Napanee artist turns snow to art

Diane Irwin puts the finishing touches on a gnome made of a snow. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Adam Prudhomme

Some saw last week’s snowfall as a hindrance, Greater Napanee’s Diane Irwin saw it as an opportunity to create something whimsical.

Drawing on inspiration from Waterloo-area artist Matt Morris, Irwin created five-foot tall snow sculptures in her driveway. After a successful first attempt of a bearded man, her creations grew to include a gnome, an owl and a penguin, with plans to create more on Thursday before the thermometer crept above zero.

“I thought it would be difficult, but not at all,” said Irwin. “This is a bucket and a garbage can and that’s it.”

First she fills the buckets with snow and packs it down in a process known as sintering. If the weather’s cold enough, within two hours she has a five-foot tall blank canvas. From there it’s just a matter of chipping away to create a design, in her case with a pottery tool.

A bearded man made of snow. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

She got the idea watching videos done by Morris. Known locally for her stunning wood and pumpkin carved designs, this marked Irwin’s first foray into snow carving. She quickly fell in love with the new medium. While researching the process she discovered a winter festival in Riverview, NB which delivered 300 snow-sculpting kits for kids to make their own creations at home.

Though the designs look intricate, Irwin says it really is an activity for all ages.

“I’d love to see something like that here,” Irwin said of snow sculpting kits for kids. “I want to go in the schools now and do it. It’s an outdoor activity, you could go ahead of time and have these ready for them.”

Since discovering her new hobby she says she sees the world in a much different light. Now when she drives through town she sees large piles of fluffy white snow as an opportunity to create outdoor displays along the walking trail. As the big ideas continue to flow she says her only regret is she didn’t discover snow sculpting earlier in the winter season. Though she got a late start, she can begin brainstorming ideas for next year.

In the meantime as long as the weather cooperates she’ll continue to experiment with new designs and creations.


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