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Ice sculptors keep cool during heat wave

Dan Bergin, 29, carefully carves designs down the

Dan Bergin, 29, carefully carves designs down the side of a ice luge at Ice Sculpture Designs in Deer Park on Wednesday. (June 20, 2012) (Credit: Michael Cusanelli)

It was nearly 100 degrees outside, but Daniel Bergin was wearing a gray thermal shirt over a thick blue ski jacket.

Despite the heat, his hat was covered in frost, and he wore a pair of thick black work gloves to keep his hands from freezing. That’s because Bergin spends his days inside a large walk-in freezer, surrounded by giant slabs of ice.

At Ice Sculpture Designs in Deer Park, Bergin and his crew of sculptors turn 300-pound blocks of ice into crystal clear signs, statues and showpieces. While everyone else swelters outside in the summer heat, Bergin and his crew work in rubber boots, jackets and sweatshirts, carving hunks of ice into pieces of art.

“People don’t really think about it, but it is a very labor-intensive job,” said Bergin, 29, the head sculptor and ice carving manager.

Together, he and his team create about 40 to 60 ice sculptures a day for their customers. Sculpture designs range from love birds to giant hearts, company logos, and even ice slides used for pouring drinks.

The average 300-pound block of ice takes about three to four days or longer to completely freeze, although he said days like Wednesday add to the wait time.

Once the basic shapes have been mechanically carved into the sheets of ice using a computer-aided design program, Bergin and his crew add the fine details and prepare the sculptures for shipment.

“You really don’t ever get used to the cold,” said Bergin, who has been an ice sculptor for seven years. “People think this is a great job in the summertime because you’re in the freezer, but it’s rough being outside and sweating and then having to go into the freezer.”

On particularly hot days, sculptures are loaded into freezer trucks to keep from melting en route. Once the finished product has been delivered, they typically last for 6 to 8 hours before they begin to lose their detail.

And even though Bergin and his team create upwards of 200 sculptures a week, he said it's still difficult not to get attached to each piece of art.

“With ice it's basically the only disposable art form,” said Bergin. “Whatever it is you make you take a lot of pride in, but you know it’s gonna melt away.”

Tags: Deer Park

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