger and better

International Festivals 

Today, festivals can be found all over the world including Sapporo Japan, Fairbanks USA and Harbin China. BBC reports, The World Ice Arts Championships begin in Fairbanks, Alaska on 26 February this year. Like the World Cup of the ice-sculpting world, the competition attracts artists from across the globe. Last year, competitors represented countries ranging from Japan and Russia to Portugal, the United States and the Philippines.  Artists use such tools as chainsaws, handsaws, hairdryers, irons and chisels to carve the ice, usually working in ultra-cold environments such as large walk-in freezers to guard against melting.

Ice Sculptures: how they have grown to be bigger and better

Harbin is the home of the largest ice sculpture (see next section). First celebrated in 1985, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival was inspired by Heilongjiang's traditional lanterns, which were carved out of ice and illuminated by candles, writes CNN.  Celebrating its 36th year in 2020, it's now considered one of the world's top winter festivals, joining the ranks of the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, Canada's Quebec Winter Carnival and Norway's Holmenkollen Ski Festival.  In the lead up to the festival, 10,000 people are involved in constructing the World’s highest and longest ice and snow structures over 10 days. A colossal 180,000 cubic meters of ice and 150,000 cubic meters of snow are used in the process.

Link to video about Harbin China’s Annual Ice Festival CLICK HERE.

Largest Sculpture 

Lonely Planet reported that the world’s largest ice sculpture was built in Harbin China. The giant new sculpture beat the previous height record by fully ten metres. The Flamenco Ice Tower stands 31 metres tall and was two years in the making. The record-breaking height was only possible by reinforcing the ice with natural fibres like wood fibres. The team said: “These fibres make the ice much stronger and create a reliable building material.” The sculpture is not only for show however, and some of the technology used could also be valuable for construction in incredibly cold climates.

DIY Ice Sculpture

Want to try your own hand at ice sculpting? This wiki-how tutorial lays out the step by step instructions for you to make your very own ice sculpture this holiday season! Remember to dress warm, take breaks and and protect your hands and eyes with gloves and glasses.