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Chapter 10 Displaying and lighting for effect.


After reading this chapter, you will b e able to:

* Explain the conical field of vision

* Discuss the visual impact of sculptures by height, shape, and form

* Discuss the visual impact of traditional lighting and list several methods

* Discuss the visual impact of special-effect lighting and list several methods

* Identify considerations for displaying a sculpture safely

* Describe different display trays and carts

* Explain means of enhancing a display using garnitures

Key Terms and Concepts

conical field of vision


glow sticks

glow discs


light table

glow rope

fiber optic cable

color wheel


Conical Field of Vision

  * Visual Impact by Height
  * Visual Impact by Shape and


Visual Impact by Traditional
and Special-Effect Lighting

  * Traditional Lighting
  * Special-Effect Lighting

Displaying the Sculpture

  * Proper Drainage

Display Trays and Carts

  * Commercially Available
Permanent Display Trays

  * Commercially Available
    Disposable Display Trays
  * Display Carts

Enhancing the Display with

  * Floral and Greens
  * Linens and other Man-Made

Artist Profile

When considering the design of an ice sculpture, the artist must think about where and how the sculpture will be displayed. Variables such as purpose, location, environment' lighting, and length of rime on display must be evaluated.

Sculptures are generally seen from many perspectives and multiple points of view. They can be either the center of attention or a supporting piece of a larger exhibit The sculptures are often enhanced by special lighting, decorated with floral arrangements, or used as a chilled vessel for presenting food. Whatever the purpose, to better understand how the work will be perceived by the viewing audience, the artist must first understand the concept of conical field of vision.


When viewing any object, what we see is limited by our peripheral vision. We experience a conical field of vision that radiates from our eyes outward to infinity. We have a limited ability to observe width and size when objects are close to us, but when they are farther away, our field of vision widens. For example, when we stand ten feet from a large building, the building's corners and sides are outside the boundaries of our peripheral vision. Stand back one hundred feet, and much more of the building comes into view. This is important for the sculptor to understand when displaying a sculpture.


Even though artists often use lighting, decorations, and other special effects to highlight their works, sculptors are able to create interest in their pieces without any of these embellishments. Sculptors can create visual impact by inventive use of height, shape, and form (see The Composition of Ice Sculptures in Chapter 1). They can sculpt and fuse the ice to arouse interest and imagination.

Visual Impact by Height

In displays, size always makes an impression. People tend to be impressed by sculptures that are very large and prominent, or small and delicate. It is often harder to make small and delicate ice sculptures that survive the ravages of heat and light than it is to make substantial centerpieces or an impressive table display. Ice sculptures are most often used as a single, large focal point or are incorporated into an even larger display. Not coincidentally, past experience in culinary and ice sculpting competitions has proven that judges prefer sculptures that are larger and set higher relative to their field of vision.

Visual Impact by Shape and Form

When queried, judges respond that ice makes an immediate and more powerful visual statement when it is in full view. They like to see sculptures with strong primary lines that can be identified from afar, with details that are revealed upon closer inspection.

In other words, basic shapes, such as circular and oval designs, have powerful lines that create visual continuity in the sculpture. Secondary lines create depth and definition, giving the sculpture its form. An interesting sculpture needs strong lines to create an immediate impression, secondary lines for depth and definition, and negative space for interest and imagination. The whole package works together to aid in symmetry of design.


Even though lighting isn't necessary to enhance a strong design, sculptors often use lighting to punch up the impact of their presentation. Sometimes the light even becomes an integral part of the sculpture, adding elements to the design. Whether soft and warm glow or bold and bright illumination--the use of light always arouses interest in an ice sculpture.

Traditional Lighting

In the 19th and early 20th century, candles and oil lamps were used to illuminate ice carvings. They were impractical, however, because they generated heat. During the mid-20th century, 150-watt floodlights with colored glass filters were used to light ice displays with less melting.

Until recently, ice sculptures were lit using one of three methods. These traditional methods are still widely used to light and display sculptures to dramatic effect, although other means of special-effect lighting have been introduced. Traditional methods include stage lighting, back lighting, and through lighting Each method places the light increasingly closer to the sculpture.

Stage Lighting

Stage lighting, or spotlighting, is a commonly used method for highlighting many forms of sculpture. The sculpture is merely placed on a table under ceiling-mounted light fixtures, and the beams are directed toward the ice. The room is often darkened slightly to emphasize the dramatic effect of the shadowing or color given to a statue by focused overhead spotlights. However, front lighting from a distance is the least desirable means for illuminating an ice sculpture, since the light actually bounces off the ice.

Back Lighting

There are basically three forms of backlights used to highlight ice sculptures and focus attention to their design and presence. Light fixtures are placed strategically behind the sculpture, focusing light from behind the translucent sculpture. The lights themselves are not emphasized; rather, the sculpture is highlighted by the light's beam. The three light sources include:

* Can Lights--These lights use incandescent bulbs, which give off a lot of heat. Generally, the lower the wattage, the lower the BTU's. They require some ventilation to exhaust the heat.

* Fluorescent Lights--These lights are very bright, give off virtually no heat, and are very affordable.

* LED Lights--This is the best type of light source, but the most expensive.


Through Lighting

There are basically two forms of through lighting that can be used to illuminate a sculpture from within. This form of lighting is unaffected by what surrounds the sculpture and is generally less obtrusive. The two forms are:

* Bottom Lighting--This form of lighting generally originates from a lighted display tray or cart. The sculpture is placed onto the specially designed tray, which has a light fixture mounted beneath a Plexiglas barrier. Color gels are often placed over the lights to provide color enhancement to the sculpture.

* Inset Lighting--This system requires the light source to be embedded into the ice, usually by carving a hole into which the light (often a battery powered LED) is inserted.


Special-Effect Lighting

Recent developments in artificial lighting have allowed sculptors to show their works "in a whole new light." Artisans have been able to marry the complementary natural forces of frozen water and light waves to create fragmentations of colored light and ice. The result is a magical union of color, light, and ice theatrics.

Glow Sticks and Glow Discs

The use of glow sticks and glow discs has allowed sculptors to bring light to smaller sculptures without the need for electrical wines, making the sculptures portable and flexible. These plastic coated cylinders or discs are about the same size as a cigar or a drink coaster, and are reasonably inexpensive. The sculptor cuts a slot in the ice and countersinks the glow device, which radiates a color throughout the ice piece.


Glow sticks and glow discs are often used on individual ice serving dishes like sorbet or shrimp boats, but they also work well with table centerpieces. The sticks have a 4-8 hour "glow-life," but their glow diminishes in brilliance with prolonged exposure to cold. Artists generally put them into the ice just before an event begins.




One of the newer special effects being used with ice sculptures is the ability to detonate "cold flame" pyrotechnic explosions and heatless showers of sparks from remote locations. The use of these products in conjunction with large flower-filled vases made of ice, the Statue of Liberty's torch, and other festive designs can create excitement at large banquets and special awards events.

The Sparktacular remote pyrotechnics system, shown in Figure 10-5, allows the florist or sculptor to insert sparkler charges (about the same size as a test tube) into a floral arrangement or to countersink them in an ice sculpture. Through a radio-controlled system of pagers, transmitters, and charging stations, the client or sculptor can detonate each individual charge when needed, setting off an impressive shower of heatless sparks. The system can be used to punctuate award presentations and highlight special moments in an event. They make the sculptures functional, while also serving as a focal point with their dramatic element of surprise.

In addition to these high-tech devices, sculptors can use candles and sparklers with their ice displays. However, the use of pyrotechnics requires extreme caution and a controlled environment.

Note: As a safety precaution, the sculptor should always obtain written permission from the facility management when using pyrotechnics.

Light Tables

Light tables are a passive way to make an elegant statement for a special event. Dining or buffet tabletops are made of clear Plexiglas and are draped and skirted with standard table coverings of cotton, silk, linen, or polyester. If preferred, the sides of the tables can be skirted with opaque colors and material to prevent light from showing through the sides. The light is then directed upwards through the tabletop.


A light source, such as an incandescent can, neon, or fluorescent light box, is placed under the table, allowing its light to glow through the cloth-covered top of the table. Centerpiece sculptures, sometimes with their own contrasting color light source, are placed on the table in small trays of clear or dark plastic. The appearance is impressive in a dimly lit room and adds to the entertainment value of the event.

Glow Ropes and Fiber Optic Cable

Glow ropes and fiber optic cables are an effective means to highlight the periphery of larger displays, such as ice bars and castles. Light travels through individual fibers, which are bundled within flexible outer tubing. Modular in design and sold in bundles, both cable and rope can be "built" to the desired length. There are also a variety of colors from which to select. Different products vary somewhat in function, and each shows light a little differently. Some systems pulse, alternating colors and rhythm of lights, while others are static. Fiber optics are self-illuminating, but do not project light.

Lasers and Projections

Ice can be used as a screen onto which logos, designs, messages, and colors are projected. Sculptors can shape ice into computer screens, television screens, and billboards onto which commercials, advertisements, and messages are projected. These specialized sculptures are most often used at trade shows and sales meetings.

Laser patterns can also be projected onto ice and fog to create an animated light show, often synchronized with music.

Color Wheels

This somewhat archaic means of lighting a display was borrowed from the Christmas tradition of lighting the tree. The process involves a color wheel and light projector. The wheel revolves slowly in front of the light projector, which is focused on the sculpture. As the different color panels rotate into the light, the sculpture glows in one color after another.


The most important aspect of displaying an ice sculpture is the safety of people around it. Ice sculptures are supposed to create a lasting impression, preferably a positive one. Misfortune can befall an event if a sculpture falls unexpectedly into the buffet, or worse, onto a passing guest. The following suggestions can help you keep your event safe:

* When planning the piece, design it for safety. Consider the length of time it will be on display, and sculpt pieces that will be stable for that period of time, given the temperature and weather environment.

* A 6" base is usually sufficient to support a sculpture for most buffets. Cut handholds into the base to help with controlled lifting, or slide heavy-duty plastic packing straps through the slots to be used as handles.

* Follow the directions as written in Chapter 4, "Safe Practices and Procedures," for safely lifting and transporting the sculpture to the space where it is to be displayed.

* If displaying the sculpture on a table, it is best to select a sturdy table that can bear more than the weight of the display. One raw block, before being sculpted, weighs 300 pounds. A carved sculpture generally weighs between 150 and 200 pounds. The table should be able to support at least one large adult for every sculpture in the display. Climb up onto the table to test its strength. Use milk crates or commercial dish-racks under the table for extra support, if needed.

* Select a table that is well balanced and supported by four straight or locking legs. Never use pedestal tables to display ice sculptures. Check to ensure that the tabletop is level.

* Select a location for the table away from both cold and warm drafts, but close to electrical outlets if needed.

* Don't display ice in high-traffic areas like dance floors, or on end tables of a buffet. Sculptures should be placed on tables that won't likely be bumped.

* Don't display ice where children have access. Ice sculptures tend to attract the curious.

* Make sure that the sculpture is set up properly for drainage. Water buildup can lead to accidental slips by staff or guests, or to damaged floors and floor coverings.

* Once the sculpture has been securely set on the table and arranged for display, it should not be moved except in emergency situations. It could tip, and water could make the floor slippery

Proper Drainage

Sculptors must always create a proper system of water retention using a remote reservoir. Failure to allow water to drain away from the base of the sculpture will weaken the base over time and possibly cause the display to fall. The following suggestions are proven methods for draining an ice sculpture:

* Select a sturdy display vessel that is big enough to hold the ice sculpture and its melt-off.

* Drainage holes in the bottom of the display tray are preferred over holes in the side; however, the tray will have to be elevated slightly off the table.

* Securely attach the drainage hose to the hole in the display tray. Most permanent trays should have a removable hose.

* Clothe and skirt the table first to hide the drainage bucket underneath. Set the tray in the center of the table. If wrapping the ice tray with linen, do not allow linen to drape into the ice display tray. Linen will act as a wick and absorb water from the display, causing unwanted moisture on the table and a potential hazard.

* Always attach the drain hose securely to the drainage bucket to prevent leaks. Sculptors often use duct tape for this purpose. A 5-10 gallon bucket should be sufficient for most displays.

* Place a paper towel or cloth in the tray, directly under the ice sculpture, to prevent it from sliding around in the tray while it melts.

* Pack cubed or crushed ice or snow tightly around the base of the sculpture. This will help lock the sculpture in place and function as a filter to keep foodstuffs from clogging the hose.

* The larger the diameter of drain hose, the less likely it will become clogged.

Melting Variables

Ice that will be on display in temperatures above freezing will melt. The rate at which it melts, and also vaporizes, varies depending on several contributing factors:

* Ice Dimensions--The mass of the sculpture will directly affect its rate of melting. Larger, thicker sculptures melt less rapidly than slender designs.

* Direct Heat--Direct contact with a source as subtle as the human hand, or as intense as a branding iron or blowtorch will melt ice rapidly.

* Indirect Heat--Indirect contact with a source nearby, either as slight as that given off by bodies or heat ducts, or as intense as that emitted by sterno, can also increase the melting rate of sculptures.

* Sunlight--The ultraviolet rays of the sun work to melt a sculpture from the inside out, referred to as the "greenhouse effect," over extended exposure.

* Artificial Light--Spotlights using incandescent bulbs emit heat. Direct light excessively softens the ice and can turn clear ice opaque. The use of cold light, such as fluorescent or LED, is best.

* Air Currents--Moving air, particularly if it is warm, can cause a sculpture to melt more rapidly. Sculptures should not be exposed to drafts, warm or cold.


All sculptures need to be exhibited at some point. As mentioned previously in this chapter, of greatest importance are the safety of the viewing audience and the stability of the table array (also see Chapter 4). The sculptor has a wide variety of choices available to use as containers in which to display ice. At one extreme is an aluminum "square head," used by the military as a large roasting pan. At the other are ornate, polished silver display trays with filigree designs. One extreme is utilitarian, the other ostentatious. Both should be sturdy and functional.

Between those ends of the pan spectrum is a selection of disposable or permanent, light-free or illuminated, trays commercially available for ice display. Additionally, the sculptor can construct a custom cart that serves as both a transport device and display vessel.

The following represent a few of the vehicles commonly used for ice display.

Commercially Available Permanent Display Trays

There are a variety of commercially available display trays designed for reuse. Advantages include durability and appearance, as well as adaptability to incorporate lighting into the sculpture. They include non-lighted, lighted, and rotating display trays.

Non-Lighted Trays

Non-lighted trays were the first to be used in displaying ice sculptures. In the early days, ice was only for the most elegant events and only available for those who could afford the services of a skilled carver. Such sculptures required service-ware befitting their importance--they graced the tables of the wealthy in copper and silver display vessels. Newer permanent display trays use polished stainless steel to reflect modern times. None of these trays uses light directly, but some are mirrored to help reflect the light.

Lighted Trays

Lighted trays (also known as glow boxes) are an effective means to accent an ice sculpture, illuminating both the sculpture and the table presentation around the ice. The light source is often contained in a separate box located beneath the transparent plastic tray that holds the ice sculpture, providing through lighting. As with other display trays, the water drains to a reservoir in the base or through the box to another exterior bucket connected by a drainage tube. These display trays can be large or small. Larger display units are for full-block sculptures that would typically be displayed as part of a buffet. They are plugged in, with AC current powering the light. Smaller units are typically for half-block to one-third-block sculptures, and are generally used as centerpieces on individual dining tables. Battery powered lights, often hidden in the tray's base, illuminate these smaller display units.


There are several reputable companies that manufacture these types of display trays. Most of the newer tray systems use acrylics and other hard plastics in their construction, while some incorporate attractive wooden frames, metal, and even cloth slipcovers with their base boxes.

Rotating Display Trays

Rotating display trays bring an additional element of movement and theatrics, beyond colored lighting, to ice sculptures. These large, six-or eight-sided, mirrored display bases are often cumbersome but are worth the hassle for the impression they create. Slow rotation allows the guest to view all sides of the sculpture without having to walk around the display. The outside of the display unit is covered with acrylic mirrors that reflect the current surroundings. However, these plastic parts tend to chip, crack, and fall off of the base.

Commercially Available Disposable Display Trays

Even though permanent display trays are nice to use, a considerable disadvantage lies in their initial cost and the need to retrieve them from the location where the ice was on display. This need for recovering the tray has given rise to a market for disposable trays.

Disposable plastic trays today can even come complete with drain lines. This is a real benefit to the professional sculptor who sells her product on either a "pick-up" or "drop-off" basis. Having to return after a party has concluded is time consuming; and therefore costly, for the sculptor.

Ideally, the sculptor should find a way to use permanent display trays as often as possible. Sometimes that isn't an option. For these times, the disposable tray is a workable solution.

Display Carts

Display carts are a practical way to have an ice display ready for set-up, but still in the freezer for storage. When needed, any staff member can roll the preset sculpture out of the freezer and into the banquet hall. These carts have the same dimensions as a banquet table and white laminate tops, and so they can blend into a row of tables easily, particularly if the tables and cart have been skirted. If desired, the cart and sculpture can be illuminated from within.



When arranging table displays that include ice sculptures as either functional vessels or for decoration, consideration should be given as to how to present the ice at its best. We believe that most of the time sculptures are best displayed with no exterior garnitures. That is to say, ice well shaped is its own decoration. It needs no help to be attractive or elegant.

However, there are times that ice is presented in concert with other items, generally for a specific purpose. Sufficient forethought should be given to ensure that the ice is presented well.


Floral and Greens

The use of floral arrangements has always been associated with ice sculptures. Vases are one of the most commonly sculpted pieces, and most students start their sculpting lessons making them.

When marrying these two decorative elements, the sculptor must consider the size of the arrangement that will be displayed in the ice. For practical reasons, it is best to obtain a sample of the flower base that will be used by the florist. It is easier to have a properly sized depression cut into the sculpture from the beginning than to have to adjust the sculpture on location during set-up.

Using flowers introduces theme colors into the otherwise colorless ice sculpture. The use of greens also adds a nice touch of soft color to ice displays. They are commonly placed around the base of the sculpture for their color contrast, and they also work well as camouflage when needed to hide the ice display tray.

Linens and Other Man-Made Objects

Sculptures can be dressed in linens, clothes, beads, top hats, and canes to create a campy appearance. The best advice is to never use porous materials with ice. However, if the event is best served by this indulgence, then the choice of material and its color should be carefully considered. As the sculpture melts, porous material will absorb the sculpture's melt-off Dark colors will hide the water stains better than light colors, and thin fabrics have less capacity to absorb than bulkier fabrics. Mylar and other water-repellent cloth materials are best to use with ice.

Although a single rose, a string of colored beads, or a plate of food can look stylish with ice, the authors generally prefer to use as few of these accoutrements as possible, instead allowing the ice to be the focal point.


Meet the Artist--Bruno Haenggi

Bruno Haenggi is a highly skilled pastry chef from Interlaken, Switzerland. In addition to the figurines of marzipan and chocolate that he sculpts for his customers, Chef Haenggi creates a variety of ice sculptures for the Ice Palace, one of the world famous attractions located on the Jungfraujoch--Top of Europe. Chef Haenggi discovered his love of ice in Asia while on an extensive trip across three continents. Since then, he has traveled to various points around the world to hone his skills in ice sculpture.

Ask the Artist

Q What do you consider the most difficult aspect of your work?

A I think the most difficult part is determining the correct assessment of the proportions of my sculptures. For example, my sculptures in the Ice Palace are on display for extended periods of time; it is vital that they melt evenly, so the sculpture remains in proper proportion as it melts.

Q Do you set any limits to your work?

A No. I don't believe artists should set limits for themselves. Although it's not always possible to replicate natural figures exactly, I do think that we can do pretty much what we put our minds to. It's all a matter of creative thinking and proper planning.
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Title Annotation:Part III Managing The Ice
Publication:Ice Sculpting the Modern Way
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Previous Article:Chapter 9 Methods of transportation.
Next Article:Chapter 11 Custom design techniques and special event sculpting.

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