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Art with a short shelf life

Checking In With ... Thomas Selzer

Ice sculptor Thomas Selzer finds beauty even in the ephemeral nature of his passion and hopes to pass on the skill to OCC students.

April 03, 2014|By Michael Miller

"If you want me again," Walt Whitman once wrote in a famous poem about the regeneration of life, "look for me under your boot-soles."

If you want to find Thomas Selzer's art at Orange Coast College, you can look in the same place.

Selzer, the college's general manager of instructional food service operations, has a side passion that has helped to make the campus eye-catching — and watered its greenery at the same time.

The Laguna Niguel resident is a professionally trained ice carver whose sculptures have dotted OCC's grounds on numerous occasions. And because, like all ice carvings, they're destined to melt, he's conveniently placed some of them above grass and other water-hungry plants.

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Given that Selzer's art has a life span of a few hours, his individual pieces don't allow for much of a legacy. But this month, he'll leave something else behind: the knowledge of his craft. On each Friday in April, Selzer will lead ice-carving classes in the Le Bard Stadium Field House, teaching students to create punch bowls, tables and more.

The week before class, Selzer took a break from his chainsaw and other tools to talk about his history with an unusual medium. The following are excerpts from the conversation:

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I see that you're a certified professional ice carver from the Academy of Ice Carving and Design. I have to say that's No. 1 on the list of academies I didn't know existed when I got up this morning. How did you become affiliated with them?

Let's see — it's been about four, five years ago. I've always been an ice carver since I graduated from college, actually, here in 1985. I worked at Hilton hotels then, and that actually started my passion for ice carving. So later on, here at Orange Coast College, I really wanted to bring some of that, what I had learned and studied, and worked on a grant to get some equipment for the students so they could enhance their learning of ice carving. And so I went to the ice-carving school there — I think it's outside of Sacramento — and just honed my skills a little bit more and brought that back to share with the students.

Do you remember what the first thing was that you ever carved in ice?

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