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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 August, 2003, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
'Today I sculpted Kylie's bum... in ice'
REAL TIME
People's stories in their own words

As the UK teeters on the verge of a meltdown, you may think the best place to spend your day is working in the deep freeze. However, ice sculptor Jamie Hamilton says high summer is actually the time of year he dreads most.

Jamie Hamiliton
Jamie Hamiliton: 'It's a bit on the tricky side working during this heatwave.'
I've just finished sculpting Kylie Minogue's bottom for a stag do. But it's a bit on the tricky side working during this heatwave, though.

We have to start at 5am, so we can catch the coolest part of the day. I can carry on until about 11am, but then it gets too hot and I have to call it a day.

Sometimes the ice is sculpted in our room-temperature studio where it softens, but I also work in the freezer - which is kept at -8C. In this hot weather, coming out of the freezer is awful.

Normally, it feels three times hotter than it really is when you step back outside. At the moment, going out into the heat knocks you off your feet. It feels like someone has suddenly wrapped you up in a big duvet.

Duncan Hamilton sculpting Big Ben in ice
'[My dad] used to be a chef, but became an ice sculptor'
We also have to warn our customers that the sculptures won't last quite as long in this warm weather. But even on a day like today, they will still have more than five hours to enjoy an ice work.

Melting is all part of the charm of an ice sculpture. We like to think of it as a performance. The ice evolves and changes over the course of an evening. It's the most transient form of art, but all the more special for that.

The people at an event know they are seeing an artwork that no one else will get a chance to experience. I think the memory of it stays with them more than if they knew they were looking at a more permanent sculpture.

We also carve ice live, in front of an audience. That's really nail biting stuff. Recently in Greece, two of us were working on the figure of an athlete and midway through my colleague lopped off the arm.

I was expecting a gasp from the crowd, but there was just complete silence. We managed to quickly stick it back on with plenty of water and snow.

One of the Hamiltons ice adverts
'Ice is quite brittle. You have to be careful or you'll have bits falling off.'
It can be quite difficult working with ice. It's quite brittle and you do have to be careful how you strike it or you'll have bits falling off.

You get used to it though. I've been sculpting ice full-time for about 10 years, but I first started helping out my dad, Duncan, when I was about eight. He used to be a chef, but became an ice sculptor in the mid-70s.

We work together and have been commissioned to do everything from large figures and Kylie's bottom to handmade ice cubes for adverts. We're asked to include a specific number of bubbles and fractures in the cubes, because some shots are taken so close up that every detail can be seen.

Cutting ice with sharp power tools
'We've also been to casualty with finger cuts.'
Its hazardous work. Ice is heavy and slides around. We've had a few squashed feet and dad's broken toes a few times.

We've also been to casualty with finger cuts. The tools we use are very sharp, with cutting edges made in the same way they make the blades of samurai swords.

We always wear protective gloves and boots, which can get quite hot in the studio at the moment. That said, we can't heat the studio either, so in winter it's freezing. Ice sculptors are only really happy in the spring and autumn.



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