Where better to spend the time leading up to Christmas than in an ice bar, wrapped up warm sipping a cool glass of champagne or a pint of beer surrounded by ice sculptures?
This year you could do just that at Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland, which had lots of entertainment at City Hall Lawn and in the grounds of Cardiff Castle. We have made ice bars in Nottingham for several years but this is the first time Cardiff has had an ice bar, the ice carvings fitted in perfectly with their funfair, ice rink, and big wheel.
Claire designed the entire surroundings and gathered her team of expert ice carvers; Jamie, Dave, James Wilding, James Tottle, Taylor, Jussi, Rodrigo and Zara and we hit the road from our studio in West Yorkshire and made our way down to Wales’ capital.
The entire ice carving used a whopping 17 tonnes of ice, which was all carved onsite in the freezer that would become the ice bar. The freezer was kept at a chilly -10 C during the sculpt and when the ice bar was open – our ice sculptors are very used to working in such conditions so were well prepared, with hats, scarves, thermals and gloves under their helmets and chain saw gloves and trousers (Jamie even has a pair of chainsaw mittens!) Visitors to the bar were well advised to wrap up warm but coats and gloves were also provided by Winter Wonderland.
The Sand In Your Eye ice sculptors carved a bar made entirely of ice, with beautiful flowers imbedded inside the ice. As Wales is a bilingual country we carved the name of the bar in both English and Welsh. Customers at the ice bar could order their drinks safe in the knowledge they would be perfectly chilled.
Then they could sit on an intricately carved ice seating area (with blankets!), a cheeky little fox peering down at them carved by Dave who has only taken up ice sculpting very recently but is proving to be a fantastic ice carver!
The ice bar was appropriately arctic themed and filled with other ice sculptures with a giant polar bear and her cub in the centre of the bar, a penguin and chick, a wall carved with a 2D image of some killer whales, their white patches filled in with snow created during the carving of the ice sculptures.
There was also an air hockey table made of ice where you could challenge your friends to a game and a Santa’s sleigh towed by a reindeer.
Visitors could pose with the ice carvings or sit inside the ice sleigh and have their photo taken or just sit there with their drink and soak up the festive atmosphere.
The ice bar was very popular as part of Cardiff’s Christmas events and was fully booked throughout, with lots of positive reviews in the press – including this article on the ITV website which featured a guided tour by our rookie ice sculptor Dave Martin!
We had a great time working in Cardiff, it is such a friendly city and Sayers Group who run Winter Wonderland couldn’t have been a kinder, more fun bunch of people to work with. Ice sculpting is very much a bonding experience – Zara, Rodrigo and Jussi are old friends of Sand In Your Eye so it was great to work with them again, Jussi is a friend from Jamie’s days as a freelance ice sculptor in Finland over ten years ago!
Everybody stays in the same house together and the evenings are a great time for the sculptors to relax and make friends. Dave, who is a keen chef was scandalised to hear that it’s usually takeaways every night and insisted on making his famous pie – which Jamie has been waiting eagerly to try.
We can’t wait to return to Cardiff next year and have lots of ideas for the next ice bar!