When most people hear the word ice, they think about the hassle of scraping it off their cars or plopping it in their lukewarm drinks. But for Wheaton resident Dan Rebholz, it’s an art in which chill turns thrill.
Rebholz is the owner and mastermind behind World Class Ice Sculpture in Villa Park. With more than 26 years of working as a professional ice sculptor, he powers his business on experience and slick creativity.
He discovered the world of ice carving when it was introduced in the culinary school he attended. While he continued to pursue a culinary career, he found himself carving ice competitively in his free time. It didn’t take Rebholz long to realize the shortage of ice artists in the Chicago area, and he decided to jump ship from cuisine and submerse himself in his real passion — ice.
What was it like opening your own business?
Well, ice carving is not a necessity — it’s a luxury item for parties. It’s kind of been a struggle with the downtown of the economy. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and I worked for someone else until 13 years ago. I started this business right after 9/11. It’s been a challenge, but it’s been fun. People are hiring me to do artwork to make their party look better. It’s a nice art outlet for me to express myself and what I can do in ice.
What’s the ice carving process like?
To me, the most important thing is the design. I spend a lot of time on the design work. Once I like the design, then I’ll draw a paper template that fits on the ice. Once I like the paper template, I can apply it to the ice and trace those lines with a chainsaw. I sculpt mostly at room temperature. However, (for) logos and pieces that need intricate details, I will suit up and carve in the freezer.
You were recently featured on the Food Network’s 'Ice Brigade.' What was that experience like?
It was really fun. I got to work with two guys that I love working with, that own a company up in Grand Rapids that the show was based off of. A few years ago, there was a big interest in ice, and I got approached with a few other people, and my buddies nailed the series on the Food Network. Reality TV is pretty much what you want to make it, but it was fun. We love what we do, and it kind of showed in the series.
What have you found is the most difficult to carve?
Usually human figures are really the hardest thing to sculpt, because of the complex muscle structure and all that. Everyone is interacting with people every day — so you know what a face looks like, and know the symmetry of a person’s body. So, if I don’t do a good job carving a human figure, people will notice the arms are way too long or the head is way too big for the body. The human form is definitely the most difficult thing to sculpt.
Anything else you would like to add?
A lot of people think ice carvings are really expensive and they can’t afford them, and that’s not true. I do small sculptures for people to pick up for as low as $100. I do small centerpieces to giant corporate events. Ice carving isn’t just for the rich.
Study his work
What: Champion ice carver creates uniquely personalized sculptures for events and parties
Where: World Class Ice Sculpture, 212 Stone Court, Villa Park; also home to his American Ice Carving Academy classes
More info: 847-350-0551, worldclassicesculpture.com