The public may notice a rather large snow sign in the West Fraser Timber Park advertising the Winter Carnival slated for Feb. 2.
The 22-foot long, six-foot high sign is the handiwork of volunteer sculptor William Bolton, a self-taught artist who loves to sculpt with snow.
His passion for creating began more than 20 years ago when he discovered soapstone carving.
“It was a hobby, then I began carving spiritual faces in cottonwood and I’ve also built laminated wooden boxes,” he said.
He credits his love for working in wood to his father, who was a boat builder.
“I enjoy the physics of carving,” he said with a smile.
He admits he also loves the discovery of the wood he uses for carving.
“I love to scavenge fallen wood from its natural habitat,” he said.
“It’s all about travelling the river, exploring nature, absorbing its message and transforming nature’s gift into my vision.”
This is Bolton’s second year of snow sculpting but says he’s been working with snow for a while. Every year, his property is a complicated set of toboggan runs for his children, who call it snakes and ladders.
“Besides the creativity, it’s a great way for us to spend outdoor time together. They’ll remember that time all their life, it’ll be a great memory.”
He added he uses his yard to work out the physics and issues associated with snow sculpting.
“Snow sculpting doesn’t require any special equipment, just a shovel and a basic set of chisels,” he said.
“But something as basic as a paint stir stick would allow removal of the material – it’s pretty soft.
“Anyone can do it.”
For the Winter Carnival sign, Bolton said it took about 320 cu.ft. of compressed snow. For each of his creations, Bolton begins with a basic plywood box which he packs with snow, tamping down each layer until he has the dimensions he needs.
The sign took about eight hours of building the block and another eight house to carve. And he’s not done yet.
“I’m a Taurus and have to work hard so I can relax,” he said with a big grin.
“The medium is such you work hard on the block then relax, let the mind go free and then create; it’s almost like meditation. With any media, somehow I must expend positive energy, then I can settle into carving.
“This is my biggest snow sculpture to date and I have a tremendous sense of accomplishment in this magnitude of creation.”
But he added, when you carve letters, people scrutinize more closely than a free form carving so he’s working hard to get them right.
He says there are just a few finishing touches he wants to complete before Winter Carnival where he will also be demonstrating what he does.
As with any artist, Bolton has big plans for future sculptures such as a giant octopus toboggan run.
But unlike most artists, Bolton’s work eventually disappears with sun and warmth.
“The melting is part of life and with it comes an inevitability.”
Bolton explained that each of his sculptures is the culmination of inspiration, emotion, message and expression through the final physical form.
“So enjoy it while you can.”