Randy Finch and Derek Maxfield have the coolest carving jobs you'll every find. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that they have the COLDEST carving jobs around, for Finch and Maxfield are the co-owners of Ice Sculptures, Ltd.
Working out of their studio/production facility located in Grand Rapids, MI, Finch, Maxfield and the other employees of the eleven year old company produce an amazing variety of carved and cast ice sculptures.
Both Finch and Maxfield came to ice carving as many do - through their work as professional chefs. Over the years, both found ice carving an increasing important part of their culinary work. The pair finally gave in to the compulsion to carve professionally and formed Ice Sculptures, Ltd in 1994. The award winning duo now work full-time in the business, working to develop new products and production methods. They have been featured on Ripley's Believe It Or Not, and have produced significant ice sculpture for a variety of firms, such as Absolut, A&W Root Beer, Meijers and the Detroit Lions, and for bands including ZZ Top, Hootie and the Blowfish and Bruce Springsteen.
In 2004 Finch and Maxfield, along with Robert Garlough, introduced their book Ice Sculpture The Modern Way, a reference and training text for the aspiring ice carver. (See the review in this issue of WOM.)
Late last February I had to opportunity to spend an afternoon with Randy Finch in the Ice Sculpture facility located, appropriately enough, an old ice making factory on the west side of Grand Rapids. With it's thick, well-insulated walls, the old factory is the perfect location for modern day ice sculpture.
Ice Sculpture, Ltd produces their own high quality, clear ice using special ice making machines. They also have two ice makers designed for casting ice in molds.
Although Randy Finch and Derek Maxfield learned to carve using traditional tools, such as Japanese-made ice carving chisels, the bulk of carving at Ice Sculptures is done using a variety of power tools that would be quite familiar to wood carvers, such as chain saws, die grinders and other rotary tools, a lathe and a modified bandsaw sawmill.
Ice Sculpture was one of the first firms to begin using a CNC router for production work. This equipment allows quality duplication of their designs in a production environment. Like many professional woodcarvers, Finch and Maxfield rely on production work to provide a base level of income, with custom ice carving the "frosting on the ice cake."
In a conversation about ice carving competitions, Finch noted that most of the participants still come from the ranks of the culinary arts, and many are not formally trained in carving and sculpture. He is quite interested in seeing woodcarvers becoming involved in ice sculpture competitions and feels that woodcarvers could be quite successful.