It’s not everyday that you find yourself in a freezer the size of a small London flat, staring into enormous steel troughs where enormous sized ice cubes are made!
It sounds like a bizarre scenario doesn’t it, but for husband and wife team Laura and Gareth Giles, this is a typical day in the life of their locally based business – The Ice Academy.
The Ice Academy is based in Cwmbran and specialises in crafting elegant ice sculptures for all manner of occasions, particularly weddings, as well as offering workshops and classes in the art of carving ice (a fabulous and unique idea for a hen or stag party!)
I recently met up with Laura and Gareth for a tour of their Academy on a cold and very snowy January evening. In fact it was so cold that Laura, who is used to working in sub zero temperatures all day, commented that she’d been outside earlier on, shovelling snow into bags to put to good use in her works of art. And works of art, they are. Looking through Laura’s portfolio is impressive – elegant swans, love hearts and personalised centrepieces appear among the types of wedding themed sculptures that Laura creates. She has also sculpted The Statue of Liberty, a Welsh Dragon and a huge work of art featuring a lark in a birdcage measuring two metres in height and three metres wide, which she completed as part of an International Ice Sculpting Competition in St Petersburg (for which she won an award). It seems that Laura can create almost anything out of frozen water, and when I peered into the storage freezer at The Ice Academy, it was brimming with a stunning array of beautifully crafted and carefully etched works of ice art.
Ice sculpting is an unusual career to pursue, so I was keen to find out what led Laura into a world of ice. She explained to me that, in order to fund her study of stop motion animation at Cardiff University, she worked part time in a petrol station. Between serving customers, Laura would often sketch and draw. As fate would have it, a customer spotted her work and mentioned that he owned an ice sculpting business nearby and offered her a job more or less on the spot. Since then, Laura hasn’t looked back and she and her husband Gareth took the icy plunge to open their own Ice Academy in May 2012.
The Ice Academy undertakes all kinds of bespoke commission work, creating amazing showstoppers for parties and special occasions, or much smaller pieces depending on their customer’s needs and budget. Individual flowers suspended in a block of ice make truly breathtaking table centrepieces, as do the chic and stylish champagne buckets carved entirely out of ice. If you’re looking to really wow your wedding guests, you simply must consider one of Laura’s creations.
If The Ice Academy’s sculptures capture your imagination as much as they did mine, why not have a go at carving something yourself? Gareth and Laura run workshops and masterclasses on a regular basis for individual groups. Their skills combined with their friendliness and hospitality make for a really fun and unique experience!
Call Laura & Gareth at the Ice Academy on 01633 869207 or visit their website at www.theiceacademy.co.uk