When we accepted the commission of a 5 day ice luminary installation at The Commons in downtown Minneapolis, we went into it with our eyes wide open. We knew that weather could play a part in the outcome of any installation, but we did not expect the worst conditions possible. Not only did Mother Nature sock us in with high winds that spun through the park day and night, but she other denied us of the two most important things we needed: cold weather and snow! The combination was harsh.
High wind can be dealt with by how the ice lanterns are set up. The chimneys were fairly large by the last day which made it very challenging, but with the help of Tom, Nate, Mary and Dale, we successfully lit as many as we could. Some of the tall, thin Finnish Glass Towers needed to be broken up and used individually.
Snow, at least, can be found in a pinch. But, the process requires a lot more time and hard labor to find it, transport it and selectively place it where it is needed. During this installation, snow became gold!
This beautiful photo by Chris Broste shows the extreme lack of snow!
The warm weather was the true killer. Mix warmth with sun and you should just throw up your hands and say, "I surrender!" Thankfully, we had several days of really cold weather before the event to be able to make many Finnish Glass Towers and hundreds of globe ice lanterns. The problem was the long range forecast. All the weather stations were predicting a big thaw with a week of sunny days and temps that could reach the 40's or 50's F (4-10°C). So, Tom reached into his back pocket and pulled out his Ace of Hearts and the first MIRACLE of The Commons. Tom figured out a way to box all the ice pillars and ice lanterns, put them on pallets and shipped them to a huge freezer warehouse where they would sit in ice heaven during that warm week. Such relief! Truthfully, I am not sure I can put the feeling into words . . .
But, we still had a large crop of Ice Glass to worry about because it was too big to store in the warehouse. Ice Glass has become a staple in my ice installations and I was unsure what I would do if all of it melted into a puddle. Ice Glass cannot be transported by vehicle after it has sat in warm weather/sun for a few days -- it just becomes too weak to make the trip. So, my solution was to locate a sun-free spot within walking distance of the event where the ice glass could be stored during the thaw. There was no spot in the park itself, but across the street, on the north corner of the Armory building was a set of garage doors in full shade that appeared to not be used. Amanda Wigen and Beth Shogren, directors of The Commons and Green Minneapolis, the conservancy that overseas its maintenance, obtained permission from the property managers and poof - MIRACLE number two occurred. We had a perfect spot for the ice glass. But, would it survive the high temps and rain?
MIRACLE of The Commons number 3: The ice glass survived!
We had to hand carry it across the street - piece by piece - but it looked great. The warm weather had etched it, so each piece was filled with an amazing pattern that picked up the light and danced!
We managed to get everything assembled and lit for 5 full days! It was a fabulous experience and I will be forever thankful for the three MIRACLES of The Commons that made it happen!
Thank you to Robin Hetchler for allowing me to publish a compilation of her facebook photos - beautiful shots!
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And thank you to Chris Broste of Chris Broste Photography for the use of his beautiful photos!
Enjoy the Glow!
Jennifer Shea Hedberg, Ice Wrangler for Wintercraft
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