Four questions for AnnaSofia, ice artist at ICEHOTEL

AnnaSofia Mååg, 47, grew up in the mid-Sweden province of Dalarna, but lives and works in Swedish Lapland since 14 years back. She’s an artist by profession, specialising in ceramics and ice and snow sculpting. AnnaSofia has created several suites and other sculptures for ICEHOTEL over the years, and this winter she has created the wellknown Art Suite “Elephant in the Room“. We asked her a few questions about ICEHOTEL.

How did you come to be an ICEHOTEL artist?
My first visit to ICEHOTEL was as a tourist back in the 1990’s, before I had my MA in ceramics. Back then I thought of it just as a crazy and somewhat bizarre thing. It wasn’t until a couple of years later, when I had my degree and had started working with ceramics, that the hotel had developed to what it is today and that really sparked my interest. I remember we stayed a night there and I was so excited about the art suites – and which one we’d get to sleep in. Of course you had your heart set on your favorite and hoped you’d be given that one. I applied to make an art suite for the first time in 2006, and after that I was hooked.

What’s special about crafting in ice?
For me, who’s used to working with ceramics, I mostly do additive sculpture – you add material to create a shape. With ice, it’s the complete opposite. You work your way into the block, and remove the material that is not part of the sculpture. Also, unlike clay, ice is transparent, which creates a whole new set of possibilities and challenges. Although the sculptures we create here at ICEHOTEL will last for up to six months thanks to our climate, they are still just transient, and within a year they are gone. The very idea of that is liberating and exciting – seeing the sculptures melt away. At the same time, I’ve realized I spend just as much time and work on a snow or ice sculpture as I would when working in more permanent materials. To me, each ice project is deadly serious – it becomes a kind of passion and infatuation. This very obsession can draw to the comical, like the time when I created an especially ordered ice sculpture depicting a couple for a surprise engagement trip to ICEHOTEL. I used photos to sculpt their features and along the way I kind of had a crush on them…I was fascinated at the idea to meet them in person one day and luckily I did, haha!

Could you share a special memory from any of the ICEHOTEL “productions” that you’ve been part of?
ICEHOTEL has given me fantastic friends and colleagues all over the world. One of the most spectacular projects that I’ve participated in was when Chanel commissioned ICEHOTEL to create life size ice berg for their 2010 Paris fashion show. The project took quite a bit of planning and on my part, it started at the staff parking lot in Jukkasjärvi, in -40 C (-40 F). My colleauge Dave Ruane and I were tasked with sculpting the tip of the iceberg, then dismantle and pack it for shipping by 11 trailer trucks to Paris. Meanwhile, we got on a plane and headed for Grand Palais, where we joined 40 other ice artists from ICEHOTEL’s network and together it took us nine days and nights to complete the iceberg – just in time for the show!

Why should you visit ICEHOTEL?
ICEHOTEL should most definitely be on your bucketlist! Every year, a hotel and a church is created using only the water from the river and the unique collaboration between people. It’s genuine, it’s excruciatingly hard work, it’s magical and it’s love. All of this is preserved in the walls for a few months, a human imprint that slowly melts away. It’s life in a nutshell. It’s fascinating to see everyone who gathers here during the building period, everyone who returns time and time again to create the hotel, year after year. The cameras run hot in the cold. We can’t get enough! That’s how beautiful and special Jukkasjärvi is. Of course you should visit ICEHOTEL, not least this winter as I’ve come up with a suite idea that really stretches my limits…