Learn to turn a block of ICE into a BONG!
James at Iceovation is not only an artist in his own right, he’s the best Ice Carver in Oregon! Now, he might be the only ice carver in Oregon but that doesn’t mean he isn’t one talented sculptor. With a commercial freezer full of ice cowboys, ice menus, and ice cruise ships, there are not many places outside of a Vegas buffet that you could see the sort of mini ice museum that is James’ workshop.
Sure you could visit Fairbanks Alaska. Where the ice is crystal clear and removed by crane, carved up over a week and ice artists from all around the world compete to see who can carve the most impressive pieces. James competes there too, but the closer option is to go to Jame’s shop and take a class from the man himself.
Iceovation now holds public classes at their workshop every month. You can take one of their classes and learn how to carve a ice bong. Best part of the class is that you get to smoke out of it in the end!
We did just that. Seeing firsthand how fun it is to go at a huge chunk of ice with chisels and picks. Watching James artfully attack a block of ice with chainsaws, grinders, and even custom-made ice carving drill bits was something else. Kicking frosty clouds of ice into the air while polishing an arch or sanding down a rough edge. All while we sat with our own blocks of ice. Trying to shave down contours and breaking off large chunks away from (okay, and sometimes at) each other. James would sweep away our rubble while our art pieces took shape.
Behind us sat the ginormous block-freezers he uses to prepare the ice. In the summer it takes an entire week for the crystal clear ice blocks to form. Finishing at a whopping 300 lbs a piece, he uses a literal floor crane to remove them from the machines. Then they’ll go into the walk-in freezer before they’re made into cruise ships, intricate drinking luges, or in the case of the unlucky blocks in front of us that day, flame-shaped ice-bongs.
Lucky for us, James is as instructive (and gentle) as my third-grade art teacher. Making me feel pretty good about my nearly nonexistent artistic talent. I feel like I received the best primer in sculpture I’ve ever heard., hearing James encouraging us to follow lines and carve away excess. He had an unsurprising amount of ways to turn a mistake into something interesting. The whole time regaling us with stories of instant ice fractures on nearly complete works of art and carving award-winning pieces in front of crowds in Alaska- where the pieces stay up for months in the freezing temps.
After a bit of hacking at the ice, and refining it under the artists’ supervision, we both had unique sculptures. The pieces Stephen and I produced looked nothing like the masters but each still held a unique charm. Even more so when we ran tubing through the holes we had just drilled and filled it with a bong piece. Finally, we were rewarded for all of our hard work. Icy bong hits and the feeling of satisfaction that we had just created a functional piece of art.
Trust me when I say this is such a unique art and activity. We really are lucky to have Ice Carving as an option available to us here in Oregon. My only regret is not bringing a cooler to haul my new work of art home in. I know from seeing his work around town that the pieces last for hours even in less than ideal conditions. Next time, I’ll bring mine home and enjoy this temporary partnership between ice and fire. Thinking on the experience as my art “piece” slowly disappears.