Joliet Junior College student works in baking and ice cream – Shaw Local
There’s something almost magical about watching Joliet Junior College baking student Nalia Warmack transform a block of ice into a figure with a big personality.
Videos of Warmack’s actions show him gracefully easing around the ice with a chainsaw, ice chips flying up as he makes shapes, chisels and planes.
Her creations include an elephant bust, an Easter bunny, a moose, a pelican, a goat, a mother duck and a duckling, a 5-foot-tall giraffe, a little girl stroking and caressing her foal, and a one-piece sculpture of a girl in a raincoat and boots. holding an umbrella and feeding the goose.
That latest creation earned Warmack first place at the Fire and Ice Winter Festival in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in mid-February.
“Honestly, I think I’ve always been a hands-on person, so it kind of came naturally,” Warmack said.
Although he’s still a student, Warmack said he’s already getting paid for his talents. He works as an independent contractor, creating sculptures and demonstrating ice carving techniques, such as his demos at last year’s “Light up the Holidays Parade & Festival” in Joliet.
Michael McGreal, chair of JJC’s culinary arts department and an ice carving instructor, said Warmack has made “wonderful, very complex ice carvings” and could make a full-time career in ice carving if he wanted to. She doesn’t (pastry is her first love), but Warmack said she feels the two talents marry well.
“If I make a wedding cake and a cake table [for a couple]I could throw an ice sculpture.’
McGreal said Warmack’s ice sculpture of a bear standing on a pedestal surrounded by blocks with letters and numbers would be perfect for gender reveal. The one Warmack fashioned had a light bulb underneath that would light up the ice “pink” or “blue” when it was time to pop, he said.
Warmack can charge $600 for that carving, McGreal said. “And he did it in two hours.”
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Warmack, who also works as a lab assistant for a baking class at JJC, said she initially signed up for an ice carving class in the spring of 2020. But he didn’t get very far when JJC personally suspended learning due to the pandemic.
So McGreal offered to return in the fall of 2021, which he did, and again for the spring of 2022.
McGreal said Warmack is a natural with a chainsaw and shapes the icing when making gingerbread. Often, she would bring him a sketch on a piece of paper and ask him what he thought.
“You could see his brain click into the analytical part of the design,” McGreal said.
Like any business, ice carving comes with some costs. McGreal said ice carving tools cost about $400. An ice block machine costs a thousand dollars or more, depending on the scope of the machine, but that’s better than paying for each block individually, as the price varies by company, he said.
But the cost of ice with the ice machine is about $1 per block, McGreal said.
Although startup costs can be high, ice sculptors are well paid for their talents. Sculptures can range from $350 to more than $1,000 a piece, depending on the size and complexity of the design, McGreal said. An expert ice sculptor can earn several thousand dollars for a day’s work.
But it doesn’t have to be easy money.
“An ice carving lasts only a short time. It is a very unique and intimate work of art.”
— Nalia Warmack, Joliet Junior College culinary student
Warmack said full-time ice sculpting is hard on the arms and knees. The chainsaw weighs 15 pounds and the ice blocks Warmack uses weigh 300 pounds and are “very dangerous” to lift, he said.
“We take whole blocks in and out of the freezer and onto the platforms. It’s a lot of lifting,” Warmack said. “And we’re cutting the pieces off that fall.”
However, the results are amazing and unlike other forms of art, he said. For example, a painting, once finished, can be sold or hung on the wall for people to look at forever. Not so with ice sculptures.
“An ice sculpture lasts a long time,” Warmack said. “It is a very special and intimate work of art. Not to mention it’s really cool to zone out with your power tools.”
Contact Warmack at email@example.com.