Julian Bayley, Ice Carving Hall of Famer and founder of Ice Culture, demonstrates the art of traditional ice sculpting at a past event.

A Frozen Family Affair

How ice sculpting led to a multi-million dollar business and a unique family dynamic

Heidi Bayley never imagined that she would be so involved in the world of ice carving. She also never thought that she would end up working so closely with her family.

She is the president of Ice Culture, a world famous ice-sculpting firm based in Hensall, Ontario.

The company returns for the 11th Annual Ice Fest happening in Bloor-Yorkville from Feb. 20 – Feb. 21. More than 20,000 pounds of ice sculptures will be on display and an ice carving competition will also take place.

Ice Culture was founded in 1993 by Heidi’s father, Julian Bayley. Back then, ice carving was his hobby. He saw its potential as an innovative business. His son, Sam and his other daughter, Christine Rose, joined the company in the early 2000s. They have since pursued other ventures, leaving Heidi with more responsibility.

“She’s a driving force,” Julian says of his daughter. “She’s a very good designer. A very good carver too, but doesn’t have time to do it (carve) anymore.”

Heidi Bayley poses in a a carriage made of ice, one of the pieces that Ice Culture created for the Bloor-Yorkville Ice Fest in 2007.
Heidi Bayley poses in a a carriage made of ice, one of the pieces that Ice Culture created for the Bloor-Yorkville Ice Fest in 2007. (Photo Courtesy of Heidi Bayley)

Heidi says that although it comes with unique challenges, she has learned a lot from working with her family.

“When you’re with your family you tend to talk a bit more honestly,” she explains. “My parents have been very generous to share everything they knew.”

Julian has been inducted into the Ice Carving Hall of Fame. He was also the first to use computers and CNC machines to mass-produce ice sculptures. Ice Culture has clients worldwide including NASA, Disney and Canadian Tire.

“If you have a dream, go for it and don’t give up,” Julian says. “Too many people give up along the way. That’s where family comes in too, you can talk over problems. We’ve had our ups and downs. Fortunately, more ups than downs.”

Maple Syrup Taffy and Ice Kiddie Cubes (cubes of ice with toys inside) can be purchased, with proceeds supporting the Heart and Stroke Foundation. The event has raised a total of $65,000 to date.

Check out what else is going on in the world of ice carving: