Arboretum News

Ice Luminary

Meet the Ice Wrangler who created a beautiful ice display for the Arboretum's Winter Lights.

Jennifer Shea Hedberg made her first ice luminary when she was 8 years old, and she’s been hooked ever since. The self-described Ice Wrangler and author of “Ice Luminary Magic: The Ice Wranglers Guide to Making Illuminated Ice Creations” is contributing her work to the Arboretum’s Winter Lights display (weather permitting, it’ll be on display throughout the exhibit) and signing copies of her book from 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30 at the Gift & Garden Store.

Jennifer Shea Hedberg with ice lantern.
Hedberg poses with one of her pieces; photo courtesy of Jennifer Hedberg.

Her adventures making ice lanterns began as a child, when she moved from California to Massachusetts. Noticing that Hedberg and her sisters seemed depressed during the winter, Hedberg’s mom started seeking out activities that would help them embrace the cold. She took them ice skating and built snow forts and started making ice lanterns using directions she had found in a Sunset magazine article.

Back in those days, Hedberg would fill up a balloon with water, and carefully carry it outside, hoping it didn’t get caught on a metal coat zipper and explode. It was often an exercise in frustration, she says, and yet, she was hooked. “I loved the science because water was just the most fascinating subject,” she says. “It’s strong; it’s weak. It’s clear; it’s dense.”

As an adult, Hedberg continued to make ice creations, and enjoyed making them with her own children and decorating the yard around her home in South Minneapolis. People saw her displays and asked her to create them in their own yards. She became known for her globe ice lanterns, and ended up providing ice luminaries for RT Rybak’s inaugural party in January of 2002 and contributing her work to the City of Lakes Loppet Winter Festival as a volunteer.

Ice column with Maple and Gingko leaves.
Hedberg made this ice tower using Maple and Ginko leaves collected at the Arboretum. It’s one of the elements she created for her display at the Arboretum;
photo courtesy of Jennifer Hedberg.

Her sculptures got larger and more advanced as she continued to work in the medium. She picked up tricks for making crystal clear lanterns and cloudy, opaque blocks of ice (hint: it has something to do with the amount of minerals in the water), and developed techniques for creating unusual shapes, large columns and structures, like ice bars and castles. 

She also created a kit for making globe ice lanterns at home, using the tools she found and techniques she honed through years of trial and error. In 2008, she officially launched Wintercraft, a business dedicated to her ice creations and kits. 

In 2015, after surviving a benign brain tumor, she decided she wanted to document all that she had learned making ice luminaries to share with others interested in the art form. “I had all these tricks from doing it so long,” she says. “If I had died, all that knowledge would be gone.”

She wrote “Ice Luminary Magic,” which came out in November of 2018, with basic information about how to create simple projects, like globe ice lanterns, along with techniques and guidance for graduating into more advanced ice building projects. 

Children posing for picture near ice lanterns.
Hedberg’s Winter Lights display is a great spot for a group photo;
photo courtesy of Jennifer Hedberg.

For her work at the Arboretum, Hedberg picked flowers and leaves in the fall and froze them into ice columns in her basement studio, which is filled with molds she’s collected, pipes and freezers—all the tools she needs to create large ice sculptures.

She has finished the first installment her Winter Lights display, which includes both ice and non-ice elements, thanks to help from Arboretum volunteers Al Schendlinger, Joy Wagner and Dave Schaenzer. The display will evolve to include more ice once Minnesota gets consistent cold temps and snow. Watch our Facebook page for updates.

Gift & Garden Store.
Find Hedberg’s book, Ice Luminary Magic, and Globe Ice Lantern kits
at the Arboretum’s Gift & Garden Store; photo courtesy of Jennifer Hedberg.

Hedberg installs her ice displays at events throughout the country. Follow her work on her website. Her book and kits are available in the Arboretum Gift & Garden Store.

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