January 24, 2005
After spending several years in the hotel industry as a dishwasher and cook, John Foltz decided his career wasn’t so hot. That’s when he decided to give his cursory culinary contributions the cold shoulder.
Foltz decided to try his hand at a cooler profession — ice sculpting.
"I saw all these ice sculptures in the kitchen or the back dock of the hotel I worked at," Foltz said. "I thought it was pretty fascinating. I’ve always considered myself artistic. I think I’m creative. The uniqueness intrigued me to want to do it."
Twenty-five years later, Foltz is still at it, running Ice Sculptures by John Foltz from the garage of his Scottsdale home. It’s a craft that requires no training, but begs for precision and accuracy at every turn.
"I tried it a few times before I was comfortable with it," said the 41-year-old Foltz. "After a time, it got to the point where I knew what I wanted to do."
What Foltz does is take 300-pound blocks of ice he produces in his garage from distilled water — each block takes three days to make — and carves them into whatever creation a customer wants. Tools of the trade include a chain saw, drill, chisels and torch.
When he gets a job — which can range from $5 to $25,000 and take several hours to weeks to complete, depending on size — Foltz suits up in his heavy coat, fleece-lined "Elmer Fudd" hat, snow boots and ski pants. He climbs into his welllit 12-by-12-foot "studio," which is kept at 5 degrees below zero, and gets to work.
"It’s a very hard craft to learn," Foltz said. "It’s uncomfortable. You get cold and wet. But, after a while, you get used to it. You have to be determined. At first, I didn’t know what I was doing. I made mistakes."
Some of Foltz’s best creations were a 45-by-60-inch cactus display, a Hilton Hotel sculpture with pillars and lions that was 8 feet tall by 6 feet wide, and a breathtaking 60-by-60-inch butterflies piece.
Foltz said while most people respect and understand his work, some question
it. "I had a woman who wanted a piece that was going to cost $1,000," Foltz said. "She said, ‘For something that melts?’ To me, that’s biting the hand that’s creating for you."
Foltz said although his work is done in the sometimes steamy Arizona climate, pieces last because of air conditioning.
"This is what I was put here for," Foltz said. "People often say, ‘You can make a living doing that?’ I tell them yes, that’s all I do."