ROCHELLE — Fran Volz had to brave the elements while constructing his most recent sculpture.
The process began in late January and Volz’s snow angel has been inhabiting the downtown gazebo since. During one day of sculpting, temperatures fell to -22 degrees.
“It was so cold on Wednesday that my car didn’t start,” Volz said. “I waited until 10 a.m. when it was about -10 degrees. I had to bundle up. You’re using water and working with your hands. I had boots that were made for extreme temperatures.”
Volz, a Rochelle resident and professional sculptor, has erected sculptures both inside and outside the area in the past. The statue at the Veterans War Memorial at Lawnridge Cemetery is his work. He made a mermaid snow sculpture in the gazebo last winter.
Volz chose the location because it keeps sunlight and rain off his snow sculptures. He got his inspiration this year from a model he has.
“I had a little model of an angel and I thought I’d make it full scale,” Volz said. “The cold slowed me down. Usually it only takes two or three days. The snow was powdery and I had to mix water with it and work fast in the cold.”
To make a snow sculpture, Volz first uses a wheelbarrow to gather snow and packs it into a 15-by-15-by-15 plywood box to make blocks. For this sculpture, he needed 40 blocks. He stacks them and then starts to carve out the shape.
Volz said he “cut his teeth” on snow sculpting. He went outside to build a snowman years ago and thought he’d build a smurf instead. People liked it and would honk as they drove by. His background prior to that was in drawing and painting.
He started doing 3-4 sculptures in his yard per year. He lived in Arlington Heights then and news stations from Chicago started coming to his house to do stories about the sculptures.
He later branched out into sculpting bronze. He was actually asked to do the Veterans War Memorial after somebody in town saw one of his snow sculptures.
“What I like about sculpting snow is building big things fast,” Volz said. “A bronze statue can take six months. Snow takes days. I used to do more cartoon-like sculptures but I enjoy the more lifelike ones and human anatomy.”
Volz said that he wasn’t even planning on doing a snow sculpture this year until recently. He’s been busy working in his studio downtown in the old Moore’s Hardware building.
“I have indoor sculpting I’m working on that is taking up my time,” Volz said. “The last snowfall came, and it made me want to do at least one this year.”
The snow angel has elicited a lot of reaction on Facebook since it was sculpted, Volz said.
In the past, Volz has competed in snow sculpting competitions at Sinnissippi Park in Rockford and has won a few times.
Sculpting outside of competitions allows Volz more freedom. He can use colors and armatures to hold up features when he sculpts on his own, both of which aren’t allowed in competitions.
Volz hoped everyone would have a chance to see the snow angel before the weather got to it.
“The weather melts them,” Volz said. “But they have their own quality of beauty as they melt away over time. I just want to thank everyone who has shown appreciation.”