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Community Showcase: Hamilton Ice Sculptors

One of wonderful things about Garratt Business Park is the sheer amount of creative, unique and specialty organisations that make their home here. Together with major art studios and film sets: this diversity generates a uniquely creative atmosphere with a great spirit of cooperation.

In this series, we’ll be showcasing some of our amazing organisations and discovering how they enjoy the Garratt Business Park community.

To start with, let’s chill-out with the UK’s first Ice Sculpture company: as I chat with the very cool Nick Smith from Hamilton Ice Sculptors.

The History…

Duncan (Mr. Hamilton himself!) started the company 50 years ago now...

He started off as a chef: until one day somebody ran into the kitchen because a client of the hotel needed an ice sculpture quickly. Duncan gave it a a go, I think he got about £25 for it! And then here we are 50 years later…

Being the first and the only Ice Sculptor in the UK, It was just him for the first 20 years: operating out of Chelsea Bridge - basically a hole in the wall that he would flood! In the 80s, with the business growing, he relocated here to the larger workshop Garratt Business Park, where he’s remained since. Gradually bringing in more sculptors: Ben, Jack and now myself. Duncan’s retired now, so now his son Jamie's at the helm these days!

Ice Sculpting…

It takes a mix of skills to become an ice sculptor: I was a tattooist before this, so I've got a 2D background. but Jack; he was a model maker, so he's got the 3D aspects and the precision, as does Ben. Jamie runs the business of course - but we all do the sculpting!

We do a lot of film, TV, art installations and advertising work, plus a huge amount of events and functions as Ice Sculptures are an attractive centrepiece for any party.

Statement pieces are a specialty: because ice is such a perishable material, you can send a poignant message to support a cause. For example, we created a piece for the Dog’s Trust where we created a dog sculpture from ice and put it in a car where it slowly melted: to highlight not leaving dogs in hot cars. Once an artist sculpted the bone of a polar bear that were cast in Bronze: then we froze them down into a giant block of ice that we carved into the bear shape. Then as the polar bear melted, these bronze bones began to fall out…

We also do Winter Wonderland! Which is a GIANT event, the Ice Kingdom requires about 500 tonnes of ice and snow that we make every year. So we've started that already!

One of my favourite projects was a job we had for the release of the Mortal Kombat computer game: to make an ice-statue of the character Sub-Zero. Growing up playing the game, I was really excited to make him: we were there for the  launch and got to play the game before anybody else!

But I think the one that really stands out for me was a character I made for Winter Wonderland: a 17ft ‘Ent’ character you’d find in The Lord of The Rings. A giant tree man, pulling itself up on one knee. I'm 6’4” and I'm hugging his shin… So he's massive- wow! But good design.

To generate such massive creations we make our ice here, which are sort-of cereal box shaped blocks, 1-metre, by 50-cm, by 25-cm deep. If you stack them together and put water in-between, they'll freeze to form a giant block. A bit like lego!

The chainsaws come-out to remove the the main body of the ice and then we have plethora of Japanese chisels, made exactly same way; with the steel folded and folded and folded together until they just fall through the ice! Then you shaving saws, pruning saws, routers with spinning bits of metal on them… Heat guns, anything that will get the effect that you want. But improvisation is probably our best tool. Yeah!

We've also done some amazing BUTTER sculptures. We've carved stuff out of pumpkins. We've also made sand sculptures. But ice is 99.9% of the business - we're predominantly an ice company. Ice is a reductive form: whereas clay, for example, is additive - you know, you can just slap, slap, slap- build it up. But with ice you cut away to reveal the final form.

Working with Garratt Business Park…

Behind us is Malcolm Ryan’s Film Studio and if they have a shoot on; they will come to us if ice-effects are involved. Or if a company asks us to do a photoshoot and they want the premises to do it, then it’s terrific for us: we can make the ice here with all the tools in our facility, then literally just run it ten meters away and we’re on the set!

Being so close to Wimbledon Art Studios - they do good stuff, so we’ve gone there to hire a couple of people before, during busy periods like Winter Wonderland when we had to make 125,000 ice glasses for the ice bar!

We’ve also been known to supply ice for a person onsite - for his ice box when he goes fishing! Which counts?!

What Makes Us Special…

Duncan used to say Ice Sculpture was like theatre. There’s nothing preserving them. Even in the freezing cold, they will still sublimate, so they’re there for a limited time. And you don't want to see it go! But that’s the beauty...

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