Photo By: Carrie Legg
Tyson Whistler is the owner of Whistler Ice Works, an independent ice-sculpting business located in the basement of his home in Marietta.
Whistler’s artistic endeavors started during his childhood years, when he experimented with drawing, painting and even some wood-sculpting. Eventually, he found his way into the culinary arts business after graduating from mechanical engineering school.
It was the restaurant industry that brought Whistler to ice-carving.
“I started purchasing ice, and the executive chef at the time and I did one together,” Whistler says. “We bought a set of chisels and some tools and started buying ice and I would do a carving a week.”
For 14 years, roughly, Whistler’s ice carving and culinary career coexisted, but it was two years ago when he started to gain more recognition for his work.
“I began having regular business. We did the Fire and Ice show in Marietta, that was a First Friday event for Marietta Main Street,” Whistler says.
The creator and event promoter of Marietta Main Street eventually worked with Whistler to create even bigger events to showcase ice-sculpting, which catalyzed his forward movement.
“Now Marietta has their first ice show. This year was the third time we’ve had the Marietta Ice Show. That kind of developed a bit of a basis for the business,” Whistler says.
It was in January of 2021 when Whistler stepped aside from his culinary career and took on an opportunity to create sculptures on tour with another company.
After the tour, Whistler and his wife determined that his ice-carving had taken off enough, and that he had enough clients, to begin Whistler Ice Works and pursue it full time.
“I kept thinking, drawing isn’t necessarily going to bring in resources to support my family. But now, it is. Creating art has always been what brought me enjoyment. I want to make sure that I can still do that,” Whistler says. “The goal of Whistler Ice Works is to create customized art in its natural form … I want to be able to support our local community and supply our area with something unique and different.”
Chef Kate Augenstein, Whistler’s wife, says Whistler did a live ice-carving at the Marietta Community Career Center in February.
Whistler and Augenstein collaborated on a sculpture for a Toys for Tots drive in the past, but Augenstein jokes that she is much better at cooking than carving ice.
Besides community-building events, Whistler’s main clientele are people who hire him for weddings, birthday parties and anniversaries.
A detailed sculpture for an event takes two-and-a-half days to produce in the ice machine, which is in Whistler’s basement. Whistler does have a storage freezer but says he constantly runs out of room and is ready to upsize soon.
Before Whistler can begin carving, he must wait for the ice blocks to “temper.”
After pulling the ice out of the freezer, which is between zero and 20 degrees. Whistler says it is subject to cracking, “like an ice cube would if you dropped it in water.”
But it’s not just the ice that is Whistler’s concern — its brittle state can damage tools, too.
“You pull the ice block out and you put a cloth over it and wrap it and let it sit for two hours,” Whistler says. “Then the ice cuts a little bit more smoothly. It cuts more like butter.”
Whistler describes how sculptures have cracked several times in the past, after hours of hard work, because of how sensitive the ice is.
“We break a lot of ice,” Augenstein says.
Whistler says, however, that one of his favorite parts of the job is learning from mistakes like these.
“That’s the beauty of ice-carving: It’s all temporary art that transforms,” Whistler says. “It changes as it melts.”
Whistler mentions doing more wedding sculptures, possibly participating in the Medina festival and getting into craft ice for cocktails at restaurants. Whistler also wishes to create bigger, cleaner sculptures as he progresses.
To buy a sculpture or view Tyson Whistler’s portfolio, you can find him under “Whistler Ice Works” on Facebook, or on his website: https://www.whistlericeworks.com/