CHAINSAW CARVER PATRICK CASS of Auburn carved a smelt fish during the Ice and Smelt Festival in Bowdoinham Saturday.

CHAINSAW CARVER PATRICK CASS of Auburn carved a smelt fish during the Ice and Smelt Festival in Bowdoinham Saturday.


Ice carvers took center stage Saturday afternoon at the Bowdoinham Ice and Smelt Festival, as blocks of ice were turned into a fish and a sign for the festival.

Jason Bluck’s Sub Zero Ice Carvings, based in Lisbon, handled the ice sculpting at the event, which took place at the Merrymeeting Arts Center. Patrick Cass of Auburn, a chainsaw carver, created the smelt fish ice sculpture; Bluck followed with a demonstration and crafter the sign for the Ice and Smelt Festival 2015.

Bluck carves at events with ice all summer long too at weddings and festivals or will do live demonstrations as a filler act at concerts. In the past five weeks he’d been to events all over the state and also in New Hampshire.

“I like to interact with the public,” he said, noting people often ask questions, he said.

Among the most asked questions, Bluck said, include those about where he gets his ice, why is it so clear, how heavy it is and how long will it last.

Working as a banquet chef in Falmouth, part of Bluck’s job entailed carving garnishes and creating food displays at weddings and other high-end functions. Another chef on staff, who handled ice carvings, invited him to learn more about the art. For the past three years, Bluck has focused on getting his ice carving business off the ground.

“The biggest thing I’ve heard from people is, ‘We’ve always wanted an ice carver for our wedding,’ or ‘We’d love to have an ice carver at our event, but we don’t know anybody that does it. We don’t know how to get hold of anybody,’” he said. “So that’s what I’m trying to do is help get the word out that there are people locally; that you don’t have to go to New Hampshire or Massachusetts to bring somebody up.”

There are many chefs that can do ice carvings, Bluck said, adding that subject is often part of buffet setup lessons in culinary arts programs.

“It’s something that I always wanted to try,” he said, adding that he didn’t know much about it or anyone who did ice carving.

Ice isn’t the only medium Bluck uses in his carving work.

“I do wood sculptures, snow sculptures, pumpkin carvings, melon carvings, you name it,” he said. “Watermelon bassinets for baby showers or fruit bowl displays, big swan displays or I can even take a bunch of pineapples and turn them into little pineapple bears.”

The most challenging ice carvings are the larger, “bulky-block” displays, such as ice bars.

“We just did a bear throne at Bowdoin College and that was 1,000 pounds of ice,” Bluck said, noting that it can be seen on his Facebook page.

Everyone has their own interpretation of his carvings, Bluck said, and the demonstrations can be awe inspiring and jaw dropping for crowds watching.

Chainsaws and chisels, die grinders and specialized bits are tools of his trade. Most anything that works on wood works on ice. Grinders and sanding pads can be used to smooth the ice and shape things too. He has a walk-in freezer so he can buy the 300-pound blocks of ice in bulk, but this year will purchase his own ice machine. Then he will be able to make colored ice and freeze things in the ice. Perhaps roses in a heart-shaped carving.

“It just opens me up to so much more and I’ll be more self-sufficient,” Bluck said Saturday.

It’s an art that has “a stigma of being an upper class, fine dining, country club type of thing but it’s really not,” he said. “I do stuff in my backyard all the time.”

Bluck will have a new website online at the end of the month but people can learn more about his ice carving venture by visiting SubZero IceCarvings on Facebook.

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