A section of River Street East was marked by giant chunks of snow upon which sculptors could be seen feverishly chipping away on Saturday afternoon. Alongside the more experienced artists were plenty of newcomers.
“This is the first time I’ve done it,” said rookie sculptor Patti Crosby, who was working on a piece inspired by the film Night at the Museum with her husband Nicholas, their daughters Miranda and Cassandra and sons Adam and Simon.
“We decided we wanted to do it as a family, as a big project, and so we just kind of threw some ideas around, and actually it was my daughter Miranda who came up with the idea of doing the Night at the Museum Head. And so we just came here with the head and some pictures and just started carving.”
Wanting a less complicated sculpture for their first try, the Crosbys’ celluloid-inspired piece centred on broken Easter Island heads and gradually expanded as their confidence in their work grew. They have since added animals and writing.
The act of turning a nondescript snow chunk into a sculpture can be a protracted one.
“We worked yesterday from about 2 o’clock to about 6 o’clock and we’ve been here from about 10 o’clock today,” Crosby said at around 3 p.m. on Saturday.
“It’s more time-consuming than I thought it would be. I just kind of thought, whack off the head and we’ll be done in a couple of hours. But it’s a long process. It’s going to be three days by the time we’re done.”
That process exerted a greater toll on fellow first-time sculptor Stephen Hordyski. Since suffering an injury at work a decade ago, Hordyski has been wracked by physical ailments and been forced to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle.
Leaping at the chance to get out and express his creativity at the winter festival, he nevertheless required a dose of morphine to work through the pain of sculpting.
“I’m just picking away at it slowly … whatever my body will allow,” Hordyski said. “Get as much done as I can get done, and hopefully everybody enjoys it.”
Hordyski has undergone back surgery and therapy for his injuries and is currently waiting for a special device that he hopes will help him return to the workforce. He rarely uses medication, but broke his usual rule at winter festival to be able to complete his sculpture.
Despite the pain, Hordyski found the experience invigorating.
“As much as it hurts and you’re on meds and that … you get so involved in your work, it’s actually like a form of therapy, because you’re so concentrated on the work that you’re doing that it kind of takes your mind off, gives you kind of a mental break.”
Having previously made carvings out of balsa wood before becoming a father, Hordyski decided to try his hand at the snow sculpt challenge after watching a TV program about chainsaw carving called Saw Dogs.
For his winter festival snow sculpture, Hordyski chose to carve a dragon, believing its more fantastical nature would give him more leeway.
You’ve just got to dig in. - Patti Crosby
“If you get into doing some type of animal or something like that that a person really knows -- because I’m just starting, it’s too hard to get it to scale … whereas you do a dragon, it’s your own imagination,” he said.
“There are no guidelines on exactly how it’s supposed to look, because all dragons look different, and I kind of like the mystical part of it and the dragons and the castles and that kind of air from a long time ago, back in the medieval times.”
While the art of snow sculpting can appear daunting to the layperson, freshman sculptors agreed that the best strategy was to dive right in.
“You’ve just got to dig in,” Crosby said.
Recalling her own experience, she noted, “I was really afraid to start on that face, and it was my son Simon who just kind of said, ‘Just do it,’ because he started and he just seemed to get it, and so he dug in and got it started.”
Following their baptism by snow, the Crosby family are eager to return next year, and may even make the activity an annual tradition.
“I would invite families to come out here and do this,” Patti Crosby said.
“A lot of people don’t think it’s open to families. It’s really whoever wants to do it, and it’s really a great way to spend the festival as a family.”