South Carolina ice carver joins Hunter Ice Festival team to create masterpieces

NILES — Tuesday morning at the corner of Main and Front streets, sculptor Edwin Hutchison hardly seemed to register the cold temperatures and falling snow as he worked with a chain saw to shape a block of ice into an eye-catching sphere.

Hutchison, of Greenville, South Carolina, is the newest sculptor to join the team of artists carving the more than 100 sculptures for the Hunter Ice Festival, which runs Jan. 18 to 20 in downtown Niles. The ice art will be placed throughout the downtown for viewing. A number of the sculptures will be interactive, allowing people to play ice games and ice activities. A variety of local businesses will also offer specials and serve as a warming center.

Hutchison said he found the opportunity to come to Niles after speaking with several of the regular Hunter Ice Festival sculptors at an earlier ice event in Richmond, Indiana.

Hutchison said he has a lot to look forward to for his first time at the festival.

“I look forward to meeting new people,” he said. “[I also look forward] to new designs and being challenged.”

Hutchison has 18 years of experience carving ice. The chef by trade got into the industry while studying at the Trident Culinary School in Charleston, South Carolina. Chefs often learn to create ice sculptures so that they can craft aesthetic-looking centerpieces that also can keep food chilled.

“The ice bug bit me, as they say,” Hutchison said. “I enjoy just the artistic freedom and being able to come up with new ideas and being able to see the enjoyment that people get from it.”

Hutchison now owns Ice Age in Greenville. The company creates sculptures for weddings, corporate and sporting events, to name a few.

This year’s Hunter Ice Festival was influenced by the Smithsonian Water/Ways Exhibit which is currently being displayed at the Niles District Library. Hutchison said people could expect ice carvings of an eagle on a salmon run, a sphere – inspired by the downtown decorations and Mario, the video game character.

On Monday, 24 tons of ice arrived and sculptors began the process of milling the ice and creating their sculptures. They spent 14 hours that first day working with the ice. Each sculpture takes a couple of hours to develop, depending on its size and intricacy.

Hutchison said it used to bother him that his work would melt away, but he said he takes pictures to remember the sculptures he creates. Besides, he sees a constantly disappearing work of art as job security, he said.

“I might start working with wood, so I can give some presents away and they don’t melt,” Hutchison said.

A full list of available activities is available under the Niles tab at leaderpublications.com. 

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