11/14/2014 18:33 Filed in: ice sculpture designs
snowman with a rough approximation of the old Radisson logo
snowmen from iceHere’s one that I pulled out of my files. With winter and the holidays on the way, I thought the timing was pretty good. You can carve it as just a regular ice snowman, or you can add a logo or message to the big circle. The initial drawing shows a rough version of the old Radisson logo; a Radisson Inn in Albuquerque was where I first learned to carve ice. I would think that “Happy Holidays!” or something like that could work very well too; I’ve attached a couple options below. The bottom section should be left flat on the front to accommodate the logo or message, which would work out especially well if you’re using a CNC machine. As for his eyes, mouth, and buttons, you have several options. You can snowfill engrave them, freeze black or color plastic or paper under small pieces of added ice, carve back the rest of the ice to leave them in relief, or attach small chunks of ice to the snowman. It’s up to you.
Colored acetate gels frozen into ice sculptures for added detail; Frosty on the left, Mr. Bingle (It’s a New Orleans thing.) on the right.
In Frosty’s case, the plastic in his head is in the middle of the ice while other small details for Frosty and Bingle are behind small added pieces of ice.
“Happy Holidays!” version with snowflakes
“Merry Christmas!” version with holly
the carrot secret revealedThe nose, on the other hand, is a different story. You could make the nose the same way you make the eyes and mouth. But the “classic” snowman (and now Olaf from Frozen too) has a carrot for a nose and this is a problem. A little while back, I came up with what I think is a pretty solid solution to the carrot problem. You see, Olaf has a REALLY big carrot nose in proportion to his head. So when I carved him out of a single block of ice, I realized that I had to find a huge carrot to keep things in proportion. I also had to make it stick to his face for an extended period of time; not an easy proposition. I came up with a solution that worked REALLY well; the nose looked good and there was no problem keeping it in place. A while back, I issued a challenge: figure out how I did it and win stuff. Unfortunately, nobody figured it out. So I’m going to reveal it now, while it’s still useful this year.
I used a special technique for Olaf’s nose.
Remember Nerf basketballs? It occurred to me that orange, open-cell foam might be a great substitute for a real carrot. If you try to freeze a real carrot to a snowman’s face, it usually falls out. But if you cut a piece of orange foam into a carrot shape with some sharp scissors, you can then immerse the “carrot” in water (the conveniently very absorbent carrot) and then let it freeze. Once frozen, you can sculpt away most of the non-carrot ice. If you leave a section of ice at the base though, it becomes very easy to simply freeze the ice/carrot nose to Frosty or Olaf’s face. And the little foam basketballs that you can buy at Toys R Us happen to be just about the perfect size to make Olaf’s giant nose. It holds up very well during the event too. In fact, I tried to get it off Olaf’s face after the first event I tried it at. I wanted to save it for next time. I had to give up because it was stuck really well and I didn’t have any tools.
snowman expressionsYou have to be careful with a snowman’s expression. Even though, in many cases, his expression is just really a bunch of circles, people are very sensitive to subtle differences in expression. If you find that you’ve accidentally created a slightly evil snowman expression, for example, you can make it more benign by adding eyebrows in the right position. Or if you want take evil snowman all the way, you can add evil eyebrows. If you look at pictures of Olaf, you’ll definitely see the benign eyebrow example. See them in the closeup photo below.
snowman eyesOne of the most important aspects of any ice sculpture, where you’re trying to portray a living creature or a cartoon figure, is the eyes. Frosty, for example, is depicted as having simple coal black eyes until he comes to life. Once he’s alive, his eyes are much more lifelike. If you do this wrong, however, lifelike eyes can be extremely creepy. Olaf is a good example of lifelike eyes done right. If you try to replicate Olaf in ice, you should make sure to spend extra time on the eyes. What I did was to surround the clear ice pupils with packed, frozen snow. Once they were frozen and solid, I then went back and shaped his eyes. I’ve seen other examples where Olaf’s eyes were done the opposite way, with white pupils. I don’t think this is the best way to go; I think it makes Olaf look like a snow zombie.
It’s important to get Olaf’s eyes right. His arms and hair are fairly easy to come up with.
snowman armsFor this snowman design, I’ve gone with stick arms. Olaf, of course, also has the stick arms thing going on. (He also has stick hair.) For Frosty the Ice Luge, I obviously had to go with ice arms because of the luge track. But real stick arms work pretty well; you just have to make attachment holes that are the right size, angle, and depth. For Olaf, I had made arm templates for him and then I simply went out into the yard and looked for branches that I could closely match to the templates, with a little extra so that I could stick them into the ice. I’m pretty sure I could find stick arms for this design pretty easily as well. (We have a lot of trees with fallen branches around.) But I’m sure there are a lot of artificial possibilities too; wander around a Michael’s crafts store for a little bit and I’m sure you could find some cool ideas. But stick with wood or plastic for materials. They don’t conduct heat and change the ice much.
the top hatIn the version of a snowman here, I’ve gone with an ice top hat. The big problem with the top hat is the brim of the hat. The brim has two tricky aspects. First, ideally it should extend out from the front of the sculpture a little bit since that’s what a real hat would do. Also, the brim should be thin and that can be a problem for a sculpture that’s out for a while. The only way to solve the second problem is to carve the brim thicker, but you can solve the first problem by cutting a separate oval or circle slab, and freezing the hat in two (or three) pieces to the snowman’s head.
again, it’s up to youIn the end, you can decide what way works best for you and your situation. Snowmen are very flexible designs and you can spend as much or as little time as you would like on the sculptures. Make an evil snowman with a sarcastic holiday message and an ice luge. Or, maybe a happy snowman with a logo, stick arms, and a “carrot” nose. Maybe add props like a real top hat and a real scarf; you could even freeze a scarf into a windy position. Just make sure there’s enough ice to hold it up for a while. The first time I ever carved a snowman, I didn’t really appreciate all the possibilities and potential problems. Hopefully, this entry helps you out.
templates and reference drawingCheck this entry for an easy way to print your own templates.
If you have any questions about this piece, email me or comment below. If you would like to use this ice sculpture design or any other design on this site, please check the design usage guidelines. The design collection page lists designs on the site. Should you decide to carve a snowman ice sculpture and this helped you out, I’d love to see pictures!