The Ice Wrangler’s Guide to Making Luminaries

Wintercraft's Jennifer Shea Hedberg wants to you enjoy the glow and learn to love winter.

Call her the ice wrangler, the iceologist, the ice conjurer. All describe Jennifer Shea Hedberg’s art and craft: She creates luminaries, lanterns, flowers, towers, and sculptures of all kinds from that most basic of materials: frozen water.

Globe Luminaries with ice castle

That’s only part of the story, of course. The magic comes from combining fanciful shapes with fire, fostering the glow that makes her winter displays almost otherworldly. Hedberg’s ice magic has proven to be so popular, she created and began selling kits with the basic supplies and directions under her Wintercraft label several years ago. DIYers who wanted to try their hand at ice globes loved them.

Wintercraft’s Jennifer Shea Hedberg

With the help of husband Tom, “senior staff iceologist,” Hedberg wrote and self-published The Ice Wrangler’s Guide to Making Illuminated Ice Creations: Ice Luminary Magic ($29.99), a thoroughly illustrated and photographed how-to guide to 28 different ice projects. The book is available at Gertens, The General Store of Minnetonka, Settergrens of Linden Hills, and on Amazon. Hedberg has also created a winter wonderland of ice luminaries (inside) in the third-floor gallery of the Northrup King Building, Suite 332, to inspire and delight.

She’ll also answer any questions you might have about the process. Here, she answered a few of ours:

Tell me how you got started.

When my family moved out here from a warm climate, my mom wondered, “What can I do to get these kids outside in winter?” She started creating ice luminaries with balloons. Since balloons are so thin and not round and they break, it was sort of a nightmare. When I started doing it myself, I discovered punching balls. They are made of heavier material and start out round.

I had been doing it piecemeal for 10 years, decorating my house and friends’ houses, and had sold some kits at a friend’s boutique. I started taking it seriously in 2008. That was the first year I helped at the Loppet (the City of Lakes Ski Festival that features ice luminaries).

Ice globes and lanterns

How did you learn about manipulating water and ice?

I have no background in chemistry. I just experiment and research everything and find out why it works the way it does. When I’m doing presentations, kids always think I’m a science teacher. I’m not. They’ll ask me why the little lines go into the globe—the science of it is that dust particles surrounded by oxygen make little comet trails going toward the center.

You participate in lots of events at the Arboretum, Gertens, and elsewhere. What’s your favorite?

The Middlemoon Creekwalk. It’s a free thing for our [Lynnhurst] neighborhood. We started doing it as a Valentine’s gift for ourselves—we’d have a display of luminaries on the [Minnehaha] creek, light it up, and run away. We didn’t tell anybody. Eventually, people would email us, mad that they’d missed it. Now, thousands of people come. The Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association sponsors it, and has a night giveaway of cookies and cocoa.

It’s great to put something out for people to come out and greet each other in the middle of winter. It’s not about the ice, but about getting out and greeting neighbors. We want people to make their own [luminaries], bring them down, and light them up.

Flowers, leaves, and other objects frozen in ice make striking displays.

As your book demonstrates, you’ve come up with many variations on the basic ice globe. What’s your favorite?

Oh, gee. That’s like asking me about my favorite kid. I guess I’d say the Finnish Glass Ice Lantern is the coolest looking. [She twists animal balloons into segments, then freezes them in a bucket, which leaves ice pockets behind.] Also, the Doormat Ice Lantern [she discovered a way to use a rubber doormat to create texture around the perimeter of the ice] has the most potential—there are so many things you can use to create different textures.

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