FRIDAY. MAY 5TH, 2017WORDS BY JOSHUA MICHAEL PAULIN PHOTOGRAPHY BABYHOUSE NEW YORK
VIDEO BY BABYHOUSE NEW YORK
If you can dream it, Okamoto Studio can build it, carve it, and even let you watch it melt. We head over to Astoria, Queens to meet with the man behind the Creative Time Gala’s replica ice sculptures of Jordan Wolfson’s work.
Yeah, yeah, red carpets and the looks usually get all the attention at galas. But, a gala wouldn’t be a gala without ice sculptures—right?. I know what you’re thinking, a giant bird bath, maybe a pumpkin, cherub, something else festive, and oh yeah—swans. Well take those thoughts and smash ‘em.
Shintaro’s Okamoto Studio does ice differently. They really do. We witnessed it first hand, while standing in the studio’s freezer (without a jacket) for half a day in Astoria, Queens. Shintaro Okamoto believes that ice evokes romance, which is a great way to describe watching the team bring Jordan Wolfson’s life-sized woman, animatronic sculpture to life ahead of the Creative Time Gala where they debuted. And what would romance be without the chainsaws to carve it?
If you can dream it, Okamoto Studio can build it, carve it, and even let you watch it melt. Below we share a video of our day in Queens and chat with the ice master on recreating Wolfson’s sculptures, how someone gets into the trade, and funny requests along the way.
How much prep work goes into designing a piece before the creation begins? And what other techniques are used in the beginning phases?
A significant amount of prep work is involved. It’s always a tricky question when someone asks, “How long does it take to sculpt each piece?” The sculpting part is usually the fastest, but not necessarily the easiest. We spend most of our time preparing, so when we hit the ice and start carving, it should almost feel second nature at that point. We need to take in consideration the lighting that will be surrounding the piece, how long the event is, volume of ice, meltage, and the overall environment. All of these instances will factor in what tools we will be using. 60-70% of the carving is done with chainsaws. It’s amazing the amount of finesse you can get out of a chainsaw. We want to be efficient as possible, we never want to touch the same tool twice.
Could you tell us about the three sculptures you are currently creating for Opening Ceremony and how the project came about?
We’ve done several projects with Humberto in the past. He’s really enjoyed our work. We shared ideas. We really have to study all the reference images we can get of the art piece. Since we are changing the scales, the measurements will have to change, calculations, and presentation strategy. There’s a lot of visual vocabulary, elegance, and romantic notions to what ice is. They’re polar opposite processes, created with the tools and machinery that make the sculpture. I wasn’t too familiar with Jordan’s work, but during the process of transforming his work into ice sculptures, I became fascinated by it.
Your resume seems to walk the fine line of commercial work & art work, what experience do you get out of creating both, is it a similar feeling?
We try to approach each project with a similar head space. We love creating projects that keep our interests. As artists, we have to be interested in the project for the results to be good. The constant variable is work pride, we want to do good work, we take opportunity to inject our own elements into projects.