It seems almost unimaginable after the winter that would never end -- but one local artist is thinking about next winter already.
Walter Crain is an architect and a snow sculptor during the winter. His creations live and die with the weather.
Crain said he often hears people say, “I hate the winter, but love your sculptures."
Crain launched his peculiar winter hobby right after the Blizzard of 1996. Falls Church, Virginia, where Crain lives, received over 20 inches of snow.
To Crain, it seemed like something better should be done with it all.
So he set to harvesting as much snow as possible from his driveway and sidewalk. He piled it up and then carved it with a shovel and mason trowel to create Trixie the Dinosaur.
Unlike ice sculptors, which take snow away to reveal their creation, snow sculpting is achieved by adding and removing. Crain said he looks for the cleanest, whitest snow, so snow from the lawn with twigs and leaves will not do.
While he does not use any additional substances to maintain his creations, certain weather is critical. He does not create the same day the snow falls, but instead a day after, once the snow has settled a bit.
Dewpoint temperature or humidity are not as important to his work as temperature and sky conditions. Crain likes to wait until the temperature is above freezing the following day and prefers clouds to sunshine. Sunny days can be difficult as his creation may be icy on the back and slushy on the front. An overcast sky provides more consistency and uniform working conditions.
Out of all Crain's creations, that only last for a few days, his favorite is the kangaroo -- an hours-long, tough project. Crain said he is inspired by whatever happens to pop into his head, from a VW Beetle to elves in their workshop.
The elves were made over the course of two days and took a total of 12 hours. Something small like a terrapin or clam takes around 2 hours.
Every now and then, patience is key; the cat sneaking up on the bird and the VW Beetle were the creation of two snowstorms.
And as for how Crain does at the beach with sand sculpting: he says, he’s just OK. Sand is not as pliable and doesn’t hold the shape as well for him.