Sasanki Tennakoon took a virtual five with ice sculptor and motivated maven, Anne Marie Taberdo while she was on a whirlwind visit to Sydney to reconnect with family and friends after parting ways with Icebox – the ice sculpting company she’s been working for in the U.K for the last few years. 

I first met Anne Marie during our undergraduate Fine Arts degree at National Art School in 2005 – it was our school play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I was inexplicably cast as a dancing fairy but that stuff is better left in the vault. Anne Marie majored in Sculpture and was a gun with tools even back then so it’s no surprise that the power tool company Stihl have appointed her poster girl for their brand given her recent rise and rise as one of the few female ice sculptors kicking around. Recently parting ways with the company where she honed her reputation, Icebox, I couldn’t help jumping on her contribution for her.curious’ first Feature to find out more about what makes her tick and what she’s got lined up next!

Money, time and resources aside – what would your dream body of work be?

My dream body of work I think would involve a collaboration of ice sculptors on an international tour – creating and installing temporary ice galleries that would house ice sculpture installations and environments using ice and snow. This has certainly been done before on a commercial level but I would like the work to be on much more abstract level with its focus on the beauty and integrity of the pure materials. Much like the work that can be seen once a year at the Ice Hotel in Sweden.

On a solo level – my dream work/piece would be displayed on the ‘Fourth Plinth’ in Trafalgar in London. I don’t know what exactly it would be but I have always been interested in temporary sculptures and spaces. To me, they entice movement and embrace change.

Who has been one of the most important people/sources for your creative journey so far?

At the moment my sculptural practice has revolved around ice.

I feel at home working with this ephemeral material and so I have to say that my biggest resource and support base to date has been a commercial ice sculpting company in London – The Icebox. It is here that I spent two and half years learning and developing ice sculpting skills. They are an incredibly prolific company so I had to learn the craft at great speed. Although, after having been trained as a ‘fine artist’, working under a commercial setting and at such speed can be considered an undesirable situation, it has allowed me to keep a sketch-like, immediate and light quality in my work which is, to me, a desirable aesthetic.

Image copyright Jason De Plater
Image copyright Jason De Plater

What is it about sculpting that calls to you?

Sculpting calls to me because I just love objects, architecture and space. I love the feeling of being surrounded by a building be it small or grand. I love the tactility of things and I love the conversations you can create between objects through space. Whenever I draw I am always thinking and visualising in three dimensions so sculpting just makes sense to me. I feel like sculpting allows you to be in the same physical space as your ideas. It brings the ideas from your mind into the real physical realm. You are then literally able to sit with your thoughts – amazing!

What has been your biggest challenge in following your creative path?  

My biggest challenge mentally in my creative pursuit has been to truly believe in my ideas – which of course is the ongoing and constant challenge. Physically, however, as an ice sculptor working with 120kg blocks of ice inside a freezer at -8 degrees has been my biggest challenge. When I started working with ice I was quite bluntly made aware that I would be the first female ice carver to enter the company and that there was a good reason for this.

Of course I wasn’t having any of it!

I have always considered myself to be a fairly physically strong person, but I quickly realised that I was going to have to build up some serious muscle if I wanted to keep up and continue working in the usually cold conditions wielding chainsaws and angle grinders etc. on a daily basis. My body had to adapt to the demands of the work and I think, generally speaking, women tend to shy away from this kind of ‘male-oriented’ type of work but for me it only makes me want to be stronger – not in order to compete or prove myself equal to anyone else but simply to find my own parameters of what I am capable of. I think this is a very important not only in finding my creative strengths but also in my own journey of self-discovery and awareness.

And most importantly, what are you working on right now?!

What am I working on now? Right now I’m on holiday! You could say I am ‘thawing out’ of the freezer but only for a little trip to visit my family in Sydney. Of course, one can never can really switch off from a creative lifestyle so I have managed to carve the Sydney Opera House in ice during my visit through Australia’s premier ice sculpting company, Mammoth Ice based in Wollongong, for an event at the iconic building. I have also just completed a painting commission. I do have a soft spot for two-dimensional art too! When I head back to London however I have decided to take up work for the first time as a freelance ice sculptor and start working on that dream body of work!

More on Anne Marie at her website:
Photographs are courtesy of Anne Marie and the photographers, Jason De Plater and Intraspectrum Studios.

Image copyright Jason De Plater
Image copyright Jason De Plater
Image copyright Instraspectrum Studios
Image copyright Instraspectrum Studios

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