WATERVILLE — Snow sculptors Amanda Bolduc and Cathy Thomspon have encountered difficult conditions in the past while practicing their craft. The mother-and-daughter team have sculpted during a windy blizzard and in below-zero conditions.

But neither of those instances posed as much of a challenge to their work as Saturday’s sunny 45-degree weather.

“When it gets too warm like this, things start melting, falling away, dimpling … so to add detail, it’s super hard, because you can’t get a fine line,” Bolduc said.

“We’re working with mashed potatoes today,” her mother echoed.

“You need certain temperatures in order to get a perfect sculpture,” Bolduc said, adding that her preferred temperature for sculpting was somewhere in the 20s, so that her fingers don’t fall off.

Thompson said her ideal range would be somewhere between 15 and 25 degrees. “That is my favorite, perfect weather,” she said.

The duo were taking a break from the sculpture they were working on in Castonguay Square as part of a Common Street Arts event, Snow Sculpting in the Park. The award-winning sculptors were tasked with chiseling a three-dimensional fish, its body standing up on top of its curled tail, out of an 8-foot-tall and 4-foot-wide block of snow in just a few hours. When they compete, they work for two or three days.

Serena Sanborn, the education and outreach coordinator at Waterville Creates, of which CSA is a part, organized Saturday’s event, which also included opportunities for attendees to “paint” on the snow by using spray bottles full of different colors of water and sculpt their own snow masterpiece.

Sanborn, who also competes in snow sculpting in New Hampshire events, said the parks and recreation crew was a big help and brought about three dumpsters’ worth of clean snow to the square to ensure that the event could go on after the warm weather melted most of the snow in the square. The team also packed up some of the snow into a box Friday so that the rectangular slab was ready for Bolduc and Thompson when they began carving Saturday morning.

Bolduc and Thompson began their sculpting careers in a warmer place and with a grittier medium. In 2006, with other family members, they entered a national sand sculpting competition for amatuers at Fort Meyers beach in Florida.

“We made cute little sculptures of Spongebob (Squarepants), Patrick and their boat mobile. It was adorable, but we didn’t win anything,” Thompson said.

In the years that followed, the pair continued to compete and sharpen their skills, and eventually they took first place. Bolduc also has embarked on solo projects and has achieved a master’s status in sand sculpting. No such designation exists for snow sculpting, Bolduc said.

“It’s very difficult to move up in sand, because you have people who compete all over the world. So, that’s what you’re looking at for competition, and they’re at an even higher level. They do it full time and that’s their full-time job. For us it’s more of a hobby,” Bolduc said, who works full time as her three children’s home school instructor in Skowhegan.

Then, in 2015, the two were invited to participate in Maine’s first competition, where they won the state championship. They won again in 2016 and were invited to the national competition in Wisconsin and placed fifth. In 2017, they placed third and won the people’s choice award at Lake Geneva.

“Snow isn’t as political as sand,” Bolduc said. “Whoever shows up can just start sculpting.”

On Saturday, the two had another family member, Bolduc’s brother and Thompson’s son, Chris, there as their helper. It was his first time scultping an exhibition piece, but he’s worked on smaller sculptures with Thompson in her yard.

“He sees things in the snow,” Thompson said. “He’s the design type.”

The three worked until about 4 p.m. on their sculpture, using tree trimmers, shingle shavers, drywall knives, tile scrapers, a cricular horse-grooming tool, files, spatulas and different sizes of spoons – all to shape, sculpt and carve details into their slab of snow.

“What you do is you raid your kitchen and your workshop,” Thompson said, picking up a scraper.

 

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