New York ice sculptor becomes avocado well sculptor amid pandemic

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NEW YORK – When Thomas Brown breaks the ice, he picks up a chainsaw.
That day, he carves an ice sculpture of a frog – a process he adores:


What would you like to know

  • Thomas Brown expected to carve ice for major events like the Tokyo Olympics this year, but the ice carving market has dried up during the pandemic.
  • With few art supplies in his Brooklyn apartment, Brown tried his hand at carving avocado pits
  • Brown has had many failures, but found a whole world of avocado core carving online to learn
  • He’s back ice making at Okamoto Studio Custom Ice in Queens, but is also finding a great response and clients for his avocado art via his Instagram, @ThomasBrownAffair

“I think the transformation is really cool to start with these blank blocks, these stacked squares, and then watch it come to life, especially if it’s an animal or a human,” Brown told NY1 while sculpting.
Originally from Kentucky, Brown came to New York over a decade ago to sculpt at Okamoto Studio Custom Ice, which creates ice art for all kinds of festive events.

“For the winter holiday season, we’re usually scrambling, carving ice 24 hours a day, around this time,” said founder Shintaro Okamoto.

Instead, business is just starting to return. The studio has been virtually closed for most of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was then that Brown went in the opposite polar direction. At home, with no job, no art supplies, recovering from wrist surgery, and a little depressed, he started carving something completely different: avocado pits.

Thomas Brown makes art by carving an avocado core. Stéphanie Simon / NY1.

It turns out that avocado stone carving is one thing. After a few failures, he found tutorials and a whole world of avocado core carving online.

“It’s something I’m able to share and there’s a little bit of joy in it and it really helps me,” he said at his apartment, working on a small pit he has. carved into a dog’s face.


Brown was pleasantly surprised at how quickly his pieces started to create buzz and business.

One of Thomas Brown’s clients with an avocado core carved in the image of his dog. ThomasBrownAffair / Instagram.

A couple were thrilled to get hand-carved works of their two pets. Husband and wife Ray Rizzo and Traci Timmons of Bushwick are clients.

“What struck us was the realism,” said Rizzo, “and his eye for capturing the animals he did. ”

“The resemblance is weird,” said Timmons, holding the couple’s cat and one of their avocado pits.

Still, enthusiasm has not abated at the studio, especially for the beauty and challenge of bringing Clear Ice to life.

“It’s wet, it’s cold and slippery, but we can have fun every day,” Okamoto said.

And moving the sculpture to the freezer is precarious. It looked like the frog was going to slide off the wagon. Once inside the freezer, Brown told me it was about 13 degrees inside.

Brown says he enjoys ice sculpting, especially at live events. But avocado stone artwork is the biggest paying off right now.

The miniatures, which start at around $ 200, offer another inspiration: “It’s a good way to get through a rough patch,” Brown said.

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