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updated: 2/22/2013 7:05 PM

Moving picture: Elgin sculptor carves snow Jesus

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  • Video: Moving Picture: Snow Sculptor

  • Fran Volz has been creating snow sculptures in his yard for 25 years. This year, he moved from Arlington Heights to Elgin and created a neighborhood buzz with his first sculpture, a 7-foot-tall Jesus. He spent the first day making blocks of snow and stacking them. Then the next two days were spent using his homemade tools to carve and sculpt the figure.

       Fran Volz has been creating snow sculptures in his yard for 25 years. This year, he moved from Arlington Heights to Elgin and created a neighborhood buzz with his first sculpture, a 7-foot-tall Jesus. He spent the first day making blocks of snow and stacking them. Then the next two days were spent using his homemade tools to carve and sculpt the figure.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Volz also works in clay, bronze, cement, Styrofoam and other materials. For some of the more complicated snow sculptures, he first makes a 6-inch detailed clay model.

       Volz also works in clay, bronze, cement, Styrofoam and other materials. For some of the more complicated snow sculptures, he first makes a 6-inch detailed clay model.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin resident Fran Volz studies classic Greek art and current comic books to help him form true-to-life features. He studied paintings of Jesus before beginning his sculpting.

       Elgin resident Fran Volz studies classic Greek art and current comic books to help him form true-to-life features. He studied paintings of Jesus before beginning his sculpting.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • All of Volz's tools are homemade. He makes them from specific items at the hardware store.

       All of Volz's tools are homemade. He makes them from specific items at the hardware store.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Volz saw the positive reaction from his first snow sculpture 25 years ago, and is motivated to create when it snows.

       Volz saw the positive reaction from his first snow sculpture 25 years ago, and is motivated to create when it snows.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • People continue to stop and take photos after dark.

       People continue to stop and take photos after dark.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

A passer-by stops in his tracks and dials a friend to tell him he must come to this Wellington Street address to see Jesus. He is emphatic.

"You gotta get here," he insists.

He continues to stare, mouth open in the February chill. It's not an unusual reaction this day in Elgin. Foot traffic is as steady as the motor traffic that creeps past. Some have heard, some just happen to be passing. They all leave smiling.

"That's what I'm all about," said well-known snow sculptor Fran Volz. "It touches a lot of people and makes them happy."

The Jesus that made them smile is 7 feet tall and weighs about a ton and a half, estimated Volz. He spent the better part of three days gathering the first real snow of the year, and sculpting the classic face of Jesus Christ in his yard.

Volz had been giving the same effort, sometimes several times a season, since he first sculpted a cartoon Smurf 25 years ago in the snow in his yard. He became a local celebrity during those years in Arlington Heights, and is regularly contracted to create bronze sculptures for corporations. He even created monuments for the towns of Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove and Elk Grove Village.

But it's the snow he is known for.

"People have come by for many years and one of the favorite ones they still talk about is the Marilyn Monroe I did about 10 years ago," he said. "It was about 10 feet tall, the classic pose of her holding her dress down."

Volz said his motivation to sculpt snow, for as many as seven days in a row, is the warmth he gets from strangers passing his home.

"I saw the reaction of the people, they would honk their horns, they would give the thumbs-up," Volz said. It made him think. "I might be on to something here. People just enjoy them, so it was always a goal to get out there whenever it snowed to do another sculpture that would make people happy."

After winning third place in a snow sculpting contest in Rockford, Volz organized his own contest and drew 70,000 curious visitors to the first one in Rolling Meadows in 2004. The contest, now called Snow Days Chicago, has since moved to Navy Pier in Chicago and draws sculptors from around the globe the last week of January every year.

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