Living National Treasure
People get very uptight about being cold,’ muses Duncan Hamilton of Hamilton Ice Sculptors, who’s sitting in an ice chair as we speak, ‘but, if you relax about it, the cold is all right.’
Mr Hamilton set up his company more than 40 years ago, reviving a practice that had all but disappeared in Western europe. In another life, he was a chef at high-class London restaurants such as Mirabelle and Le Caprice, but it was when he was working at The Dorchester that he was first asked to sculpt ice for a party.
The craftsman began slowly, creating a few pieces here and there—he specialises in classic forms, such as swans and fish— but demand quickly grew and the company’s repertoire has since expanded to providing pieces for advertising campaigns, films, parties and large-scale outdoor events. Indeed, Mr Hamilton’s client list reads like a Who’s Who of world superbrands from Coca Cola and Microsoft to the Royal Family and popstars such as Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé.
‘We begin by roughing out the design at room temperature, before completing the fine work in a freezer,’ explains Mr Hamilton. ‘Ice is such a beautiful material to work with and so forgiving. We tend to employ sculptors who are used to stone and clay, but they’re always equally happy working with ice.’
The company has recently completed its seventh Winter Wonderland scene in London’s Hyde park, a vast project involving 500 tons of ice and snow, where this year’s woodland theme—featuring unicorns, fauns and wolves—is the culmination of eight months’ planning.
The company may now be headed by his son Jamie, but Mr Hamilton is still very much involved. ‘No one retires these days and I love what I do,’ he notes with a smile.