Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma City Ice Sculptor: Keeping Cool during the Recession

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma City Ice Sculptor: Keeping Cool during the Recession

Article excerpt

Even with a tough economy and temperatures entering the triple- digit range, Ken Burkemper is as cool as ice.

"People are still getting married. Big companies are still holding events. People are still having fun, so I'm still busy," said the ice sculptor and owner of Oklahoma City-based Ideas on Ice.

Now a board member of the National Ice Carving Association, Burkemper has been sculpting ice for 20 years. He said his business evolved from his work first as executive chef at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club and then his own small restaurant downtown where he would create art and garnishments from other consumable media.

"And it was partly my father's fault. He put a chain saw in my hands when I was 10 and made me cut railroad ties. So working with a chain saw was nothing foreign, but learning to cut ice with it was an entirely different thing and a real challenge," he said.

Burkemper's studio has its own walk-in freezer where he works with specialized chain saws and drills, one of the biggest changes since he started.

"There's a plethora of crazy tools now," he said. "That's one of the reasons to go to competitions all around the world, so you can see the different tools that other guys have and get new ideas. Everyone's got something different.

"The other big change is sculpting as an industry itself," he said. "Twenty years ago, there were maybe three companies in the United States that focused on ice sculptures as a business, and now there's hundreds. It's really grown into its own."

And the recession hasn't slowed down business lately, he said.

"The state of Oklahoma was a little more prudent in our endeavors going into this recession, so we came out on top," Burkemper said. …

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