Make the most of these low temperatures by creating molded ice centerpieces

ice sculpture with ribbons in Western New York
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

The winter I heard about making colored spheres out of ice, I thought it was a great idea. But I waited an entire year before I could try it outside because the previous winter had been too mild. Temperatures would repeatedly bounce up above freezing. The forecast never seemed to call for enough below-freezing days in a row to make the effort worthwhile.

Then last winter it was finally cold enough to experiment. I was able to repeat the process several times. We did get some warmer spells where my creations melted, but it’s an easy enough project to do over again.

I decided to try a new spin on this project since this winter has been one of the 20 coldest winters on record in Western New York. Making lovely ice centerpieces is one way to take advantage of all that cold air.

I’ll talk about these ice crafts and more gardening-related crafts in a talk at Plantasia 11 a.m. Saturday, March 21. I’ll show you ideas for items you can make for your garden as well as from your garden.

For now, let’s talk about crafts you can make in your garden when your garden is frozen! Like the ice centerpiece I told you about last year, these are designed to use inside.

All you do is put objects and water in a gelatin mold, set the mold outside and let it freeze. Let me tell you, when the temperature is below zero, these freeze up very quickly!

ice mold in ring in Western New York
A variety of objects including a bottle cap were used in this molded ice piece. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Here are some tips:

Build up layers

You want to be able to see your objects through the ice, so build up the ice in thin layers with objects in each layer. Put a little water in the mold and add your objects, let it freeze, then add more objects and more water.

You can also do it the other way around– add your objects, take the mold outside and pour water over them. They objects will  move around when you add the water, but the objects will move around when you carry the mold outside, too. This is not a project where you can precisely place items, especially if you’re working in extremely cold temperatures.


Choose colorful objects. Use big objects or use many objects. I think all of these molds would look better with more objects.

Anything that floats can be tricky, which is why I didn’t have much luck with flowers and dried leaves. Remember, mold is upside down, so the top of the water is the bottom of the sculpture. As I added more water for the next layer, the leaves would come unstuck and again float to the top. Large seeds and berries on stems work well.

I tried a mold with scraps of paper ribbon. The ribbon floated and the finished sculpture wasn’t colorful enough, so I allowed the ice to melt a little, added more ribbon to the bottom of the mold, put the ice back in and added water. The refrozen piece looked much better.

I liked the look of molds made with buttons and with sea shells. The sea shell mold remained interesting even as it melted, and I think the button mold will, too.

Another mold uses a jumble of objects: a gold bell from a Christmas package, a wind-up key for something, colored foil from chocolate coins, sea glass, stones, shells and a bottle cap.

seashell ice sculpture in mold for winter
A grid of duct tape supports the molded ice and allows it to drip into the pan below. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Displaying your molded ice

You could try displaying your ice mold on a platter, but in a couple hours you’ll have to pour off the melted water and that could be messy.

Instead, use a cake pan or other pan. Make a grid to hold your sculpture using duct tape. I used two-inch wide duct tape and cut it into three strips. Set your molded ice on top of the grid. The water will drip nicely inside. The cake pan held all of the water from the sea shell mold in the photo.

To make it look nice, wrap some decorative foil around the pan and up to the ice, but don’t cover up the area under the ice.

Safety and comfort

Wear gloves. You can hurt your fingers touching that extremely cold metal of the gelatin mold. And if you fingers are wet, they could stick to the metal. (If that happens, don’t pull; run some water over the skin to unstick it.)

Set newspaper down on your porch, deck, driveway or wherever you’re doing this project. This will prevent the mold from sticking to your porch. In addition, if some water sloshes out of your mold, it will be soaked up by the paper. You can remove the paper and prevent a slippery spot from forming on your walkway.

If you try this, leave a comment and let me know how it worked for you, or email a photo to me at

ice mold centerpiece with seeds in Western New York
The seeds look great, but it’s hard to see the leaves in this molded ice centerpiece. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


2 Comments on “Make the most of these low temperatures by creating molded ice centerpieces

  1. Julie, thanks for those great suggestions. I especially like the idea of using greens when you display the ice molds. If you mold the ice in a ring gelatin mold, you could probably set a candle in the center, too. Thanks for the ideas!

  2. Thanks for suggestion. I have a special ice candle mold that I got at the candle shop in Ellicottville; it think it is originally from Scandinavia someplace! But it is the same idea. I use layers but I also use food coloring in the water of some layers. Also I use the centerpiece sitting in a clear glass chip and dip bowl I got at Christmas Tree Shop and the jello mold center would probably fit over the center bump. My dish has a separate small dish for the dip and I can take that right out. Then I put greens or even flowers in the melted water part and it does not spill onto the table. With the jello mold you could also place a candle into the center of the ice when finished. Great centerpiece.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *