Working knowledge What an ice sculptor thinks you should know

Ice sculptor Brian Connors works on a sculpture he is creating in his Summerville studio.

Brian Connors, a master ice sculptor, owns Ice Age Ice Sculptures in Summerville. A graduate of Johnson & Wales University, he was first exposed to ice carving while working as a banquet chef.

Over his 28-year career, including a Top 10 finish at the 2014 World Ice Art Championships, he’s learned the following cold hard facts.

“The hardest thing for me to carve is a cherub,” Connors says. That’s because of the little angel’s puffy forearms, which are difficult to discern from ripped biceps when rendered in ice. “He looks like a little muscle man,” Connors continues. “You have to get the baby look. It takes forever.”

Connors works with his clients to sketch out the perfect design, much like a tattoo artist or landscape architect.

Initially, though, many of them are fixated on cliches. “They usually say, ‘I want a big 16,’” Connor says of parents planning birthday parties. “But if we do their name and then put ‘16’ on top of it, that just makes the whole event. They will take pictures of it all night long. They will remember that forever.”

Connor is especially insistent that clients in faraway places think big, since travel costs represent a significant portion of the final bill: “If you’re in my town, I’ll do you a pineapple or a swan for $300,” he says. “If I’m going to Manning, I’m going to charge you $450 anyway. You might as well get whatever you want.”

If you can think of an object, Connors has likely reproduced it in ice. But he draws the line at carving male genitals, a frequent request from bachelorette parties. “You don’t look good carving it; you don’t look good carrying it; and if you don’t carve it well, you look like a moron,” he says. Instead, he’ll carve a bare torso. “They have something to grab onto, and can take shots off his chest,” Connors says. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Ice Age manufactures its own 40-by-20-by-10-inch blocks. When new employee Jason Paul joined the company, he did nothing in his first month but make ice: It’s critical that the ice is free of impurities such as air bubbles and stray plastic, which ends up looking like dirt.

There are slow seasons and busier seasons — Connors carved 80 sculptures for New Year’s Eve — but someone always needs a seafood display or impressive way to hang a planter.

Hanna Raskin