Carvers turn ice into art

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Mon., Feb. 18, 2013
Arrik Kim takes an axe to the block, chopping out big chunks at a time. Photos by D. Coffey.
Arrik Kim takes an axe to the block, chopping out big chunks at a time. Photos by D. Coffey.

It was just before noon on Feb. 16 when Matthew Terzano and Gene Puryear delivered 10 300-pound ice blocks in downtown Putnam for the second annual Fire and Ice Festival. The 40- by 20- by 10-inch blocks were lowered on a lift, then delivered via dolly to area locations for local artists to sculpt.

Both men worked for Ice Matters, a New Haven company specializing in ice designs. And both were ice artists. Puryear set to work with chainsaw and chisels to create a cupid in front of Victoria Station Café. Terzano planned to sculpt a nude in front of 85 Main, but not before making sure all the blocks were at their designated stations.

Killingly High School student Michael Raheb began work on his block with the help of friends Pasquale Ferraro and Jasmine Bedard. Raheb heard about the opportunity from his Killingly High School art teacher. The trio set about their task with chisels. On a nearby work table, hot water in spray bottles and propane torches awaited. The first thing they had to do was chisel a round shape of a heart. Bedard had drawn sketches of a rose-shaped heart that Raheb wanted to carve in the middle of the sculpture.

Arrik Kim had done a series of sketches before deciding what to carve with his block of ice. There were front and side views of a face and a woman. He'd drawn a fish, a squirrel, a polar bear and an Iroquois man. “When the ice sits here, I'll see,” he said. “If I get nervous, I'll probably revert to a face.”

Kim had Terzano put his block on its side at his station in front of the Antiques Marketplace. He studied the block. Then he did a rough sketch of the fish with a wood chisel. He took an axe, and ice chips flew with each swing until a small pile built up in the street.

Sabrina Anderson took a more delicate approach. She and boyfriend Andrei Bucatari leveled their block with a little snow taken from in front of Nikki's Dog House. She used her fingers to trace lines on the ice. “I think I'll put the ears here,” she said. They discussed whether they would use a knife or a Sharpie to draw out their ideas before carving. “A Sharpie might not work,” Bucatari offered.

In the meantime, Puryear had set his tools up in the Victoria Station patio. Chain saws, power tools, extension cords, and a 10-gallon plastic bucket with a variety of chisels and tools covered the ground. After transferring a sketch onto the block, he set out with power saw to carve the cupid. Soon he was covered in ice crystals. A crowd gathered to watch him work.

The weather was a little warm for carving, but at least the sun wasn't out. The sun can honeycomb the ice by expanding the oxygen in it. Puryear has been carving for almost 20 years. “I just saw it and loved it and taught myself how to do it,” he said. “I'm fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I love.”

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