Christopher Huessy's professional portfolio still carries a photo of his very first ice sculpture: a simple carving of a swan he made years ago in culinary school. It seems a little out of place tucked in with the images of elaborate centerpieces, detailed corporate logos and multiblock sculptures, but it reminds the Gladstone, Oregon ice artist how far he’s come.
What started as a childhood infatuation with ice sculptures as Huessy was growing up in Minnesota developed into a career in the restaurant and hospitality industry that would span decades. Huessy honed his craft by making sculptures out of bars of Ivory soap, which he would then give to friends as Christmas gifts. He later created carvings in tallow and butter which were displayed at receptions and buffets at high-end hotels.
Huessy became deeply involved with culinary and ice carving competitions, and collected a number of awards and accolades internationally for his artistry. In 1987, after spending several years as an instructor at a culinary school in Portland, Oregon, Huessy launched his business, Professional Ice Carving. Today, he supplies decorative ice carvings for corporate and special events throughout the Portland area.
Clients range from corporate institutions, such as Intel, Nike and Adidas, to private parties and weddings. Huessy once carved the likeness of a soon-to-be bride’s pet whippet after her fiancé refused to let the dog participate in the ceremony. The look on the fiancé’s face when he saw the dog’s ice doppelgänger was, Huessy says, priceless.
After decades in the business, Huessy is still charmed by the reactions of clients and guests when they see his ice carvings at corporate events, weddings or other special gatherings. Unlike decorations such as balloons or flowers, ice begs to be experienced through touch, he says. He often sees parents and grandparents with young children in their arms approaching his sculptures, arms outstretched.
“The kids are just an excuse,” Huessy says. “It’s Grandpa who really wants to touch it.”