On Jan. 20, four experienced ice carvers coached seven participants in a day-long ice carving workshop on the front patio of Alberta Avenue Community League.

The group worked collectively on a chair and individually on a series of smaller sculptures to show different aspects of the art.

“You learn so much watching other people do the sculpting,” said Maggie Field, a first-time ice carver.

Ice carving is often a participatory performance art form, said Ritchie Velthuis, a long time member of the Sculptors’ Association of Alberta (SAA). Edmonton has about 10 committed ice carvers. It’s a physically challenging art form, and the SAA wants to encourage more young people to take up the art form.

One of the goals of the workshop was to train new ice carvers and Velthuis said the SAA has “a long history of professional mentorship.”

Velthuis worked alongside ice carvers Barb Marcinkoski (SAA snow and ice director), Eileen Heidler, and Randall Fraser.

Marcinkoski said, “Ritchie is a plethora of knowledge and a great mentor.”

The workshop was a good opportunity for people to see if they enjoy carving or have an aptitude for it.

Field sculpted a question mark. “This was my first ice sculpture and I didn’t know if I could do it.” She added, “It’s basically getting out in the snow and playing all day.”

Melissa Wolfinger, a new SAA member, has been drawing as an artistic pursuit and this was her first time sculpting.

“It is a challenge taking something 2D and making it 3D. I had it all drawn out, and it looked beautiful,” Wolfinger laughed, gesturing at her sculpture. Despite what she said was a challenging day, “I 100 per cent want to do this again.”

The SAA has a comprehensive tool library, which was useful to the workshop attendees.

Field said her goal “was to try a lot of tools.”

Jeremy McConville, who mostly sculpts snow but is learning ice carving, took the workshop to “see what tools I need to buy.” He used a hardened steel tool from Japan to shave the lines into the shell sculpture he created.

Wolfinger joked, “Everyone should try [ice carving] at least once to use the chainsaw.”

Anyone is welcome to join the SAA. They hold monthly meetings with featured guest speakers and may hold another workshop in February or March. Find more information about the SAA and upcoming events by visiting sculptors-alberta.com/ice-snow.

Featured Image: Jeremy McConville worked on a shell sculpture during the workshop. | Rebecca Lippiatt