Sculpting snow in ceramics by Ekaterina Smirnova

For my Frozen Waters project I started to work on a set of sculptures, based on my snow and ice observations. Picking porcelain as my material was an obvious choice simply because it can be bright white which works perfect when representing the whiteness of snow. I signed up for the Pottery Northwest studio in Seattle and begun my work.

In this post I would like to share with you my struggle and tell you about the creative process from beginning to the end.


When I visited Iceland in the beginning of 2018 I collected photo references of a very interesting formation I found on the Sólheimajökull glacier. Our guide explained how it forms (photos below):
1. volcanic ash falls on top of a glacier, a crevice forms on a glacier;
2. ash falls into the crevice;
3. glacier melts all around the crevice while ash covered area remains cooler and melts slower forming a peak covered with ash


A very unusual shape in the middle of glacier I thought. So, I wanted to try represent this interesting natural phenomenon in ceramic. Easier said than done it appeared.


Starting with a sketch, I began to work on the project. My plan was not necessarily to copy the way it appears in nature exactly, but represent it in an artistic way. I planned on making the peak and attach the black ash rocks. In order to make such a long peak there had to be a structural support made first. Ceramics, are made hollow for multiple reasons, so I could not just make it solid (which surely would be the easiest way).  


When the structure was ready – the top surface was made. Black rocks were made out of colored porcelain as well, so it would shrink at the same rate when fired. The rocks were made rough to mimic the volcanic ash. They were attached at the very end. 


When the sculpture was ready it was set on a shelf covered in plastic to start slowly drying. 

It was during this time when problems started. Unequal drying throughout the sculpture started to cause cracking. I made a decision the trim the base of the sculpture instead of trying to fix cracks, which would be extremely difficult.

As soon as I would leave the sculpture back on the shelf, in few days another crack would arrear. 


It was almost as if the global warming was effecting my glacier and it was rapidly melting and becoming smaller and smaller in just few days. A very discouraging process, you can imagine. Eventually only the top part of the peak was left and it was now ready to go into its 1st firing (bisque). 


When the sculpture was fired I had to decide on glazing and the type of kiln. Prior to the glazing I made a bunch of test tiles in the shape of hexagonal snowflakes (you can see them laying around the table). For me to be able to apply an equal coat of "New Blanc" glaze I had to apply wax all around the black rocks to resist the glaze, so they stay black and matte. The sculpture was dipped into a bucket of glaze.

Fingers crossed, the sculpture is ready and it goes into an oxidation kiln.

Here is the final look. You will be the judge and decide if I did a good job or failed.
As for me, I will try to make another sculpture, but this time I will use a different approach to try escape the cracking. It will be designed this way so I could attache the real volcanic ash which I brought with me back from Iceland.

Frozen Waters book series! by Ekaterina Smirnova


I am so excited to announce that my first three books of the Frozen Waters series are now available! This project is an artistic exploration of snow and ice – natural phenomena, under threat of global warming. In these books I would like to share with you the delicate beauty and limitless forms of frozen waters, while celebrating animals and humanity coexisting with snow.

Order  HERE . 110 pages.

Order HERE. 110 pages.

Human and Frozen Waters

You would think that snow and ice are trouble at times. But let us not forget all the joy we can have with them! In this book you will find photography from Russia, Japan, America, Canada and South Korea highlighting winter sports, cultural events, ice fishing, food preservation, winter activities and much more!

Order  HERE . 70 pages.

Order HERE. 70 pages.

Animals and Frozen Waters

From Red Crowned Cranes dancing on the snow in Japan, Siberian husky taking a rest in the middle of the harsh winter months or a squirrel looking for acorns in Central Park... animals always find their way with snow. For many animals life depends on it, and this book is to remind you about our changing climate, plus to make you smile once again observing a funny goose making his way through the ice.

Order  HERE . 100 pages.

Order HERE. 100 pages.

Textures of Frozen Waters

This book is perhaps my favorite of the series, because it includes an extensive photo collection of possible textures that snow and ice can take. You will even be able to find such snow phenomena as diamond dust, zastrugi and snow rollers (read an additional blog post about the phenomena). Frozen waters shine, sparkle and reflect. Let it snow.

I've been working on them for 12 month and went through many years of my photography of snow and ice, trying to pick the best shots to represent the subject. It was fun, but tough work. It is not so easy to fit all you want in one book, that's maybe why I ended up with over 100 pages for two of them :)

While working on this series I traveled to subarctic Japan in Hokkaido, met with scientists researching Antarctic ice; visited my hometown in Siberia to photograph unusual textures of snow (3 images below); hiked to see the largest glacier in continental US (excluding Alaska) on Mount Rainier, WA and explored snow in Canada. I am fascinated with beautiful frozen waters, they have no limits in forms and always wow me. 

Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 10.16.48 PM.png

A large part of the editing process happened during my art residency at I-Park, CT. I was able to try out a new way of working on the book interior by displaying all of the pages in front of me on one wall. This really gave me a scale of a single book visually.


I hope that you share my addiction to Frozen Waters and enjoy these books. 

I refuse to buy bottled water! by Ekaterina Smirnova

I don't know why this did not occur to me earlier, and I blame myself for it, but I came to this decision finally.


Look, it's simple, the lesser bottles we use – the lesser plastic will be used. Using plastic hurts our environment (not only while producing it, but also after it was discarded). So, why are we still using plastic bottles? I personally don't buy that much bottles, but if to estimate it 3 bottles a month, it still becomes 36 per year. I recycle them always, but I don't know if I can trust our recycling system, there is still a lot of trash that ends up in the ocean. 

Starting this month I want to do better than that and bring that number to ZERO. 

If you live in urban surroundings, you will find that most every public place you go nowadays has water fountains. So, why not carry a portable beverage container? There are so many options available, different colors, forms and purposes... I prefer thermoses, as I am a tea drinker I like to keep it hot, but thermoses works as well for cold drinks ;) When I travel, a thermos might be a problem at the security check, but that's because they can not see the contents of the bottle in xray, so I take my transparent plastic bottles (not forgetting to finish my drink before the security). My first stop before finding my gate is a bottle refill station.

For those who like to count if they drink 2 liters a day, there are even bottles which measure your liters for you and send this data to your phone! Recently I found a bottle that makes my water alkaline, this not only helps you loose weight, but also has great health benefits.

Are you looking for a good bottle? Gizmodo might help you: 9 Reusable Water Bottles Recommended By Gizmodo's Staff

If you found yourself in a situation that you have no other option, but to buy bottled water, then see if you have an option of buying it boxed instead. I think this is a neat idea, check out

Here are some scary facts:
– Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent;
– Making bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually;

Here are some good sources to read more on the subject: 
Ban the bottle 
Stop Drinking Bottled Water (Gizmodo)
Why Is Bottled Water So Expensive?

I truly hope that you would join me in a bottle-free challenge! Feel free to comment to this post and lets discuss it further.

Why did I melt 25 gallons of ice in my studio? by Ekaterina Smirnova

How long does it take to melt a chunk of ice (~3 lb / ~1.5 kg) at a room temperature (~73 F / ~23 C) ?
Make a guess... 3 days / 1 day / 12 hours / 6 hours / 1 hour / 5 min...

For the duration of the month of September I was mostly doing just that, melting ice. The answer to my question is – about 5 hours! Just 5 hours. Now, think of it in the global scale. How many chunks of snow this big can be found around the world and how much snow is being melted just during one day due to the increasing temperatures of global warming? There are of course many factors that come into a consideration when you are trying to get a scientific approach in calculating the melted amount world-wide, but I will allow scientists to take care of this and just show you visually how fast the proses is happening and will give you a minute to think about this. 

My installation evolved greatly since the first thought of it, and it will continues to change. At first I envisioned a large structure in the middle of the room representing the bottom of an iceberg. At the very end of it I was thinking on adding a chunk of ice which will melt and it will look like the whole big iceberg is melting. But for the final installation I ended up having many of ice chunks suspended in the air. And again the original idea was to allow all of that melted water to just stay on the floor and puddle and run freely, making it very uncomfortable for the observers. I would still want to make the installation this way with water on the floor. For this studio however it would be perhaps ok with one ice piece, but with estimated 48 liters (~105 lb) of water on the floor it would create a little flood. So I had to figure out how to keep all of this water content for 5-8 hours. 

In total during the month of September I estimate that I created about 25 gallons (95 liters) of ice (the installation was active 5 days having about 5 gallons worth of ice each time). 

Very fortunately at that moment I was working on another installation in the smaller room, wanting to make a snow blizzard, and I was looking for snow options to make this happen. Surely, it had to be fake snow since I wanted it to last for a while. I came across a material called Sodium Polyacrylate. This super absorbent white element was just perfect, it looked like snow from dry to slushy conditions, it could hold a lot of water in place. I decided to place this "snow" under the suspended ice. Looked great! But there was still a discovery to make: dripping melted water would create intricate patterns on snow. Because of the rotation of the heavy ice pieces and multiple dripping points, snow would record circular patterns, unique for each ice chunk. 


These patterns acted like time records of the melt, drop by drop completing the circle. When ice was long gone, they remained on the snow surface, it was a small historical evidence of something previously present.

During two days when my studio was open for public at I-Park, I had a lot of visitors to show my installation to. We talked about environment and global warming on the final weekend of the September, which was unexpectedly hot, so unusual for CT for this time of year. Ice melted even faster than expected and it was very obvious to everyone that we are not living a fiction and the climate is changing. When you are gradually getting used to something new, you don't necessarily register the change. With my installation I was offering to take a moment and think of this change while observing drops of water separating from the melting ice and slicing the air to record the moment of change.


In the smaller room I created a different tiny installation with the same snow I used for the large one. I invited my visitors for a brief moment to experience a joy of playing with this magical white substance we call snow. Adults had fun, children did not want to leave.


Just 5 hours and it's not enough time to say everything what needs to be said. But this is a start and if you read these lines perhaps you also care about this as much as I do.



Snow Phenomenon by Ekaterina Smirnova

To me snow is already a phenomenon! But apparently this can go much further and there is no limit to the intricate beauty of shiny white frozen water. Here is a list to the snow and ice conditions I came across so far.

Diamond dust image is taken in Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia

Diamond dust image is taken in Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia

Diamond dust is a ground-level cloud composed of tiny ice crystals. This meteorological phenomenon is also referred to simply as ice crystals and is reported in the METAR code as IC. Diamond dust generally forms under otherwise clear or nearly clear skies, so it is sometimes referred to as clear-sky precipitation. It is most commonly observed in Antarctica and the Arctic, but it can occur anywhere with a temperature well below freezing. In polar regions diamond dust may continue for several days without interruption. Wiki

This photo is from Hokkaido, Japan, near the volcano (Mount Io)

This photo is from Hokkaido, Japan, near the volcano (Mount Io)

Needle ice is a phenomenon that occurs when the temperature of the soil is above 0 °C (32 °F) and the surface temperature of the air is below 0 °C (32 °F). The subterranean liquid water is brought to the surface via capillary action, where it freezes and contributes to a growing needle-like ice column. Needle ice requires a flowing form of water underneath the surface, from that point it comes into contact with air that is below freezing. This area of the process usually occurs at night when temperature peaks its low point. From then on, it produces a needle like structure as we know as “Needle Ice”. Wiki


Sastrugi, or zastrugi, are sharp irregular grooves or ridges formed on a snow surface by wind erosion, saltation of snow particles, and deposition, and found in polar and open sites such as frozen lakes in cold temperate regions. The ridges are usually parallel to the prevailing winds; they are steep on the windward side and sloping to the leeward side. Smaller irregularities of this type are known as ripples (small, ~10 mm high) or wind ridges. Wiki

Frozen Ob sea, Siberia

Frozen Ob sea, Siberia

This is a good example of wind ridges I found on the same frozen sea, though formed out of dog's foot prints.

This is a good example of wind ridges I found on the same frozen sea, though formed out of dog's foot prints.

Snow storm in New York, spring 2017

Snow storm in New York, spring 2017

Ice pellets are a form of precipitation consisting of small, translucent balls of ice. Ice pellets are smaller than hailstone which form in thunderstorms rather than in winter, and are different from graupel ("soft hail") which is made of frosty white rime, and from a mixture of rain and snow which is a slushy liquid or semisolid. Ice pellets often bounce when they hit the ground or other solid objects, and make a higher-pitched "tap" when striking objects like jackets, windshields, and dried leaves, compared to the dull splat of liquid raindrops. Pellets generally do not freeze into a solid mass unless mixed with freezing rain. The METAR code for ice pellets is PL. Wiki

A snow roller is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which large snowballs are formed naturally as chunks of snow are blown along the ground by wind, picking up material along the way, in much the same way that the large snowballs used in snowmen are made. They can be as small as a tennis ball, but they can also be bigger than a car. Wiki


*This post will be updated with more types of snow phenomenon, please comment and suggest what else should be featured.


European Geosciences Union symposium 2017 by Ekaterina Smirnova

This spring I traveled to Vienna to join 14,495 scientists from 107 countries discussing about Earth, environment and climate. This event took place in a large conference center, to be able to provide enough space for dozens of simultaneous talks, hundreds of posters, science booth and so on.

For 5 days from early morning to mid evening important topics were discussed, such as: Missions and techniques for planetary explorations,
Atmospheric and Meteorological research,
Vegetation-climate interactions...

But I was most interested in the following topics:
Arctic environmental change: global opportunities and threats,
Cities' resilience to a changing climate,
Present and future of permafrost in a climate changing world,
Rising methane and climate,
Future global cooperation on Climate Sciences...

It was amazing to see so many scientists uniting to protect our planet and present their research of the changing climate. I am very inspired as an artist and this symposium most definitely will help me with my current project "Frozen Waters" where I am researching snow and ice as a fragile phenomena in a warming environment.

I am very humbled to being able to also give a talk during this symposium and present my poster in the session "Scientists, artists and the Earth: co-operating for a better planet sustainability". 


I am not alone in my fight for better planet sustainability and reducing global warming. If you are with me, please share your thoughts and lets work o this together! 




Falling in love with snow by Ekaterina Smirnova

I often meet people who tell me that they do not like snow and I am always surprised to hear that. To me, snow is something so beautiful and magical, so hard to describe. I understand, that large amounts of snow over long period of time might be very hard to handle. It causes various problems. It is especially hard for people who are forced to physically interact with snow: shovel it, clear off, dig out their cars... Snow always comes along with cold, one is impossible without another. Cold weather is not making things easier. But with all of those difficulties comes the beauty, purity and shine. I always wait patiently for the first snow of the winter. Will it snow today? Did I miss it at night? Oh, wait, here they come, so slow and lazy, one, another, many. They don't rush to land. The air becomes milky and objects start to disappear in a white, still translucent, fluff. While I was watching snowflakes fall, I did not notice, that a whole bunch is already covering the ground and other surfaces. Very fresh and crips veil is now covering everything around. Winter is putting on her delicate lacy lingerie. Then she slips on her undergarment, then a blouse, jacket, coat and her diamond jewelry as a final touch. 

Ice Village on Lake Shikaribetsu, Japan

Ice Village on Lake Shikaribetsu, Japan

I am measuring the ice level. 52 cm (20.5").

I am measuring the ice level. 52 cm (20.5").

Did you know that snow can sound different? When I landed to my hometown in Siberia, Russia, as soon as I stepped out of the airplane I noticed, that the sound under my feet was different from the sound I've heard in Hokkaido, Japan. Siberian snow that day sounded very bright, like a bell. The temperature that day was well below zero, so the snow was very hard and dry. Thousands of snowflakes were crushing under my weight and sound was traveling fast in a crisp air, resonating a cheerful bright music. Hokkaido snow was more moist, due to the higher temperature and increased moisture of Japan, so the sound was rather more dull like hitting a wooden bowl with a wooden spoon. Do you hear it? It's very rhythmical, matching the pace of the foot steps. 

Do you taste snow when no one is looking? I do! I especially like to eat if off fir-tree branches when available. The flavor of snow varies from place to place. For example in Hokkaido it taste synthetic, I explain it with the location – Hokkaido is an island in the middle of Pacific ocean, evaporated from the ocean water later turns into snow. Seawater is rich in magnesium and dissolved salts like Sodium and Chloride, in small parts it remains in snow, which effects the flavor. In Novosibirsk city, in the middle of Siberia, on the other hand, snow taste like Turkish dessert with nuts called Halva (щербет). There is no salty seawater anywhere around, even the closest ocean (Arctic) is fresh, so the flavor of snow is rather sweet.

Every time when I look at snow I observe something new. And there is no end to these observations. If one would want to argue, I will give a good example - each snowflake is unique, as documented by W. A. Bentley in his Dover Pictorial Archive. By the way, "Wilson Alwyn 'Snowflake' Bentley (February 9, 1865 – December 23, 1931) is one of the first known photographers of snowflakes. He perfected a process of catching flakes on black velvet in such a way that their images could be captured before they either melted or sublimated" (wiki).

I am of course not as good as Mr. Bentley photographing individual snowflakes, but I am trying my best to document snow in a large scale. During my two month travel in the subarctic climate areas of Canada, Siberia and Japan I've collected tons of photographs, videos and sound. I am starting to work on a series of books names "Frozen Waters", focusing on snow and ice in its different shapes and forms, on water or land, on fields or mountains, I will explore how human and animals interact with snow and I will observe the climate change. 

Lets think about our environment, consider what we are doing wrong and correct our mistakes while we can.

Fall in love with snow with me.


Frozen Waters, show in Japan by Ekaterina Smirnova


During my stay at Tenjinyama art studios in Sapporo (Jan 2017) I was doing research of snow. The goal is to present the fragility of snow due to the rising temperatures globally. At this show I am displaying a series of works on paper that were created with snow.

My viewers are invited to download a free app Blippar and experience augmented reality (AR), though which paintings come to live. Each of these pieces was recorded during it's creation over a period of few hours (up to a whole day), during which the snow was melting on paper and leaving patterns as the water dried. I am creating a utopian experience imagining a future where you will no longer be able to see snow in person and will only be able to experience it via recordings, videos and photographs. 

For my creations I chose different types of snow. Dirty snow from the roads made the ugliest mark on paper leaving behind all of the dirt, that it originally absorbed. Because of the overuse of salt in the cities in winter even the snow carries large amounts of salt, large enough to leave behind crystallized salt patterns which are presented on the picture below.

Varies sound recordings associated with snow and ice are accompany each artworks as well.

Try Augmented Reality now:
1. download Blippar app on your smart device
2. turn of sound
3. point of any of the artworks below wait for the system to recognize the image
you can flip your phone vertical or horizontal. To see the next image close the previous (x)

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

I am continuing my research on this subject. So please stay tuned, there is more work to come.