By David White
When ice sculptor Doug Christy began his career about 19 years ago, he didn’t consider himself an artist. In fact, Christy was a swimming pool installer and an all-purpose handyman, or a “wrencher.”
“I’m just really good with my hands and I’ve always been able to see things spatially,” he says.
Regardless of how he defines himself, Christy has produced ice sculptures, ranging from animals and logos to food displays and even functioning bars.
Christy, who just relocated his business, Amazing Ice Designs, to Kyle in the last few months, is still customizing his shop on Weldon Johnson Way.
Christy moved to Kyle because of the cost of rent compared to that of Austin. He also wanted to tap into the San Antonio market, as there are a handful of ice sculptors between Dallas and San Antonio, Christy said.
Christy makes the ice himself in huge icemakers that make four, 300-pound blocks that take up to four days to freeze.
“I’m fighting the water chemistry in Kyle,” he said as he pointed out the cloudy surface developing on top of the huge blocks of ice. “All that white stuff there is likely lime,” he says as he points to the almost frozen ice.
He is currently working on modifying his own water filtration system.
Besides filtering the water, Christy said the secret to clear ice is to constantly stir the water as it freezes to release tiny oxygen particles, which the freezer does with pumps.
Christy uses a host of tools, including a computerized machine that etches out lettering or a basic outline for a sculpture, to a chainsaw and hand tools with different bits and chisels.
In a demonstration he gave the Hays Free Press last week, Christy showed his skill by carving a sculpture similar to the Texas State Bobcat logo just by glancing at the design on a smartphone.
But Christy didn’t have any simple answers when asked about the average time it takes to complete a sculpture. He says he doesn’t look at the clock when he’s creating.
There are many occasions, however, when he is finished or almost done with a sculpture and he’ll see a crack somewhere. Even if he thinks no one will notice, he will usually redo the sculpture.
While Christy has had a few occasions where something didn’t go right with one of his sculptures, he’s learned from his mistakes and takes in every consideration so his transports and presentation are flawless.
He recalled one instance when he delivered a sculpture to a wedding and placed it under a ceiling fan that had been turned off. A passerby thought the sculpture could use some cool air and turned the fan on, causing the statue to melt twice as fast as it was intended to.
Christy says the average sculpture usually lasts 5 to 8 hours. Pieces with more detail tend to melt faster due to the increased air-to-surface ratio.
But Christy said he doesn’t work with other mediums, only ice. The temporary status of the ice sculpture is so unique, making it more memorable, he explained.
Christy said he would sometimes get thank you cards many weeks after an event, telling him that people are still talking about the ice sculptures.
He said ice sculptures are a good investment because it’s something that’s remembered long after the event.