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Featured Artist: 10 Years of Glacial Art

10 Years of Glacial Art
Ten years is a long time for a company whose major products last a matter of hours.
But how do you even start an ice sculpting business?

Article originally published at www.glacialart.com

Mat Chaloner and Mat Foster first met at university in Sunderland, where they were both studying Design and Model Making – a friendship was struck up almost instantly.  The pair moved to London, where Mat F worked for a Special effects company and Mat C  took up an apprenticeship with a London-based ice sculpting company, giving him the opportunity to explore his abilities within the unique medium of ice. Together they worked on various exciting projects in London including ice effects on the film “King Arthur” and costumes for Angelina Jolie in the film “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”.

“We were both good sculptors, hard grafters and firm friends”, Matt says about their early business plans. “We had realised there was a gap in the market Up North. We are both from the North west and both wanted to return closer to home.” Despite having no experience in running a business – especially within the creative industry – the two Mat’s were determined to make it work. “Sometimes you just have to jump in and see what happens!”

On their first day in Liverpool they found the perfect warehouse, which has remained their base of operations to this day. The next step was to find an accountant who could help them navigate the choppy waters of business ownership; with the support of accountant Mark Linney of Taxcall Accountants and business guru Ron Ives of Blue Orchid, a plan of attack was formed. Within two months of approaching the bank with their proposal they were accepting ice-block machines from America – “and our chainsaws began to chop!”

The Big Jobs

The world of professional ice sculpting is a competitive one, but one at which Glacial Art have succeeded again and again. From live ice-sculpting performances in Kuwait, to working on pieces for Cannes Film Festival, and even walking away as winners of the European Ice-Sculpting Championships, there certainly hasn’t been a dull moment.

Consistent work in the North West wedding industry has allowed the team to seek out new and exciting ventures.“We’ve had drinks with Quentin Tarantino,” tells Matt. “We have appeared on various TV shows. We have built an ice set for Game of Thrones!” Together, they’ve achieved more than they had ever thought possible.

Working with HBO on Game of Thrones was almost certainly their biggest accomplishment to date – as big fans of the books and then the series, it was a personal victory as well as a professional one. “It wasn’t a further step up on the ladder of our career – it was a completely new ladder for us.” Creating the monumental “ice henge” set piece for season four of Game of Thrones was hard work, which required the team to ship six tonnes of ice to Belfast. A year later and HBO was in touch again, requesting a promotional piece, which ended up being a life-sized Iron Throne made of ice in Covent Garden.

All of this has contributed to their current status as one of the leading ice carving companies in Europe – if not the world.

The Glacial Art Family

As the friendship between Mat C and Matt F grew stronger and their business thrived, they realised they would need to take on more staff. “The biggest blessing we have received over the last 10 years is finding and training these two guys” – Attila Olah, who joined as an apprentice in 2009 and has recently graduated from Liverpool Hope University; and Paul Crawford who began working at Glacial Art as a delivery driver, and has gone on to become an impressive ice sculptor in his own right.

The UK and Beyond!

The combination of the experts Mat F and Mat C with their promising protégés Attila and Paul means that Glacial Art now has a formidable team. With a solid foundation of work in the wedding industry across the North West and London, they have plenty of opportunities to expand, and to seek out more and more exciting commissions.

Large PR firms and brands are regularly contacting the Glacial Art team to work on one-off events, such as the frozen Bench jacket which was shipped to Berlin for the launch of their flagship store. With their experience on Game of Thrones, they shouldn’t find it difficult to expand more into television and films either.

Meanwhile, the reputation of Glacial Art is building around the UK. For the last four years they’ve been working on an ever-growing winter festival in York; last year they supplied sixty sculptures for the weekend, and this year it’s likely to be more. “Other cities have seen the success of this event and we now do similar events in Perth and Durham” – ideally Liverpool will follow suit, and we’ll be seeing their frozen artwork in more proliferation around the city.

“We all feel very excited about the future.”

What Next?

It’s a rather big question for the most ambitious ice sculpting company in the UK!

This year the team have already been courted for an ice exhibition in Istanbul, which would be one of their largest and longest-running commissions yet. “Out of all the hundreds of ice sculpting companies around the world, they contacted us, four guys in a warehouse in Liverpool to create this exciting project for them in Turkey”, Mat says as he glows with pride. “Travelling the world through our creativity is something that really excites us.”

The big goal though, the ultimate achievement, would be taking home first prize at the World Ice Carving Championship in Alaska. Held every year, the standard of work shown there is incredible. “We’ve had our eye on Alaska for a long time now, but we have never really felt ready enough.”

With tens of thousands of spectators, and more than a hundred sculptors from thirty different countries, it’ll be one of the biggest challenges the Glacial Art team has ever faced. So far, no Brits have ever managed to become the World Champions. “Could we claim that title in the next ten years? Is that possible?”

“Of course it is!”

We asked the two Mats, Attila and Paul to choose ten of their favourite ice sculptures from over the 10 years they have been in business.

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1. Rolex watch. This piece was 1m tall x 50cm wide.
Blood sweat and tears went into creating this piece. I chopped the top of my ring finger off whilst showing Attila how (not) to cut a perfect disc. Now that’s a lesson you don’t get taught in Uni.

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2. The iron Throne. We created this piece for HBO to celebrate the launch of “Game of Thrones” season 4 DVD Box-set. This piece was in Covent garden and took 3 weeks to create.
Paul Crawford’s favourite sculpture to work on so far.
The beautiful lady at the front is Rachael Treacher who worked for us between 2012 and 2014 and revolutionised our office practice and business communications. Cheers Rach.

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3. Bench jacket in ice for their winter advertising campaign. We created an especially large 1mx 1m block of ice and floated one of “Bench’s” winter jackets inside. This was created and photographed here in Liverpool and then we drove it to Berlin for the launch of Bench’s flagship store..
Image by Ben Morgan from Vessel Studios

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4. Steam Punk Fish.
This piece was carved live in the pouring rain. 2m wide x 1m tall. It took 5 hours to complete.
This is Mat Chaloner’s favourite live sculpture he has created.

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5. Ice Pizzeria
Here we created the corner of a Pizzeria for Dr Oetkers. This was 4m x 3m x 2.5m tall. We used over 4 tonnes of ice for this installation at Liverpool Station in London.
This is the biggest ice sculpture we have made.

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6. Dino skeleton .
This piece was 3m wide x 3.5m tall. We created this for a competition over in Latvia. We worked right through the night in -20 degrees temperatures to get it finished on time.
Attila’s favourite sculpture to work on.

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7. MTV logo. 1m tall x 80cm wide.
We created this for the MTV European music awards 2008 held in Liverpool

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8. Frozen palace for BBC 3’s “Don’t tell The Bride”
This piece was 2m wide x 3.5m tall. The groom spent half his budget on this ice sculpture and they never really showed on the TV show. We like to think that was because the sculpture was too good, when they had actually wanted a disaster.

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9. Cocktail Ice bar. 3m long. We love making ice bars. This was one of our first Ice bar designs we created back in 2007.

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10. Game of Thrones, Ice Henge Set. We carved 3 tonnes of ice here in Liverpool and then drove it all over to Belfast for a 2 day shoot. We created the ice alter and 10 giant ice spikes.
Mat Fosters favourite project to work on.

Please visit www.glacialart.com to see a full range of our work.