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As the cold arrives in the Arctic landscape, the river slows down and is transformed. There is no time to rest at this time of year, artists from all over the world gather in Jukkasjärvi to create the annual ICEHOTEL.

Art Suite 2016. Elephant in the Room by AnnaSofia Mååg, foto: Asaf Kliger

For about six weeks there is fervent activity in the small village by the Torne River. Building a hotel out of ice is hard work, cold and often demanding. However it is also a process filled with love, characterised by playful, magical moments, such as when creative lighting enhances the impression of an already immaculate, translucent ice creation. The awareness that ice is a transient material inspires boldness in trying new ideas and letting creativity flow. Everything is preserved inside the walls for a few months and the ice melts and the water returns back into the river as part of a natural cycle.

Jukkasjärvi has a long history as a meeting place for people from both near and far. The name comes from a Sámi word meaning “meeting place by the water” and at the ICEHOTEL, encounters are at the heart of everything. Visitors meeting locals, man meeting nature, ice meeting creativity — a meeting that transforms the ice into art, at least for a short time.

The tale of a local ice sculptor

Annasofia mååg, Kiruna, is one of the returning snow and ice sculptors at the ICEHOTEL. A ceramist and artist from Dalarna. She first applied for the job in 2006 with a suggestion for an art suite, from then on she was captivated.

– What’s special about creating with ice is that the material is transparent, it gives you entirely new challenges and possibilities compared with clay. Another difference is that you work your way into the block of ice, removing what is not part of the sculpture. A ceramist works the other way around, building a shape, adding material. Also, even though the sculptures that we create at the ICEHOTEL last up to six months in the cold, they are still temporary. Within a year, they no longer exist. It is both liberating and exciting to see the sculptures melt. I have discovered though, that I spend just as much time on a snow or ice sculpture as I do on ones in more permanent materials. Each one is created in earnest, a kind of passion and infatuation, she says.

Her work as an ice sculptor has introduced AnnaSofia to friends and colleagues all over the world. One of her more spectacular assignments was the sculpting of an iceberg for Karl Lagerfeld, for a fifteen minute fashion show during the 2010 Paris Fashion Week. The ICEHOTEL was given the assignment by Chanel and hired 40 ice sculptors for the project, amongst them AnnaSofia. She and her colleague Dave Ruane, pre-sculpted the tip of the iceberg, a task that began in -40 degrees on the staff parking lot in Jukkasjärvi. A month later, the iceberg was transported down to Paris, in parts, spread out over 11 trailers. AnnaSofia and her artist colleagues then spent nine days working on the iceberg at the Grand Palais in central Paris!

– The ICEHOTEL is definitely worth a visit. Every year a hotel is built in a unique collaboration between various people. It is a serious business, devastatingly tough, it is magical and full of love. Everything is preserved in the walls for just a few months, a human imprint that slowly melts away. It is life in a little box, says Anna-Sofia.

Let your creativity flow

Sculpt in ice

Of course, you simply have to create your own ice sculpture when you visit ICEHOTEL, so come on – register for a two-hour course and give your creativity free rein. Ice from the Torne River is used, just as for the hotel itself. It’s soft and easy to work with, even for beginners.

Icehotel ice sculpting
Martin Smedsén

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