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Magical Ice Sculptures Take Over the City of York

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December 27, 2015, 4:00pm
Aslan the lion from The Chronicles of Narnia, in front of the York Central Library. Photo courtesy of Laura Smith

Sparkling works of art sculpted in ice appeared throughout the city of York, England, on the second weekend of December. The city’s plans for an ice-themed winter event were thwarted last year, and this year’s Ice Trail was an opportunity to make things right—so they went big, commissioning 30 sculptures by Glacial Art Ice Sculptors in Liverpool.

To make the event possible, each sculpture was sponsored by a local business. The Cheshire Cat showed off his smile in front of the Grand Hotel and Spa. A giant teapot hissed in front of Bettys Café Tea Room. Elsewhere, visitors could spot Yoda, Aslan the lion, an ice skating Viking, a UFO and the Mad Hatter. The National Railway Museum sponsored the creation of the Flying Scotsman, a rendering of a steam powered locomotive that proved to be the most difficult of the bunch, according to Matthew Foster, one of the two founders of Glacial Art.

Foster explains that Glacial Art makes a point of using only traditional techniques: no molds, no computer-aided cutting machines. Everything is hand-carved out of 3-foot blocks of ice. A chainsaw is used first, to get rid of the large chunks, and then the detail work begins, with steak knives, chisels, whatever tool will do the job. For larger pieces, the team builds the sculpture in sections, then squirts water in between the joints, which immediately freezes to fuse together the piece.

There are no special techniques to delay melting—the trick, Foster says, is to keep the ice as cold as possible the night before. For this, they store the work at -25 degrees Celsius. The quality of the ice is also key—it is crystal clear, and the absence of air bubbles help the piece last longer, in addition to dazzling the eye.

To see more sculptures from the York Ice Trail, click here.


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