Collin Atkins was working a temporary job cutting down trees when he decided to try to carve a face on a tree stump. His wooden visage caught the eye of an ice sculptor who asked Atkins to visit his shop.
“I thought he was just going to show me the sculptures he was working on, but he handed me a drawing on a cocktail napkin and told me to carve and deliver the sculpture because he was going out of town,” Atkins said. “It ended up being a smaller heart than planned because I kept carving it down to make it symmetrical.”
Six years and thousands of blocks of ice later, Atkins has created frozen octopuses, glacial genie lamps, arctic elephants and other icy icons for special events, parties and tradeshows. His most recent work is a 6-foot-tall polar bear for Icebar Orlando. Dressed in insulated pants, gloves and a winter hat, Atkins uses chainsaws, die grinders, ice picks, handsaws and even an iron to get every detail just right.
“One of my favorite quotes I’ve heard about carving ice is, ‘Carving ice is easy. If you want to carve a swan, you just remove the pieces of ice that don’t look like a swan,’” Atkins said. “Each sculpture that I do is better than the last one, and I’m always thinking about ways to improve.”