Chandana Meraliyawe Gedara majored in ice sculpting in culinary school in Sri Lanka.
So the fact that he was on hand to sculpt ice at the Winter Warmer event Feb. 23 at Wolfville’s Clock Park makes a whole lot of sense.
“I had this talent when I was born – I always really loved to paint – and I first started with vegetables. Then I went to school, and practiced, and moved on to ice,” he says.
It’s a skill that took him from that country to Dubai, and then Canada. On his first day here on Dec. 23, 2010, it snowed 30 centimetres.
It was the first time he saw snow, and he jokes “I thought I was going to die – it’s an average of like 27 degrees back home.”
Gedara is now a Canadian citizen – newly minted as of two months ago – and says he’s become used to the cold.
He now works full-time as a chef at the Port Pub and says finding time to sculpt can be hard with his job and family but is always rewarding when he can.
He carves his designs in specially-frozen ice for sculpting, which his friend makes in Fredericton. The ice is frozen in a controlled environment with air pumps, containing less oxygen – what makes normal ice look white and cloudy – as a result.
Using chisels of varying sizes, Gedara carves the outline of his designs into the ice chunks before slicing off the larger pieces with a chainsaw.
He says this part of the design process is normally what grabs people’s attention – people like Black River resident Caleb Carlos and his children Arwyn, four, Calya, six and Everet, two, who were among the many visitors checking out his carvings.
“When people see me raising a chainsaw, they’re always very interested. Most people are surprised by that,” says Gedara.
He then uses smaller chisels to carve out the finer details, like the edges of the crystal wine decanter, tray and glasses sculpture and 2019 numbers.
These were themed for the current NS Icewine Festival ongoing in the Wolfville area, and the also ongoing Wolfville 125 celebrations happening in the town this year.
Gedara’s first-ever sculpture was fairly similar – a crystal vase – and he’s gone on to carve extremely intricate pieces, like a replica of the Taj Mahal he was once commissioned to carve.
He says his largest-ever carving was for a buffet at a Hilton hotel in Dubai.
It’s a skill that came naturally to Gedara, who says he always had a knack for art, and for coming up with designs to carve on the spot.
“What I’m going to do is always in my brain. I go, ‘okay – that’s it, there,’ and see it, and start carving,” he says.