Until you meet Chef Charles Jones, owner of The Ice Man, a Hudson Falls-based custom ice sculpture studio, it’s difficult to understand how one can be passionate about frozen water. But once you spend time with him, you can’t help but feel it, too.
“Sculpting ice is taking the most basic ingredient there is—water—and taking it to the highest art form,” Jones said. “What chef wouldn’t aspire to this? I’ve been blessed to find this niche.”
The fact of the matter is that ice is, well, hot. Jones creates an average of four to six ice displays each week, in addition to attending and creating pieces for nearly 20 wedding shows and competitions each year.
A Long Island native, Jones is also a CIA-certified chef and culinary educator at a local vocational school. His impressive resume includes stints as executive chef for the Marriott Corporation and Reader’s Digest. And although you could place Jones in any commercial kitchen in America and be certain that he could take the heat, these days he seems most comfortable in his walk-in freezer studio, where he creates ice displays that are truly works of art.
Jones has been perfecting his craft for more than 30 years; it was 17 years ago when he opened his studio and officially became The Ice Man. Amy, his wife and business partner, is a Hudson Falls native and former commercial artist. She is the company’s creative director and designs the templates for each and every sculpture. Together, they have grown the business from small local projects to large-scale regional ice displays for caterers, event staff, brides and grooms at some of the region’s most prestigious event venues.
In this business, Jones said, partnership is key—not only within the company, but with the more than 65 clients they serve. “Ours is a true partnership,” Jones said. “I’m the logistics guy. Amy is the creative one behind the scenes. But we’re also partners with our clients, we’re part of the operation. We work in unison with the wedding coordinators and florists and banquet directors and brides.”
Susan Baker, vice president of sales and marketing for Mazzone Hospitality, agrees. “When Charlie is here, he’s our partner,” she said. “His work creates a buzz at our parties and enhances the whole experience for our guests.”
The Ice Man categorizes his custom ice sculptures as “wow,” “functional” and “fun.”
Wow sculptures are typically three-dimensional centerpieces that surpass the basic swans and hearts of yesteryear (although he still gets many requests for both). From military insignia and Cinderella’s coach to monograms and corporate and team logos, the Jones’s have elicited their fair share of wows from event attendees.
Functional sculptures have ranged from wine chillers, vases and serving trays to tapas ice tables and functional, working bars. In fact, a hotel once hired Jones to sculpt a 2,000-pound, 18-foot-long cruise ship that held 400 glasses of champagne. He also sculpted identical, individual iceberg sorbet dishes for a Titanic-themed dinner.
The “fun” sculptures are his most popular; in this category is a martini luge. Never heard of one? Think of it as an intricately carved, icy dispenser for adult beverages. Jones also specializes in nitro bars (also known as molecular mixology)—bars serving signature drinks frozen with liquid nitrogen by a certified mixologist and enhanced with special lighting and other effects. “I love it when our ice is interactive,” Jones said. “I encourage people to touch it, to be part of the experience.”
Baker said Jones has created close to 100 ice sculptures and displays for their five venues, which include some heavy hitters in the gala and wedding circuit—the Hall of Springs, Glen Sanders Mansion and Saratoga National Golf Course.
“We’ve worked with Charlie for many years, and at first, it was just a basic need for ice carvings—ice to hold shrimp or maybe initials or hearts,” Baker said. “But Charlie is always looking to push himself. He has taken ice to a whole different level.”
Creative license is important to Jones, and the key to creating stunning sculptures that exceed their clients’ expectations is knowing what questions to ask. While he wields the implements that coax designs from ice, his wife coaxes information from clients to ensure that their sculptures far exceed expectations. “We like getting a general idea and then being allowed to create freely from that idea,” Amy said.
People often order an ice display to commemorate special occasions, such as weddings, bat/bar mitzvahs and holiday parties. Others order custom ice sculptures to commemorate loved ones, pets and, in one case, a motorcycle. They’ve also had brides and grooms request ice sculptures in their own likenesses.
The Ice Man Carveth
How does one transform a block of ice into art? Very carefully.
Jones begins with ice blocks purchased locally and from Canada. Each ice block weighs in at 300 pounds, is 40 inches tall, 20 inches wide and 10 inches deep. For larger sculptures (one of Jones’s swan sculptures had a 36-inch wing span and stood 35 inches high), ice blocks must be fused together.
The average sculpture takes a week to design and two to four hours to sculpt, although some take as many as seven hours. Jones said the ice sculptures typically last six to eight hours.
“Ice sculpting is more than taking a chisel and whacking at ice,” he said, and a tour of his workspace certainly proves that. When you first enter his workshop, you’re greeted by floor to ceiling shelves holding bins marked “hoses,” “LED,” “hats” and “gloves.” Among the bins are extension cords, recipe books, patterns, templates and a CO2 canister for making dry ice. The space also includes two walk-in freezers—one for storing completed sculptures and one where the actual work happens.
One step into the specially-designed carving studio/freezer, and you’ve entered a different, much colder world. The floor is covered in snow—a byproduct of carving ice. “My son was the only kid in the state who could have a snowball fight in July,” Jones said.
A Sunbeam thermometer on one wall registers zero degrees Fahrenheit. His tools of the trade include a large carving table, chainsaws, chisels, a drill press and a lathe. Jones limits himself and his apprentice to two hours at a time in the carving studio. “Even The Ice man gets cold after two hours of working in a freezer.”
When Jones finishes a piece, he wraps it in blankets, sleeping bags and other protective layers to prepare it for transport. His delivery truck, like his studio, is kept at a comfy zero degrees Fahrenheit.
“The day a piece is delivered is the first time it’s been outside of a freezer, so the ice doesn’t begin melting until it hits the display table,” said Jones, who has made deliveries as far west as Syracuse and as far south as Poughkeepsie.
Their busy season is generally May through October, although as winter weddings become more popular, winter orders are increasing. Those interested in an Ice Man sculpture should plan to book at least six months out.
And although Jones has this art form down to a science, there is one thing he struggles with after delivering each sculpture. “Walking away. The hardest part is walking away. But our next sculpture is always our best sculpture.”
Prices start at $500 for a typical wedding. For more information about The Ice Man custom ice sculptures and pricing, visit them on Facebook or call the studio at 747.5221.
Safeguard the big day
How to protect the wedding of your dreams
Planning a wedding has many important components, with decisions to make on everything from finding the perfect flowers to choosing the right location. For brides–and grooms-to-be, one important choice that shouldn’t be overlooked is the idea of purchasing wedding insurance. Because no matter how carefully a couple plans the big day, something can always go awry.
It’s the last thing anyone wants to think about when planning the big day. But with so many elements of a wedding that have been carefully thought out, it would be a shame to have something happen that casts a shadow on the wedding day. The good news is that there is peace of mind available with wedding event cancellation and liability insurance.
Protecting you from unforeseen disasters, wedding insurance safeguards your investment in the big day against circumstances beyond your control. Wedding cancellation and liability insurance, available from companies like Markel American, can cover anything from a damaged gown to natural disasters. A recent report from TheKnot.com showed that the average wedding costs more than $25,000 – as much as a new car or a down payment on a home. Having that investment at risk, with potential for it to increase if something goes wrong (losing or having wedding gifts stolen, misplacing a wedding ring, or damaging an important dress), may not be the best way to start off married life.
Until recently, there wasn’t an option to insure your wedding expenditures – if something went wrong it was rare that reimbursement was an option. While event insurance isn’t new, wedding-specific policies have been created in the past decade, partially as a response to the increase in wedding spending. Covering multiple aspects of the big day, wedding insurance policies were created to specifically cover losses (cancellation insurance) as well as coverage for accidents that happen during the wedding or reception (liability insurance).
"Many people aren’t even aware that it’s possible to buy event insurance to give themselves peace of mind on their big day – but it’s possible and affordable," says Ted Wentzel, director of marketing for Markel American. "With the costs of weddings skyrocketing, it’s becoming increasingly smarter to make sure that you’re covered financially, in case of something going wrong."
While wedding insurance won’t cover things like cold feet or rain on your outdoor ceremony, it will cover multiple important aspects of the wedding. If the ring bearer drops the wedding rings in the sink, that’s covered by event cancellation insurance. Perhaps the caterer went out of business a month before the ceremony. The additional expense of booking a replacement caterer and getting the original deposit back would be covered by the insurance policy.
Additionally, most wedding venues now require couples to have insurance coverage, and event liability insurance meets that requirement. If something goes wrong at the wedding or reception venue, event liability insurance means that brides and grooms will be defended against assuming responsibility for damage dealt. This safeguards against the well-meaning maid of honor who accidentally hung the bride’s dress from an unstable light fixture and pulled it from the wall, or the best man whose exuberant toast led to an unfortunate smashing of many expensive pieces of glassware.
"My wife and I knew anything could happen during a wedding, so purchasing insurance was a no-brainer for us," says Brandon Bernos, a former Markel American customer. "And that ‘anything’ did – the day of our engagement photo shoot, we were unable to contact our photographer. We found out that he had been in a car accident weeks prior and didn’t survive. When we contacted Markel, they immediately refunded our security deposit and we were able to find another photographer. Now, we tell anyone who is planning their wedding to get wedding insurance."
For couples involved in wedding planning, purchasing wedding insurance can be an important factor in making sure that the big day goes smoothly. And just like picking the cake, caterer or photographer, there are plenty of options to create a custom insurance policy that’s just right for the happy couple-to-be.
“Green” ideas for winter-white weddings
You’re ready to say your "I do’s" in front of your family and friends. Planning a memorable celebration of your commitment to each other, however, doesn’t mean you have to compromise on your commitment to the environment. It’s possible to create the wedding of your dreams and stay "green," even in the cold, white months of winter.
December is the most popular month for proposals, and the second-most popular cool season month for weddings (after October). Environmentally–correct weddings are a hot trend, according to www.TheKnot.com, a leading wedding-planning website.
If your vision of the perfect wedding marries eco-friendly green with winter white, here are some tips and ideas to help you turn your vision into reality:
Great food is an essential part of any wedding, whether you’re serving a sit-down dinner or just hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. When you’re planning your menu, however, keep in mind how the foods you choose may impact the environment. For example, is that fish entree net caught, line caught or farmed?
A dish’s environmental impact depends on several factors, including how the product was raised and harvested, how it was transported and how far it had to travel from point of origin to plate. By choosing locally grown products or those grown and harvested using sustainable practices, you can reduce your wedding feast’s impact on the environment.
Reuse, recycle and revel
Brides in bygone generations once gladly wore their mother’s wedding dress, but the practice fell out of vogue as more brides wanted their own unique look for their wedding day. But the green movement has breathed new life into the practice, since reusing and recycling eliminates the need to consume materials and energy making something new. More brides are finding that recycling a wedding dress has other advantages, too. It’s possible to achieve a great vintage look with a used wedding dress – whether it’s one handed down from your mother or one you found in a second-hand store. A new gown can cost thousands of dollars, while a repurposed dress can be had much more cheaply.
Wedding favor wonders
Sure it’s a cool idea and the groomsmen will likely use theirs often, but just how environmentally correct is that custom-imprinted beer cozy? Wedding favors are a way of thanking guests for sharing in your special day, but many popular items are made from less-than-eco-friendly materials.
To green your wedding, consider favors that are useful and organic, such as organic baking mixes or spice mixes. You can find a plethora of these great-tasting, green-minded options from purveyors like Simply Organic. They even have holiday-appropriate varieties like Cranberry Bread and Pumpkin Cake at www.simplyorganic.com. Dress up favors with decorative netting and ribbons, and you have a unique favor that’s good for guests and the environment, too.
The invitation is often the first impression guests will have of your wedding. While every bride wants invitations that will wow guests, keep in mind the costs – both monetary and environmental – of all that paper. Many eco-minded brides are switching to invitations made with recycled paper or, better yet, electronic invitations.
No raw materials are consumed to create e-vites, and what’s more, you can find online services that not only help you create an e-vite, but send it and monitor responses all online. Using such a service can help you keep better track of RSVPs.
There is the option of sending invitations printed on recycled paper with flower seeds imbedded in the paper. Your guests can plant the invitation in their garden and remember your special occasion every time they see the beautiful flowers growing. Visit www.greenfieldpaper.com to learn more.
The little things that mean a lot
Some other steps that may seem small – like choosing locally grown, in-season flowers rather than out-of-season ones that must be imported – can also make a big difference in how your wedding impacts the environment. Whether you opt to replace cut bouquets and centerpieces with artificial ones that can be reused, or choose acoustic music that requires no electricity to keep guests dancing, it’s possible to find green options for almost every aspect of your wedding.
2013 wedding trends
that are popping up everywhere from décor to invitations to the cake to the dress.
- The color mint green. On the opposite spectrum the colors of the rainbow
- Mini menus for appetizers and desserts
- Lounge areas
- Inspiration from the 1920s – think “The Great Gatsby”
- Food trucks
- Backdrops – for the ceremony to the first kiss to shots of couples.
- Birds – on invites, centerpieces, décor
- Prints (stripes, toile, chevron and stripes, graphic prints and florals) on everything from stationary to dresses to tables.
- Rustic campground weddings – have your guests stay at a lodge or cabins.
- Dresses – One shoulder, lace, peplum, ivory/white, gold, bustier style
- Top buns for the bride’s hair
- Flower crowns instead of veils
Most importantly, this is YOUR day and be sure to do your own thing, no matter what trends come and go!