AHA! A House for Arts

S7 E19 | FULL EPISODE

AHA! | 719

Check out the creative custom ice sculptures of Charles Jones, a.k.a The Ice Man. Emmy award-winning local journalist and Troy native John Gray discusses his three key ingredients to writing a good novel. Don't miss more amazing music from Ali Sifflet and Liam Davis.

AIRED: December 22, 2021 | 0:28:45
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TRANSCRIPT

(bright music)

- [Narrator] Watch the ice man and his team

transform huge blocks of crystal clear ice

into sparkling sculptures.

News anchor John Gray discusses his love of writing.

And catch a performance from Ali Sifflet.

It's all ahead on this episode of AHA

A House for Arts.

- [Announcer] Funding for AHA

has been provided by your contribution

and by contributions to the WMHT venture fund.

Contributors include the Leo Cox Beach,

philanthropic Foundation,

Chet and Karen Opalka,

Robert and Doris Fischer Malesardi,

the Alexander and Marjorie Hover Foundation,

and The Robison Family Foundation.

- At M&T bank, we understand

that the vitality of our communities

is crucial to our continued success.

That's why we take an active role in our community.

M&T bank is pleased to support WMHT programming

that highlights the arts, and we invite you to do the same.

(bright music)

- Hi, I'm Lara Ayad,

and this is AHA, A House for Arts.

A place for all things creative.

I'm sure you're all familiar with frosty the snowman.

But have you heard of his friend, the iceman?

His real name is Charles Jones.

And this time of year, he gets really busy

creating customized sculptures

that add a little extra sparkle to the season.

Let's take a trip to his studio

in Hudson Falls, New York to learn more.

(bright music)

(all laughing)

- Making ice is nice. - Making ice is nice.

(gentle music)

- My name is Charles Jones,

I am the owner of the Iceman.

It is an art studio, and we create ice displays

for major hotels and restaurants

in the upstate area of New York.

I am a chef by trade.

I'm a certified executive chef.

I've been teaching culinary arts for 27 years.

I just recently retired,

to just focus on teaching of ice sculpting

and working with the artists

that I have employed with me.

In this industry,

water, the most basic ingredient.

We take water and bring it

to its highest art form, sculpture.

And that is truly a passion

that every one of the people that work...

These artists work with me,

they understand that.

It starts out with a vision.

Our clients have a vision of what they'd like to see.

They work hand in hand with our graphic designer.

And we work with a graphic designer whose name is my wife.

We would be nothing without Amy.

So she works with the clients

and really gets an idea for a design.

They put that on a two dimensional,

it's a piece of paper.

And from that point on,

we work with computers to understand

how we're going to create a sculpture,

sizes, dimensions.

Now that we're ready to make the sculpture,

we start with making of the blocks.

We make the blocks of ice.

They're 300 pounds.

They're 20 inches wide, 10 inches deep,

and 40 inches long.

They are going to be completely clear

and it's in the way that we make them,

the technology that we use.

(bright music)

- These pumps keep the water circulating,

and it keeps the water circulating

to keep the ice very clear as it freezes

from the bottom up.

We don't want it to freeze at the top

until the very last minute of the harvesting.

When we take our little stick here,

and you put it in, you can see that it's at 11.

11 inches of very clean, clear ice.

(ice crackling)

- From that point,

we bring them into our studio

and we decide what we're going to do with them.

What particular use they're going to have.

We then slice the ices the appropriate thicknesses,

depending on what we're going to do,

because our sculptures are not just confined

to that 20 by 40 by 10 piece,

they may have a wing sticking out.

They may be taller.

They may be wider.

And we wanna be able to make sure

that we can configure these pieces together.

So at that point, they're sliced

and we have a special machine that we use.

It was created by a local CNC machinist,

and it gives us the opportunity to slice our ice

within a quarter inch tolerance.

(bright music)

- And then what this machine gives us

is a perfectly sliced two and a half inch all the way down.

- From that point, we bring the slice of ice

into one of our freezers and our computers.

And we will tell the computer to help us

with a CNC machine to cut the ice

into certain shapes or sizes.

It does a lot of our work

that we would have taken hours to do,

by standing over the piece of ice and engraving it.

And I did it for years and years and years.

Now I can ask Timmy the computer,

to do that work

while I'm creating other things

or designing other things we do.

So from that point,

it goes into our studio

where one of our technicians and artists

will work with a piece of ice.

Possibly will be adding color to it,

by adding sand, possibly adding snow,

to engrave into it, to pack into it.

Possibly drilling it, working on final details,

giving it texture.

So when we take the ice and begin to melt it,

becomes shiny, and it's melted.

Now, when I take this piece

and I do the same thing,

and then I put these two together,

they actually form one piece of ice.

You can't pull this apart.

It's now together.

And it's our gears.

Pretty cool, huh?

And that's the idea of fusing,

and how we fuse ice together.

I've been doing it for 25 years

and I tell people a lot.

The ice hasn't gotten any lighter.

I'll probably stay around for quite a while

and watch from the background,

the continuation of the Iceman,

it's gonna be brought to the next level.

I am quite confident of that.

- Troy native John Gray

is an Emmy award winning local news anchor

with a passion for the pen.

His first novel "Manchester Christmas"

was published last year.

And he's already in the middle of writing his third.

What are John's three key ingredients

to writing a good novel?

I sat down with him to find out.

John, welcome to A House for Arts.

It's such a pleasure to have you.

- It's a pleasure to be here.

I'm a Rensselaer County guy,

so shooting in these studios, I feel right at home.

- Wonderful, wonderful, well, welcome home.

(John chuckles)

Now you've won four Emmys over the past decade.

A lot of times for your work in TV and being a news anchor.

But I know that you've also written a lot of fiction.

Not only children's books, but also a series of novels.

Your first novel was "Manchester Christmas."

Do I have that right?

- Right, that came out a couple of years ago.

I always wrote whether it was newspaper columns

or short stories for magazines,

but I've never really written books.

And I sort of got into books accidentally

with a children's books a few years ago.

And I always felt like I wanted to write a novel,

but I thought it'd be something I would do after retirement

'cause everybody's busy.

And just the thought of like,

it was so daunting to think,

could I even do this?

But I had an idea for a story

and it kept nagging me and staying with me

to the point where I had to at least try.

And I literally didn't know when I sat down,

it was January 8th, I remember the date.

And when I started that evening,

and I didn't know if I would get a chapter done

or 10 chapters done before I could

even finish it. But--

- Right, and what was the idea initially for the book?

- Literally it came from a dream.

I had a dream, and people think I'm being silly

when I say this, but I had a dream.

I was in an old church

that clearly was not a church anymore,

but it still had stained glass windows.

And there was a man with his back to me

and he was staring at the windows

and I was looking at him and he turned to me

and said, did you see that?

I said, see what?

He said, the window just changed.

I said, what do you mean it changed?

He said, there's something there that wasn't there before.

And I looked at the window-- - Wow, what a dream?

- I said it looks the same to me, sir.

And he said, no, it changed.

And I woke up.

Now, if I hadn't woken up at that moment,

I probably would have forgot the dream.

But I dream, then wake up,

I usually remember them. - [Lara] Yeah.

- And I thought, well, that was weird.

And that was literally October

of a year before I wrote the book.

And then it just kept nagging at me for months.

And I thought maybe--

- The memory of that dream kept nagging you.

And then did that factor its way

into "Manchester Christmas?" - Yes.

I thought to myself,

what if somebody who was not very religious

or a Christian or whatever,

but happened to live like an old church

that got converted,

but still have these old tiffany windows.

What if they started seeing something?

What would they do with that information?

Would they think they're going crazy?

Would they tell anybody?

Would they realize maybe these are clues

to something happening around them

that they should be paying attention to and act on?

It opened up so many doors in my imagination

of what a story could be

if that happened to someone.

That I wanted to try writing the story.

And again, not knowing if it would even turn into a book,

or a short story, but it ended up

turning into a book called "Manchester Christmas".

- Right, and now you're working on your third novel

in the series, is that correct?

- Yeah, Manchester did very well,

and the publisher wanted a series of books

if possible on the same character

her name is Chase Harrington,

a woman, even though she has kind of a boy's name.

And I wrote a second book called "Chasing Manhattan",

putting her name in the title. - [Lara] Right.

- That came out over the summer.

That's doing pretty well right now.

And they want the third book by next Christmas.

So I'm working on that right now.

That's gonna be called "Chasing Rome"

where the adventures ventures now go over to Rome, Italy.

- That's so great.

It sounds very adventurous.

And it has like...

I've read a little bit of the series.

It has a kind of a romantic element too.

And I understand that Chase has these initial visions.

Seeing something in a stained glass window

and seeing some type of a shift,

some type of assemble. - Right.

- And it seems like your dream

that you had was an inspiration for that.

- Right, it's sort of nudged me.

And it just...

I love to try to open that imagination.

And I thought to the reader,

they would find it interesting to say,

what would I do with this information?

In a lot of ways people say who's Chase based on?

Her character is based a lot on my wife, Courtney,

but I also want the reader to think of themselves as Chase.

What would I do if I moved to this town,

didn't know anybody and I saw something odd,

I can't go up to strangers and go,

"Hey, by the way, I'm seeing stuff in the windows

and you know, I think we should do..."

They think you're crazy.

- Right, they'll probably tell you to go away.

- They probably would say, okay,

the new lady in town is nuts and stay away from her.

- I wanna come back to the importance of characters

in writing a novel, and in just a minute.

But I'll understand that you're from Troy.

- Yes.

- Does your early childhood in Troy

and being grazed there and raised with the community there.

Do you think that that's had an impact

on your love for writing at an early age?

- Oh, definitely.

As a child in Troy,

I used to take the bus downtown

to the Troy Public Library,

and I would take books out all the time.

There's probably books in there still

like "The Catcher and the Rider"

with my name in them, somewhere in the Troy library.

I also, when I went to school,

I remember going to St. Joseph's Elementary School,

Catholic school.

Once a month, they had this little flyer,

you could buy books at school.

They were dirt cheap back then,

and were like 20 cents or a quarter.

And you know, my family wasn't wealthy,

but we certainly had money for books.

And I'd bring it home

and I'd buy the "Hardy Boy" books,

or anything with mystery.

I loved...

When I was a little kid monster books,

anything that kinda was thrilling,

or mystery, or scary or fun

I enjoyed that. - Right, right.

And that works into your book series too,

that kind of mystery and thrill,

Chase's solving these problems

and figuring out a mystery.

So what do you think then are the three key ingredients

to writing a good novel?

If you were to distill it down to three.

- Well, let me think.

Three things for writing good novel.

One, you need an idea.

You don't have to have all the answers when you start,

but you have to have sort of a general plan

of where the story might go,

at least for me.

I almost equate it to

if you and I were gonna go on this adventure

through the woods and you say well, it takes about a week

to get through these woods.

We wouldn't just go,

we'd say, well, we better bring a tent

and something to start a fire.

We'll probably bring some food,

maybe some fishing gear.

You think anything else?

Go well, what if it rains?

Okay, bring that.

I think we're good.

But then once you get in the woods,

you realize, you know what,

we didn't bring everything we need.

And that's where the adventure starts

and same for a writer. - [Lara] Yeah.

- You wanna have a general plan, that's number one.

Number two, you wanna have strong characters, I think.

You mentioned characters earlier.

I think characters are as important

or more important than the story,

because if they're interesting people.

You wanna watch that show or you want to read that book?

Think about your favorite TV shows

you watch growing up.

Or shows you may watch right now.

Especially a drama, it's driven by the characters.

You really care about those people.

And then you wanna be able to, I think, have some surprises.

You want to be able to...

And not ridiculous turns

where you say, well, that's just silly

that would never happen.

But things where the reader thinks,

I know right where we're going,

and then they go, wait a second,

wait, what did you just do?

And we're going this way?

I didn't... Oh, okay. - [Lara] Yeah.

- And now they're more engaged with you

because they realize...

One of the most brilliant things,

R.R Martin did with "Game of Thrones"

for the people out there who watched that series

or read the books--

- Super popular series. - Yeah.

- Was, you know he deliberately killed

off one of the main hero characters

in that first season,

and he would tell you

he didn't like doing it but he told the reader,

this is not your typical series of books,

anything can happen.

And that I think was really riveting for readers.

Like, boy, I have to stay with this

'cause I don't know what's gonna happen next.

- You know, back in August,

you had an interview with Paul Grondahl at Times Union.

- Yes.

- And he had asked you

about, you know, do you think that your role

as a TV news anchor has had an impact

on your fiction writing or writing novels.

But I'm curious about the flip side of this.

Do you think that now that you've embarked

on this journey...

(Lara laughing)

I've talked about journeys a lot.

You've embarked on this journey,

writing novels and writing these fiction stories.

Do you think that's had an impact

on your work as a TV news anchor?

- It does because especially if you're doing,

as long as I've been doing it,

I'm 36 years as a journalist now this year.

32 of them on TV, and in the Albany capital region.

And you, when you get really,

I wanna say good at something.

When you've done it a million times,

you can start falling back on just it's muscle memory.

And you're not really putting a lot of effort into it.

And you can get lazy in your work.

- You can go into autopilot.

- Exactly an autopilot.

When you're writing broader stuff like a book,

there's no autopilot.

There's just so much going on,

and the writing is harder,

and you have to be thinking all the time.

And when I'd go to my job in TV,

you think, well, why am I not putting

some of that effort into this writing as well?

And I think it makes you a better writer

for TV because you know the differences

between the autopilot and where you say,

it's not that late, I've got time to fix this story,

If I don't like it, go fix the story.

- And what are ways that you fix the story then?

What's something really important

you're looking for?

- Well with a TV story,

it's a matter of just pairing it down.

Shorter is better.

Making sure the audience understands

what's going on.

Sometimes, especially with news, with politics.

What they're voting on isn't really what the story's about,

there's a broader issue.

And that's where I'll teach young producers

where you know what?

They voted on this tonight,

but they had no chance of passing it.

They knew it wouldn't pass,

but so why do you think they voted on it?

And they say, well, I go think about those things

because they're trying to send a message about this or that.

- That is fascinating.

And it sounds like such a great foundation for journalism,

with integrity and substance.

So, John, thank you so much

for sharing this insight

and sharing this advice for writers and journalists.

- Sure. - It was so great

to have you on the show.

- Absolutely, great to see you too.

- Please welcome Ali Sifflet.

(gentle music)

♪ Oooh ooooh ♪

♪ Reach out and touch the hand of the one you love ♪

♪ Reach out and hold the one you're thinking of ♪

♪ Say a prayer tonight for the love of your life ♪

♪ 'Cause tomorrow is not promised ♪

♪ And honestly we're our one step ♪

♪ Away from losing it all ♪

♪ From losing yourself ♪

♪ From losing someone ♪

♪ The time has come ♪

♪ To love ♪

♪ To love ♪

♪ The time starts now and we must vow to love out loud ♪

♪ Tomorrow may be the last day you see ♪

♪ Your last day you're living ♪

♪ So please give in to my plea ♪

♪ Your neighbor ♪

♪ Your best friend ♪

♪ Your mother your brother ♪

♪ Tell your sister you miss her and hope she's well ♪

♪ Tell your father that his daughter ♪

♪ Is thinking of him ♪

♪ That you hope he's doing well ♪

♪ 'Cause he wishes the same for you ♪

♪ Oh its the little things that we take for granted ♪

♪ But its those things that are the most important ♪

♪ Like love ♪

♪ Like love ♪

♪ The time starts now and we must vow ♪

♪ To love out loud ♪

♪ Tomorrow may be the last day you see ♪

♪ Your last day living ♪

♪ So please give in to my plea ♪

♪ When the days get cold ♪

♪ Nobody to hold ♪

♪ Then comes our end ♪

♪ Rainfall days and you're losing faith ♪

♪ A door opens again ♪

♪ Oh that's love ♪

♪ Oh that's love ♪

♪ Oh nothing else matters ♪

♪ Nothing else really ♪

♪ Love ♪

♪ Like love ♪

♪ The time starts now and we must vow ♪

♪ To love out loud ♪

♪ Tomorrow may be ♪

♪ The last day you see ♪

♪ Your last day living ♪

♪ So please give in to my plea ♪

♪ To love ♪

♪ To love ♪

♪ To love ♪

♪ Yea yea yea ♪

♪ Before its too late ♪

- So in a lot of my music,

I like to talk about deep topics.

I like to talk about things that are meaningful,

that are of importance.

And one of the main things that I do like to talk about

is spirituality, my belief in God or the divine,

and so this next song is called "Rescue me."

And it really just explains my vision of who God is

in the times where I've been in the darkest depths

of my life.

I'm reminded of God.

The God within me

that rescues me actually from myself.

(Ali chuckles)

So this song basically speaks to that.

(gentle music)

♪ Oooh ooooh ♪

♪ A touch on the face ♪

♪ Makes me erase all burns ♪

♪ That's the beauty of a love ♪

♪ And I don't have to say ♪

♪ Even a thing you need ♪

♪ But I feel now its over ♪

♪ And I need to sit praying at the sun ♪

♪ And I feel fine ♪

♪ And I feel fine ♪

♪ Hiding away from a world ♪

♪ I couldn't face ♪

♪ Surrendering it all ooh ♪

♪ To the powers be ♪

♪ All I believed was to fail ♪

♪ The greater is you in me ♪

♪ And now I feel fine ♪

♪ I feel fine ♪

Thank you Lord

♪ And I feel fine ♪

(gentle music)

♪ Ooooh ooh ♪

♪ And on the way ♪

♪ On my knees I pray ♪

♪ That you come and rescue me ♪

♪ And through the pain ♪

♪ I have faith that you ♪

♪ Come and rescue me ♪

♪ And on the way ♪

♪ On my knees ♪

♪ I pray that you come ♪

♪ And rescue me ♪

♪ And through the pain ♪

♪ I have the faith ♪

♪ That you come and rescue me ♪

♪ You gonna rescue me ♪

♪ You gonna rescue me ♪

♪ You gonna rescue me ♪

♪ Oh me ♪

♪ You gonna rescue me ♪

♪ You gonna rescue me ♪

(gentle music)

♪ And on the way ♪

♪ On my knees ♪

♪ I pray that you come and rescue me ♪

♪ Oh through the pain ♪

♪ I have the faith ♪

♪ That you come rescue me ♪

(gentle music)

(bright music)

- Thanks for joining us for more arts visit wmht.org/aha

and be sure to connect with WMHT on social.

I'm Lara Ayad.

Thanks for watching.

(bright music)

- [Announcer] Funding for AHA

has been provided by your contribution

and by contributions to the WMHT venture fund.

Contributors include the Leo Cox Beach,

Philanthropic Foundation,

Chad and Karen Opalka,

Robert and Doris Fischer Malesardi,

the Alexander and Marjorie Hover Foundation,

and The Robison Family Foundation.

- At M&T Bank,

we understand that the vitality of our communities

is crucial to our continued success.

That's why we take an active role in our community.

M&T Bank is pleased to support WMHT programming

that highlights the arts,

and we invite you to do the same.

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