sculpting "Ancestral Spirit" in Alaska with Junichi (long version, part 1)

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As a team, we discuss the sculpture design as we look at the huge template.
In March of 2004, I was fortunate enough to join Junichi Nakamura’s team at the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, AK. Also on the team were Shinichi Sawamura and Greg Butauski.

Also, this is the long version of the sequence, so there's a second part. A shorter version (36 photos) is available as well, if you know, you just don't have a whole lot of time to sit in front of the computer today. Also, here's the secrets entry that introduces the sequence, in case you're curious.

Template layout: Junichi and Shinichi stand over the design template. The design depicts an eagle on the arm of a Native American warrior

Template layout: The large template required that we clear out a lot of floor space in order to see the entire template at once

Moving the ice: Heavy equipment is required to move the massive blocks

O’Grady Pond: Right next to the ice park, this pond is the ice source for the competition. Note the blocks scattered on the pond’s surface

Raw blocks: Each team has 10 massive, blue “arctic diamonds” with which to craft their sculpture over 6 long, cold days

Site prep: We have to ready the site before ice carving begins. The black backdrop will shade the sculpture and help with photos.

Starting the foundation: The competition has begun and our design requires 2 blocks as a base level

Ice sign detail: This is the sculpture design, shown frozen into an ice sign placed in front of our site

As we worked on our sculpture, “Ancestral Spirit,” over 6 days, I took over a hundred photos of the process. I’ve included a selection (63 pix along with 3 from Patrick Endres) of those photos in this two part gallery.

Second level: After the lower level has been squared off and surfaced, a third block is stacked on top

More sections: The design includes horizontal step portions that are added next

Foundation assembly: Completing the sculpture’s foundation is the bottom section of the warrior’s spear

Base of the spear: The template for the lower section of the spear applied to a slab of ice.

To say that it was a learning experience would be an understatement. The photos are not presented in the precise order in which they were taken because with four team members, there was a lot of different things going on at once. I’ve tried to organize them according to the part of the sculpture that was being worked on.

Figure midsection: The template for the figure’s midsection is applied to an uncut block

Head and chest: The template for the figure’s head, chest, and shoulders on an uncut block. It will be turned horizontally during assembly

Reapplication of templates: Templates are reapplied to the correct depth after the block has been cut back

Rough carving: Junichi rough carves the combined midsection and head & chest blocks.

To safely create and assemble a sculpture of this size in a matter of days requires an impressive amount of organization and skill. Junichi’s mastery of this process is remarkable. However, without the equally impressive skills of the lift operators at Ice Alaska, these sort of sculptures wouldn’t even be possible.

Shaping the figure: The template use has nearly ended as the figure takes on details and rounded surfaces

Face: The figure’s huge face takes shape. Notice the fracture running through the nose and chin

Starting the eagle: Templates for the eagle are applied to large block sections after they’re moved into position

Ready for lifting: The figure is ready to be hoisted onto the foundation

Wing curvature: Notice that the right wing of the eagle will have a noticeable curvature based on the initial block placement

Top of the right wing: This will help attach the other lower wing portion of the right wing to the eagle’s body. The red square is a lifting point

Left wing template: This is the bottom portion of the left wing

Right wing and head complete: Use of templates has ended for most of the eagle. Notice the support strut running from body to wing

Left wing template: The entire left wing is now ready to be carved out of the block after a large section of ice was broken and repaired

Carving the left wing: Shinichi stands ready to carve the left wing. Notice the finished spear head in the background

Raising the left wing: Notice the broken feather (second from the right) which will be easily repaired

Left wing complete: The left wing is ready to be moved into position for attachment to the eagle. A crane operator checks the strap placement

Wing attachment: The left wing is skillfully lowered onto the body of the eagle while Shinichi looks on

Using shims: Junichi uses shims to help position the wing at the correct angle for attachment

Eagle ready for placement: The assembled eagle will be raised and placed on the figure’s arm

Right wing backside: Notice the lack of detailing and the surface texturing on the back. A support strut is indicated in red


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