Now Or Never

Winter enthusiast uses everyday objects to make exquisite ice sculptures

Winter enthusiast Charlotte Penner has been creating beautiful sculptures out of ice for the past two years. She offers her top ten tips for making it happen where you live.
Elise Watchorn and Charlotte Penner hard at work assembling ice sculptures. (S. Thacker/CBC)

Winnipeg winter enthusiast Charlotte Penner casts a creative net over most things in her daily routine. The self-appointed president of the 'Have More Fun Club' has been creating beautiful ice sculptures in her neighbourhood —Armstrong's Point, for the past two winters. 

But don't be daunted! Here are her top ten tips for creating ice sculptures where you live:

What you will need:

  • A couple of pails.
  • Rubber gloves with a lining (or woollen gloves underneath rubber gloves).
  • Some moulds.
  • A squeeze bottle, such as a leftover dish detergent bottle.
  • Your imagination.

How to make your own:

1. Go on a search through your house and garage, looking for anything with an interesting shape and texture. For example: the bottom of a garbage pail, food containers from your recycle bin, baking tins, two litre juice containers. Things not to use include expensive cookware, crystal plates or anything of value because water expands when it freezes and your moulds can break!

2. If your collection of shapes is not interesting or varied enough, visit the dollar store where you will find balloons, orange traffic cones, bags of cheap plastic glasses, etc.

3. Shapes can also be created by using cardboard. Draw a shape on cardboard. Using hot glue and strips of cardboard, make a continuous wall a few inches high around the shape. Line the shape with a clear plastic bag, trying to make it as smooth along the bottom as possible, so the plastic does not get caught up in the ice.

4. Put your moulds on a level surface outside and fill with water from the pail. Shapes like balloons do better if supported by soft snow. Depending on the weather and the size of your moulds, these will be frozen within three hours and a couple of days. Remember — water expands when it freezes, so don't fill your moulds too full.

5. When everything seems solid, bring your shapes inside to melt a little so they will slide out of their containers easily. Resist the temptation to run water over the molds to loosen them, as the ice may shatter. Then take your ice shapes back outside.

6. You can stockpile shapes in plastic bags outside. Protecting with plastic is especially important with small delicate pieces, which will sublimate (evaporate) or shrink.

7. When you have enough shapes you can start building. It helps to make a quick sketch of what goes where, especially if you are working with someone else.

8. To join your pieces together, make some slush using COLD water from your pail mixed with some snow. This will work as mortar. Don't forget to wear gloves.

9. Place slush/mortar between the two shapes you want to join together. Hold them in place for a few seconds. It works best to do this on a really cold day, as the freezing together only takes a few seconds. Wait a few minutes before adding another large piece. 

10. Have fun — and take pictures of your creations!