Matter to… discover

Nenad is a Croatian national who lived in Serbia before moving to France in 2013 to join our group. He tells us about his passion, achievements and collaboration with Crystal Group.
Meet an artist for whom value does not rest on the number of degrees!

How did you come to be an ice sculptor at Crystal Group?
My wife and I had an ice sculpture business in Serbia. We regularly took part in competitions and championships there, as well as in Poland and Slovakia. At the time Crystal Group was looking for ice sculptors, and someone working with the group contacted me through these competitions.  We remained in contact for a while before I made my decision. It was a real change of life for me, my wife and my two daughters. We agreed that I would come for a three-month trial. And I have now been living in France with my family for the last five years. 

What do you enjoy about working at Crystal Group?
I particularly like the number of different projects I work on. I sculpt at the workshop, as well as on-site for our customers during ice sculpting events. I gain huge amounts of experience like that. Working for Crystal Group allows me to challenge myself regularly. Challenges regarding the themes given to us, and regarding the conditions of the planned event. 

Ice sculpture appears to be a real challenge: the cold, the weight of the ice blocks, the melting of the material…
It’s very true! That is exactly what I like about it! It is vital to take into account key parameters, such as the external temperature, which conditions the quality of the ice and sculpting speed. At 3° you can sculpt without problem, while at 10°, your ice begins to melt. These challenges are an integral part of my job. This passion for challenge leads me to regularly take part in ice sculpting competitions. Last December, for example, in Poznań (Poland), I was very proud to win second place in a competition with my 2.50-metre-high ‘Lion King’. 

Sculpture by Nenad Klajic at the Poznan Championship

Can you explain a little bit about how you sculpt ice?
The very first step is to draw the final rendering of the project. I draw out exactly what I’m going to sculpt. My drawings are then transferred onto a transparent film (celluloid) before being projected in life size to help me understand the proportions and, of course, the amount of ice required. Next, the ice blocks are assembled and glued together to form the base for my work. 
To sculpt, I use different tools depending on the size of the blocks and the level of detail required: a chainsaw, ice saw, grinder with different bits and even an iron!

As successful as they are, your masterpieces always end up disappearing, is that not frustrating?
Not at all. My enjoyment lies in the act of sculpting and not in the admiration of the finished work. Once the sculpture is finished, everything is said, I am exhausted and I let nature follow its course until my sculpture has completely melted. 
It is this evolution inherent to the ice that attracts me to it. For example, I tried carving wood but I did not feel the same sense of life and evolution in the material.

Can you tell us about some of the achievements that have left their mark on you during your time at Crystal Group?
I particularly enjoyed sculpting the enormous penguins we installed in refrigerated display cases at the George V Hotel in Paris. The ice looked superb among the lighting and decoration of this magical setting. 
I would also say the sculptures we make each year for Disneyland Paris. The magic of these imaginary characters enhances the ice blocks. Contrary to what one might think, we can create a huge amount of detail when we sculpt the ice. The lighting then reveals the entire final result.