Peter Hermann is an intelligent man with a playful sense of
humor and a wide streak of creative genius. His muse: Snow.
A self-described country boy, the award-winning snow sculptor
grew up in the small town of Vohrenbach, Germany, in the shadow of
the Black Forest, the setting of many Grimm fairy tales. In the
winter, he and his brothers shaped the plentiful snow into forts
"Snow wasn't a nuisance, it was fun," Hermann says with a smile.
"When I came to the States, I was amazed when people complained. I
look at snow as free art material."
In the late 1990s, an announcement for the U.S. National
Snowsculpting Competition in Lake Geneva caught his attention. The
giant blocks of snow-10 feet high and 6 feet wide-captivated
"I said 'whatever planet this is, this is my world,'" Hermann
Hermann, the carpenter at Oak Park and River Forest High School
for the past 20 years, began to travel, sometimes as far away as
Colorado, to observe competitions. He did his first snow sculpture,
a Nativity scene, on the front lawn of his church in 1999,
finishing minutes before people arrived for Christmas Eve service.
The following year, he and two teammates entered their first
competition in Rockford and won third place. It was the first of
many competitions and awards to come.
Creating works of art from snow is more involved than people
realize. After an idea takes shape in his mind, Hermann builds a
clay form to scale. The clay models alone can take 50 to 100 hours
At the competitions, snow is packed down in large forms built of
plywood until it is almost as hard as ice. Only hand tools are
allowed; Hermann uses a 5-foot lumberjack saw, small chisels and
even sandpaper over the three-day competitions.
"It's totally unpredictable," he says. "You never know what you
are going to face."
People sometimes wonder if it bothers Hermann to put so much
effort into creating a beautiful work of art that will melt under
the first warm sun.
It's OK, he says with a smile. This way he doesn't have to
figure out how to store it.
See more of Kathy's stories here.
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