Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The weather in Fairbanks, Alaska was a whopping minus-30 degrees and sunny – perfect for what Brian Connors and Edwin Hutchinson had set out to do in America's northern-most state.
Team Connors and Hutchinson was one of 50 teams that gathered to participate in the 2014 World Ice Art Championships, a three-day ice sculpting competition that took place Feb. 24-26.
Armed with saws and other carving utensils Connors and Hutchinson faced a giant ice block, with a volume of 8x5x3 feet and weighed 6,000 pounds, and spent those three days chiseling away until the figure of an angel, named “Connie's Spirit,” was born.
“I never go in to win,” Connors said. “I just go in to carve my piece. That's what we did in Alaska and it came off really well.”
The team ended up placing ninth in the realistic category for the single-block pieces, which makes Connors and Hutchinson one of the top 10 best ice sculpting teams in the world.
Connors said he saw a lot of talent from his competition.
“The company I was in up there – these guys are known all over the world,” he said.
The carving categories were realistic and abstract. “Connie's Spirit” is named after Connors's mother, who passed away in January 2013 after being sick for some time with an undetermined illness.
Connors, who owns Ice Age Ice Sculptures in Summerville, has been carving ice for 25 years. It started off as a hobby when he when taking classes at Johnson and Wales Culinary Institute in Charleston. What served as a hobby eventually evolved into a career.
Connors regularly carves about 20 pieces per week. He works inside a freezer set at 17 degrees.
“The thrill is you get to create art every day, and you get to create different things,” he said. “It's not doing the same thing every day, which would drive you crazy.”
Connors can carve more than just ice; he can carve chocolate and once carved Paula Dean out of butter.
Growing up Connors wanted to be a chef. He now calls himself “a chef with no patience.”
“This just happened,” he said. “It was a hobby and next thing you know I decide, 'I think I'll open up a business.'”
His first ice sculpting competition in 1988 was in Greenville and he took first place. After that he watched his business get bigger and bigger.
Hutchinson and Connors signed up for the Alaska competition six months ago. Connors felt like their timing during the competition was good – each day required at least 14 hours of work.
“That last day just goes by so fast,” he said. “We had a lot of fun, it was interesting. After learning what I did this time, if the stars line up like they did this year, I'd like to go back and take another shot at it.”
Connors teaches ice carving classes at Trident Tech's Culinary Institute. Hutchinson is a former student of Connors from when he taught ice carving classes at Trident Tech's Culinary Institute. Hutchinson works at Ice Age Ice Sculptures in Greenville.