As I stepped out of the hotel the blast of cold hit me. The Finnish know how to insulate their homes. There are no cold drafts seeping in through the windows and you can quite happily walk around in your shorts if you want. You find yourself getting a false sense of security as usually the temperature in my house in Yorkshire is a sure indication of what it is like outside. But not in these Lappish countries; do not be fooled I warm you!
I could tell it was going to be cold at breakfast as I saw the trees swaying in the wind through the window. The temperature was much warmer than yesterday which was -24, but even though it was only -14 today it was with wind and yes the wind really does chill. I felt it as soon as I stepped out. I had left my balaclava at the Ice Hotel the previous day and so my face was exposed. I have deliberately grown a ginger beard to protect me from the touch of Jack Frost but it has been to no avail. Immediately his hand wiped over my face and left a minute film of ice that I could feel crack when I began to talk to Sergey. Sergey is an old Russian friend of mine and on this occasion my roommate. He is perhaps one of the best ice sculptors in the world and is able to make sculptures from ice that you simply would not believe, what’s more his skill is matched my his kind gentle nature. I just class myself as a student out here which suits me fine as learning is one of the virtues of life. As Sergey and I chatted on our way to work Jack Frost began to pinch my ears, I pulled down my hat, still not satisfied he began to blow his cold breath into my eyes which began to water. I put up my hood to shield myself. I know from experience that if I am out too long icicles grow from my watering eyes and impair my already strained vision.
But today I was not to be outside as such. We walked towards our haven which is the shelter of the Ice Hotel where we are working. The hotel is embryonic at the moment and just a shell of what it will grow to be. For now it belongs to us, a series of tunnels and domes that grow every day as the construction team use their big machines to make a myriad of passages reaching off in all directions to reconverge like a vast maze. It is our job as sculptors to breathe life and identity into these tunnels by making sculptures and decoration, in return the hotel protects us from the blowing wind and snow outside. I feel privileged that I am able to see it come alive even if the ice hotel does express its growing pains in my aching body, shifting tonnes of ice each day is by no means easy work; especially for someone with my bird arms.
It is however one of the joys of being a sculptor that you are able to be part of the journey where an inanimate object gradually evolves from being nothing to becoming something that is potentially wonderful. And that the essence of the Ice Hotel, it is after all only snow and ice, yet people come from all around to see it. They will drink and be merry, they may have a bite to eat in its restaurants and eat off tables made of ice, they may sleep in the rooms there, and they may even get married in the ice chapel that we are yet to make. But before that, today and for the days to come, the ice hotel is growing, and we are here to guide it and enjoy it coming to life. Jack Frost may cheekily nip my cheeks from time to time, but I will forgive him as it is he after all that keeps it all together.