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Canadian Sculptor represents Canada - Part 1

By Patricia Leguen March 17, 2003

} Travel Journal 2001 - Part 1 Canadian Sculptor represents Canada The winter went by so fast this year and I spent most of it away from Saskatoon where I live, in the middle of the Canadian Prairies. My first trip took me to lake Louise to carve ice at Ice Magic, an international competition held every year in front of the Château Louise at the end of January. I was not planning to go this year because I had a 3 week trip planned to Japan in February and a 2 week trip planned to China in early March, but since the second trip coincided with Ice Art, the world ice carving championships in Fairbanks, Alaska, where I have been competing for the last five years, I wanted at least to carve a little ice this winter. I have been competing at international snow, ice and sand competitions for the last ten years now, and I have travelled the world. I was born a traveller and I always say it is addictive. I go to a different country every year. Japan had been on my list for a few years but it was difficult to find team-mates who could afford to take a few weeks off their jobs in the middle of winter to go carve snow there or anywhere else for that matter. Plane tickets are expensive although we receive room and board once in the country. It is also difficult to find financial support to represent Canada at all theses international events. But I will keep doing it because it is so fulfilling both on a personal level and on an artistic level to create monumental sculptures out of mediums that disappear after a few days. It is art for the sake of creating art. It is challenging because we have to work long hours in very cold weather and all we get is medals and trophies and sometimes a little money. Japan, here I come I applied to represent Canada at the 52nd Snow Statue Contest in October 2000 in Sapporo. I just had a feeling I would be accepted so I started taking private Japanese lessons with a student from Sapporo who was in Saskatoon for a few months. I sent my application along with my resume and the list of all the competitions I have attended (over 40), with a sketch of my sculpture. I heard through another snow sculptor from New York State that there was another international snow sculpture competition in Nayoro, in northern Hokkaido a few days after the one in Sapporo and decided to apply for it and kill two birds with one stone. I had a few sketches ready and found two team-mates from Vancouver with some experience in snow sculpting. We met in Vancouver and received complimentary upgrades to Business Class on Air Canada to Nagoya, which was wonderful. We had to change airports and then fly from Nagoya to Sapporo. What a trip. It was so hot and bumpy that I could not wait to get there. And once at the airport in Sapporo, we had to take a bus for an hour and a half to the designated hotel. We arrived late at night in snowy and icy downtown Sapporo. Our first surprise was how small the rooms were and how hot it was inside. The next day we walked around Odori Park, the site of the competition, and met the American team from Oregon. We watched the hundreds of Japanese soldiers putting the finishing touches to a life-size replica of the Trevi Fountain in Rome and some 20 other giant snow sculptures, all kinds of scenes and buildings. I had seen a video of these snow wonders in what I call the snow capital of the world before but it was breathtaking to see those masterpieces with my own eyes. Odori Park is ten blocks long and millions of people walk through it during the one week long winter festival Yuki Matsuri to admire the more than 300 snow sculptures of all sizes, the smallest 2 meters high, the tallest 25 meters high! The 21 ten foot square blocks of snow to be carved by the teams looked so small in the middle of this and we were not allowed to go any higher than 3 meters. That evening we had the welcome meeting followed by a reception in one of the nearby hotels. We were treated to some traditional Japanese music and entertainment as well as typical Japanese food and drinks. It was great to meet new sculptors from all over the world and to see some familiar faces from previous competitions: Argentina, Hong Kong and China. I speak five languages and it is a great opportunity to use them all. The day the competition started we had the opening ceremony on the site with a band playing. The very old chairman of the organising committee, the dignitaries and all the TV stations were there to greet us and then we were escorted carrying a sign with our respective flag on it to a nearby large auditorium to stand on the stage and be introduced to thousands of people. And then it was time to start carving for the next four days. We worked until 9 pm every day in mild weather for me, - 10o to -15o C. I told whoever complained about the cold that it was - 34o C when I left Saskatoon. Almost everywhere I go it is warmer than here in the winter. The piece I carved in Sapporo was called Escape and represented a 6 ft tall face of a Native woman whose long hair turned into a flight of snow geese. I always try to incorporate elements from Saskatchewan in my work. I brought a small scale model made out of plasticine for my team-mates to work from and for the public to see how a work of art can be enlarged from 15 cm to 3 meters in height. We had a very long logging saw that was very useful to cut big chunks of snow. We had a tool shed where we could store our tools and the ones given by the committee. Every day we ate all together in a large prefab building and were treated to all kinds of international foods from various sponsors. It was a wonderful opportunity to mingle with all the snow sculptors of the world. The first night we tried to gather between the hotel elevators on one of the floors because it was the largest space where we could sit. Apparently we made too much noise so we had to retreat to several rooms to be able to talk about art and share stories and photos of our work. We all have a common drive and a universal language: art. Those moments are very dear to me. We all understand one other instantly and appreciate what it takes to go around the world to create transient snow sculptures. The actual carving for me is like giving birth to a child who has been on my mind for several months. I have created it in my dreams over and over again. I know it by heart even before it is born out of my hands. And when it finally stands tall in front of me, I feel like a child again looking up at a monument. It is also a time of reflection for me when I work outside in the cold. I love the cold and forget how harsh it is as soon as I am away from it. I love snow so immaculate and beautiful too and you can polish it like marble. Snow, ice, and sand sculpting is more like performance arts in a way. Tens of thousands of people come to watch us, amazed at what we do and eager to talk to us and to learn more about the process. Escape was born on February 7, 2001 at 8 p.m. Then it was time to pack up the tools and part with her. The next day, at noon, on a snow stage at the foot of one of the giant snow sculptures, was the award ceremony with all the decorum. I was thrilled to hear that I had won a second place trophy and a medal. I was even more pleased to see that Canada was the only non Asian country to win a prize with a representational sculpture, while all other winning pieces were very realistic. The afternoon we spent shopping and then headed to the closing party at a local night club. Time went by so quickly. The next day we had to leave our hotel to move to a cheaper one for four days before heading North to the second competition. Now it was time to play tourists, visit the area, enjoy the Japanese baths and relax a little. __________________________________________________ Copyright © 2001 Patricia Leguen View more of Patricia's work on her website.