Wielders of Steel: Greg Butauski, Ice Sculptor

Greg Butauski is an ice carver at Rock on Ice. Greg, who has been carving ice for over 20 years, creates ice sculptures in a studio behind his house.

Here at Dollar Shave Club, we appreciate the power of good ol’ sharpened steel. And while we get to shave with our razors every day, we don’t often get the chance to toy around with other wicked edges—like the precision-carving tools needed to hone a humble ice block into a life-sized sculpture of Michael Jackson.

Unfortunately, we’re not qualified to use chainsaws and ice picks. But professional ice sculptor and owner of Rock on Ice carving studio, Greg Butauski, definitely is. He’s one of only six National Ice Carving Association certified Master Carvers in the country; he’s also the winner of the 2005 World Ice Art Championship and the 2014 National Ice Carving Champion.

We got a peek into Greg’s Fortress of Solitude-esque studio and learned that, though ice sculpting is much more than melting buffet-table adornments to take for granted on the way to the crab legs, there’s always money in Jager-shot ice luges.

Bathroom Minutes: How much ice do you have in your studio at any given moment?
Butauski: I always keep somewhere between 30 and 50 blocks of ice at the studio. We’ll manufacture about 60 blocks a month and ship in another 40 or so from a different ice block manufacturer to keep up with production.

BM: What are some of your most requested projects?
Butauski: Corporate logos, food displays or ice luges—you know, for shots.

BM: Is there anything you refuse to carve or are totally sick of carving?
Butauski: If they have the money, I’ll carve it.

BM: What’s the biggest project you’ve worked on?
Butauski: Every year we have this job in Frankenmuth, Michigan—it’s called the Zehnder’s Snowfest. They contract us to do a 130-block installation. This past season, we carved a life-sized industrial kitchen with a preparation area, a grill, ovens, a walk-in cooler and a dish washing tank. Oh, and a table set with food and ice chairs.

BM: Tell us about the process of creating the crystal-clear ice blocks. Do you have to distill the water?
Butauski: The clear blocks are made by either rotating or agitating the water under freezing cold temperatures. There’s no need to distill or purify the water in any way.

Bathroom Minutes: How do you protect your hands and face in the cold room? Or, how do you battle the elements in your studio?
Butauski: We wear rubber gloves, aprons, rain gear. Boots, hats, you name it.

BM: Is it ever frustrating that your life’s work melts after just a few hours?
Butauski: No, mostly because if the client liked it then they have to buy another one. It keeps us from becoming starving artists.