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Chapter 8 The studio.


After reading this chapter, you will be able to:

* Discuss the artist's studio, and what design elements should be included

* Define movement and proximity, and describe how they affect the sculpting process

* Identify the elements of a well-designed walk-in freezer

* Discuss the concept of the stage, cutting zone, and safety zone and the relationship between them

* Discuss the proper storage of equipment and gear

* Describe how ice and sculptures should be stoned at all stages

Key Terms and Concepts

mise en place

artist's studio



cutting zone

sculpting stage

safety zone

raw ice

The Artist's Studio

  * Proximity to Work

Freezer Layout and Design

  * Access and Separation from
  * Flooring
  * Shelving
  * Temperature

The Cutting Zone and
Sculpting Stage

  * The Safety Zone

Equipment and Gear Storage

  * Clothing and Safety Gear
  * Tools
  * Lighting and Electrical
  * Trays, Drains, and Buckets
  * Carts
  * Ice Block-Making

Long- and Short-Term Ice

  * Raw Blocks
  * In-Progress Sculptures
  * Finished Sculptures

Artist Profile

Mise en place means "everything in its place," from French. One of the first rules a student culinarian learns is mise en place. All things have their place, and to be efficient one must be organized. Organizational guru Robert Townsend said, "All organizations are at least SO percent waste wasted people, wasted effort, wasted space, and wasted time."

The professional sculptor must be organized, for there is a great investment of time, money, and talent when a person chooses a career as an ice artisan. The orderliness of the studio is paramount to long-term success as a sculptor.


Successful artists have always designed and built spaces that were conducive to the production of their craft. The artist's studio is the place where sculptors conduct their business of creating sub-zero art. The sculpting environment, including the equipment and relationship to other workspaces, affects the artist's ability to work efficiently and safely.

Proximity to Work

Because ice is extremely fragile, yet heavy and temperature-sensitive, sculpting should be done as close as possible to the freezer. Every time the ice is moved there is risk of damage. When planning a studio, the sculptor should consider movement and proximity.

As discussed in Chapter 2, "Understanding the Medium: The Science of Ice," ice can be sculpted either inside a freezer or in a safe area protected from sunlight, wind, and rain. Most people who sculpt only sporadically set up just outside their kitchen door. They do so because this location is otherwise used for different activities and doesn't require an additional investment of space and equipment, when only used on a limited basis for sculpting. It is also closest to the freezer, but is outside the general pattern of foot traffic of staff and out of earshot of the customers. After tempering the ice, this location can work reasonably well.

An example of a more permanent arrangement is found at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) in Michigan. When the Applied Technology Center was first constructed at GRCC, an ice-sculpting studio was integrated into their covered loading-dock area. The sculpting studio is located on a portion of the large receiving dock that is enclosed, heated, and well lit. Its facilities include three Clinebell Ice Block Makers, a dedicated walk-in freezer with custom shelving for holding finished sculptures with the raw blocks stored underneath, and an equipment storeroom for holding chain saws, die grinders, safety gear, and display trays, along with countless other parts and pieces of equipment. Insulated extension cords with GFCI circuitry are suspended from the ceiling from retractable cord reels, compressed air and water lines are mounted on a nearby wall, and individual sculpting platforms include heavy rubber matting mounted on custom designed stainless steel tables.

When completed, the sculptures can either be stored within a few feet of where they were sculpted, rolled down the hall to the four banquet rooms and restaurant for use and display, or wrapped and packed for transport off-site. Movement and proximity were addressed in the design.

The additional investment in ice-making equipment, freezer space, and equipment storage is justified because the Culinary Arts program teaches four elective sections of ice sculpting classes annually. Additionally, an instructional module on ice sculpting is taught in their Banquets and Catering course, and the department also sponsors an ice sculpting competition team, "the Chain Gang." The arrangement allows for a large number of students to safely sculpt on a regular basis without disrupting other activities.

Those individuals who sculpt regularly often have a studio arranged within the protected environment of a walk-in freezer. This arrangement allows for minimal movement of the ice and reduced chances for accidental damage. Such proximity to the work also benefits the sculptor who has multiple components to be fused.

At the sculpting studio of Ice Sculptures, Ltd., Derek Maxfield and Randy Finch have created a highly productive environment for their team of employees. With ten Clinebell Ice Block Makers, two walk-in storage freezers, and one freezer dedicated as a sculpting studio complete with an Iceculture 5200 router, they produce several hundred sculptures a month. Their building includes a loading dock, business office, CAD design office, ice-block room, equipment room, and several storerooms for packing supplies and shipping containers. Again, movement and proximity were addressed in the facility design.



A walk-in freezer is vital to sculpting ice on a regular basis. Because of size and temperature requirements for storing multiple raw ice blocks, a walk-in freezer is the only practical option for storage. Some operations have dedicated freezers to warehouse only raw blocks and sculptures, and some even have sculpting studios within their dedicated freezer. Most operations, however, share the functional space of the freezer between ice and the other foodstuffs.

Access and Separation from Foodstuffs

The ideal situation is to have a freezer specifically designated to store ice, thereby reducing the chances of breaking the sculptures. In most cases this is not practical or economical. When creating a space for ice within a shared walk-in freezer, the sculptor should consider the following:

* Choose an area with a minimum of foot or cart traffic, possibly in the rear of the freezer.

* Use Ethafoam, or some form of plastic, underneath the ice to keep it from freezing to the floor.

* Whenever possible, do not place ice in the direct path of fans, where temperatures can vary and air circulation is strongest. Thermo-shock can occur due to a sudden drop in temperature, and air circulation increases the rate of sublimation.

* When using shelving, be certain that it is structurally capable of handling the weight of the ice. Any sculptures or components stored in boxes on shelves should be well labeled.


The flooring of a modern walk-in freezer is either raised or flush with the floor outside. When a floor is raised, it indicates that the walk-in was built directly onto the poured-concrete floor without any recessed insulation. After constructing the walls of the freezer, several inches of insulation are laid onto the floor and covered with stainless steel or galvanized aluminum. A short ramp is built just inside the doorway. This method is commonly used for freezers that are installed after a building has been constructed.

The preferred method of construction requires more advance planning. A recessed area of the floor is created on the exact location where the freezer is to be built. After the walls of the freezer are erected, insulation is laid into the recessed area and covered with metal sheeting. This method is more difficult and is often expensive, but it is more convenient to the end-user since no ramp is required and more wall space is available for storage.

In either case, ice blocks will be dragged across the floor for storage. Ideally, the floor would be covered with Ethafoam to prevent shocking and chipping the ice. Short of that, plastic and a large rubber pad are suitable. Do not use cardboard, as it is absorbent and will stick to the ice.

The floor should be swept regularly to remove snow and debris.


Shelving can be added to a walk-in to store ice. However, most commercial shelving is not designed to hold the weight of block ice for extended periods of time.

At GRCC, custom shelving was constructed from stainless steel sheeting and attached to three sides of the freezer walls. The 24" wide shelving was installed approximately 45" off the floor, allowing sufficient space to slide raw blocks under the shelves and stand unfinished works and completed sculptures on the shelves. Even though sculpted blocks weigh less than raw blocks, which weigh about 300 pounds, they still require a sturdy shelf on which to rest.


Moving ice in and out of this freezer is now safer for the sculptures, as their delicate appendages are out of harms way. The finished sculptures are also easier to pick up since they are stoned at waist height. Large, bag-covered blocks are slid on slick, non-porous sheeting under the shelf, and are arranged in a compacted way to allow for maximum storage and minimum sublimation. Capacity and accessibility are increased due to complete use of vertical storage space.


When storing ice, an important factor is the temperature of the freezer. Temperature within a walk-in freezer should be maintained between 20-28[degrees] F. At this temperature, the ice is less brittle and less susceptible to chipping and breaking. We have found between 26-28[degrees] F to be the ideal temperature for storing and sculpting ice. The ice is both pliable and compact at this temperature and the risk of thermo-shock when moving the ice to a warmer area for transportation or display is reduced.

There are many good reasons for holding the ice at this temperature. Among them:

* The ice is less brittle, and less susceptible to chipping and breaking.

* The risk of thermo-shock is reduced when moving the ice for transportation or display.

* Less time is needed to temper the ice, specifically when carving at room temperature.

* The ice is protected from sublimation during the freezer's defrost cycle, if the ice is being stored at too warm a temperature. (However, keeping it properly covered also affords protection)


The cutting zone is an imaginary circle that radiates 6' around the sculptor, where others may not trespass. In this area, the sculptor should be alone and free to wield power tools without endangering others. It is generally located around the sculpting stage where the sculptor is working on the ice piece. As the artist moves, so does the cutting zone, always keeping a safe distance between operating power tools and other people. Maintaining the cutting zone is one of a few hard and fast rules in the ice-sculpting business.

The Safety Zone

The safety zone, mentioned in Chapter 4, "Safe Practices and Procedures" must dearly established before sculpting. Unlike the cutting zone, the safety zone is not imaginary. It is a clearly defined perimeter established to keep casual onlookers and passersby away from the sculpture and sculptor. It can be a medium-sized room, as part of a larger studio, or it can be a sectioned-oft space of a much larger area. At the center of the safety zone is the sculpting stage, where the ice sculpture rest on a workbench or rubber mat. Like the safety zone, the sculpting stage does not move during the sculpting process.


It is necessary to establish such zones because ice sculptures rend to be magnets for inquisitive onlookers. The artist can be unaware of the attention drawn by fie sculpture as she remains focused on her work Conversely, the sculptor might be working with others who are very Familiar with sculpting and who might become careless due to their familiarity with the sculpting process. The danger lies in allowing anyone, curious or careless, too close to the action.

Establishing a safe area around the ice, in which the sculptor can move unimpeded by those around her; is paramount to safe sculpting.


The professional and student sculptor alike must make a concerted effort to care for their equipment and gear. Failing to maintain equipment and gear properly can lead to the unnecessary expense of replacement and to unforeseen inconvenience.

Clothing and Safety Gear

Having a warm, dry area to store and dry clothing and safety gear undoubtedly enhances the sculpting experience. Clothing must be allowed to dry thoroughly and should be stored in an area with ample air circulation. When available, a heat source is desirable, as it protects against the mildew and fungus that can grow on wet clothing.

The sculptor should have multiple pairs of gloves and socks available for rotating during a long sculpting session. These clothes must be maintained properly, so they are ready and available the next time the sculptor needs them.

Additionally, rubber boots, eye goggles, earplugs, and head muffs need a home. They have a way of getting misplaced when not organized properly.


Properly dried and oiled tools can help reduce expenses by adding longevity to each tool's life. A sculpting area may not provide the best conditions; therefore, it may be necessary to create a separate storage area for tools. The sculptor must allow adequate shelving and hooks for tools, replacement parts, and repair tools and supplies. Cabinet space, sturdy plastic tubs, and large "C" hooks work well to organize a sculptor's studio.

When laying out equipment to be used while the artist is working on a sculpture, it is recommended to allow enough room around the sculpting stage to spread tools out. This will reduce the risk of one tool damaging another, as can happen when tools are jumbled in a pile.

Lighting and Electrical Cords

As with all tools, electrical cords and lighting should always have a specific home. Improperly stored electrical cords and fighting can become damaged and create a serious safety risk. Dangling cords or cords strewn about a work area can cause an accident. Care must be taken, and habits established, to stow any electrical cords not in immediate use. The use of retractable cord reels is recommended as one convenient and effective method for storing extension cords.

Trays, Drains, and Buckets

The sculptor generally supplies the client with the equipment needed to display a sculpture. Service can also involve the delivery, set-up, and removal of the sculpture, when the size and complexity of the sculpture warrant the extra service. In any case, display trays, drainage tubing, and water reservoirs (such as 10-gallon buckets) will be needed at the time of the display.

It should be noted that these items are not part of the sculpting process and therefore do not need to be stored near where the actual sculpting process occurs. There is no reason to take up precious space near the freezer or sculpting stage to stone these items.


Carts, whether two-wheel or four-wheel, are an important tool in moving ice safely from the freezer to the loading dock or banquet room. However, they tend to be a nuisance when not in use. Planning for their convenient storage is a good idea.

Ice Block Making Equipment

When deciding on the arrangement of an ice studio with production capabilities, it is important to make the configuration as user-friendly as possible for harvesting and storing of ice. Freshly pulled blocks tend to come out of the machines extremely cold, and should not be transported through a warm area on the way to the storage freezer. This can cause thermo-shock.


Ice-block makers have supplemental equipment, such as hoists and cradles that are used for harvesting and handling raw ice blocks after removing them from the block maker. This equipment must be stored properly while not in use, but the storage should be in reasonably close proximity to the ice machines for convenient accessibility.


Ice can be safely held in a walk-in freezer for extended periods of time when proper precautions are taken. The sculptor must consider thermo-shock, sublimation, and other damaging actions that will affect the ice when storing raw blocks, in-progress sculptures, and finished sculptures.


Raw Blocks

New block ice, also known as raw ice, may be purchased boxed or uncovered. When received unprotected, or when made by the sculptor, the artisan should cover the blocks with a large garbage bag. Always keeping blocks, bowls, dishes, sheets, sculptures, or any other ice product covered while being stored will extend the shelf life of the ice. Additionally, the ice will be protected from the unwanted accumulation of snow, crystal formations, and whatever else may fall or form on the ice.

In many freezers, not only very low temperatures are a factor, but also limited space. Since block ice is large and heavy, sufficient floor space is a must. It is advisable to place the blocks tightly together along the wall of the freezer, keeping only a small space between the walls and the ice blocks for proper air circulation.

In-Progress Sculptures

Usually, those sculptures that are in the process of being completed will need to be accessed easily. For that reason, partially completed sculptures should be stored closest to the door of the freezer, but kept safe from being damaged by the normal traffic in the freezer.

If necessary, lighter items that are properly packed and labeled may be stacked on top of new block ice. But it is best not to stack partially or fully completed ice too high, because there is more airflow at the top of freezers from the condensing fans that send warmer air past the ice.

Finished Sculptures

When a sculpture is finished, proper storage is important so that it will be preserved safely until it is displayed. If a sculpture was carved at room temperature, it must be thoroughly cleaned with a hand brush or hosed off with water so that no slush, ice chips, dirt, Ethafoam, or any other foreign matter freezes to the finished sculpture. Be sure to remove any excess water from the recesses of the sculpture before placing it in the freezer.

Before moving the sculpture into the freezer, prepare a space in a low-traffic area with good circulation, but away from the door or condensing fans to prevent sublimation. Place something non-porous on the floor, such as a plastic garbage bag, Ethafoam, or Coroplast[TM], to prevent the wet sculpture from freezing to the floor.

Before covering the block with plastic, allow the ice to "set' or freeze for 10-20 minutes. If it is wrapped when wet or soft, the plastic will freeze on the ice and leave wrinkles. Once the ice has set, wrap it in plastic or cover it with a garbage bag. This will help prevent sublimation and ice crystal formation.

Ice crystals form when the freezer goes through a defrost cycle. The condenser heats up to melt excess frost or ice buildup on the evaporator. When the freezer starts back up after the defrost cycle ends, the water molecules in the air attach to anything in the freezer, forming ice crystals. Over a period of time, an exposed sculpture will be covered in ice crystals, making the surface furry and fuzzy. When this happens, the crystals can be carefully brushed away, leaving the original sculpture relatively undamaged. If storing the piece for a long period of time, placing a plastic bag and then a cardboard box over the sculpture will help. Make sure the box is labeled so no one puts something on top of the boxed sculpture.


Meet the Artist--George O'Palenick

George O'Palenick is an Associate Professor at Johnson & Wales University, where he has been teaching since the early 1980s. George has served as the advisor to the "Chipper Club," the student ice-carving club. Many of his students have competed in local and national ice-carving competitions. Chef O'Palenick has also operated an ice sculpture business, Art in Ice, Inc. since the late 1980s. An active member of several professional organizations, George is currently the President of the National Ice Carving Association. Chef O'Palenick is certified to judge ice-carving competitions for both the American Culinary Federation and the National Ice Carving Association, and he represented the USA and NICA as a judge for the 2002 Olympic Arts Festival Ice Carving Competition in Provo, Utah.

Ask the Artist

Q What do you consider to be the most important aspect of organizing the sculptor's studio?

A Without a doubt, it has to be safety. I have been a big proponent for safety since I've been involved with sculpting. Without organizing a proper work area, a sculptor is bound to have an accident some day. The studio must be established and organized for safe sculpting. Ground fault electrical outlets, non-skid, floors, use of lifting belts and eye protection are examples of how to make your work studio safer for sculpting.

Q Have you seen many changes in sculpting since you started?

A Certainly. My first exposure to ice carving was with Joe Amendola in the late 1960s, when I was a student at the Culinary Institute of America in New Haven. He inspired me, but the sculpting was less ornate. Back then, the ice and tools weren't as good as what is available today. The techniques infusing used today far surpass what was done even five years ago.
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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 7 Fusing: joining ice to ice.
Next Article:Chapter 9 Methods of transportation.

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