Continuing our story of how it all began…

Our home had many bedrooms seeing as we still had all 8 kids at home at one time, so we put two chest freezers into one of them.  We’ll share more secrets of the trade up the road but one of our first lessons was all about how to get the ice clear, not milky like your standard ice cubes.  Stay tuned.  Here’s a clue: what do aquariums, clothes hangers and ice have in common?  Really, we had no idea what we were doing!

Our first few sculptures were centerpieces, made from a couple of ice blocks which were molded with old cookie tins and decorated with bits of ribbon and sparkles.  Every time the phone rang we were so excited at the prospect of a new challenge and maybe, just maybe, a customer.

People will often comment on how creative we must be.  Probably most of us have more than a few hidden talents.  It just takes trying something new and risky. While experimenting with the chainsaw, I (Harold) tried to carving a jumping fish. This was sooo cool.  It fell over pretty quick but I was hooked.

Our home in Brookswood (Langley, BC)

Our home in Brookswood (Langley, BC)

A dear friend Marvin helped us build a simple website, and before long we started getting phone calls and inquiries for ice.  It must have been around that time that I started to say “we’re always just a phone call away from panic.”  Some of those molds never even got used as we started to get requests for all kinds of custom work. “Can you put poinsettias into punch bowls?”  “Can you carve a flying pig?”  “How about an Optimus Prime?” … “What’s that?”

With only two chest freezers in a downstairs bedroom, there wasn’t a lot of room to freeze ice.  Much less carve and store our ice creations.

We were going to need a walk in freezer, in our garage.  They say, “necessity is the mother of invention.”  Man did we ever prove that true in those beginning days.  So with a window into the bedroom, the kids could watch Dad hard at work in the freezer.  They also say you can take the boy out of the prairie but you can’t take the prairie out of the boy.  Ten years out of the cold Manitoba winters we were back home in the freezer.

At work it the garage-turned freezer.

At work it the garage-turned freezer.

Often I would come home from a day at work and hop into the freezer until midnight. What you don’t do with a little passion and vision. We quickly realized that it wasn’t about the money. It was about falling in love with an art form.  It was about find out that we could do something that no one else could.

And it never would have worked if Valerie hadn’t been right there encouraging, experimenting and even making deliveries while I was at work.

You really have to remember, we really honestly didn’t have a clue. ZERO experience, no ice carving education, no resources. We were on our own with this massive undertaking. But that was the fun of it.  We’re a God fearing family and faith that Lord was there for us each and every step was a huge part of the journey.

It was all consuming in those days but ever so much fun.  Every time we would deliver a punch bowl or small sculpture, we would stick around and worry about what would happen – would it melt too fast? Would someone damage our beautiful creation?  And most of all, would they be happy with our sculpture?  So many nights were spent hanging out at MacDonald’s, twiddling our thumbs and checking on our sculptures again and again. As time went on, we became more comfortable with the idea of going home instead of hanging out in uptown Vancouver for 6 hours at a time.

Soon this business of ours started to take on a life of its own. We started to ask ourselves some hard questions.

When do we buy real ice block makers?  And when we do, how can we make more space for our ever expanding business?

When do I quit my day job?  That was a distant dream.

People (and especially Julian from Ice Culture in Ontario) told me that one day we would just know. Eventually that day did come, but more about that later…

Didn’t we say we had a story to tell?? We are just hitting the tip of the iceberg.

Stay tuned for more cool insights from #theicemen!