Ice sculpture uses ice as the raw medium to work with. The sculptures can be abstract or realistic and functional or purely decorative and are usually made for a special event. The lifetime of the sculpture is determined by the temperature of the environment and can last up to possibly three months or just a few minutes. Several ice sculpting competitions/festivals are held around the world yearly. Since 1989, Alaska has hosted the annual World Ice Art Championships which is run by volunteers. Nearly 100 sculptors participate and more than 45,00 spectators come to view their work.
Artists are not limited to just plain water (distilled water makes the ice clearer). They can color the water, add glitter to it, use colored gels, add sand, embed objects (fruit, silk flowers, toys) or anything else that will look good. The temperature of the environment affects how quickly a piece must be completed to avoid melting. Sculptors use power tools (chainsaws, specialty bits etc) and razor sharp chisels designed for cutting ice. Many sculptures are now made with the use of ice carving machines
Ice has to be carefully selected to be suitable and free of impurities. Usually ice carvings are made from pure, clean water which is the result of slow freezing that allows the impurities to escape. Certain machines and processes allow for slow freezing and the removal of impurities. Often, white ice is used and carved. Blocks of almost any size can be cut from frozen rivers or ice quarries which are lakes or ponds that have frozen over.