Journey To Icehotel
The Equal is excited to announce our partnership with artists, Eszter Augustine-Sziksz and Nikkila Carroll, to support their achievement as the only US-based artists invited to design and build a room at this year's ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. Coinciding with our mission to providing unique opportunities for creatives, The Equal will be the platform to see how Eszter and Nikkila discovered, achieved, and execute this career-altering opportunity.
The Room Plans
The Equal got chance to catch up with Eszter and Nikkila after their time at ICEHOTEL. See what they had to say about their experiences.

Q: Do you have any regrets looking back? Wish you would have worked less and socialized more or vice versa? Checked out the Northern Lights one more time?

Nikkila: I only regret missing the northern lights, they showed up after I left!

Eszter: The northern light season officially started after we left. It appeared a few times while we were in Jukkasjarvi, but it was very weak compare the "real season one." Plus, it was only visible for a short time, late at night, while it was -30F and clear sky. Overall, I think I had a right balance between working and socializing. But working was a lot of fun too! It was more like playing in a giant sand box. It was hard to stop.
Q: Besides your room, can you describe your favorite room at ICE HOTEL?

Nikkila: All of the rooms are amazing so it is really hard to pick a favorite. But if I HAVE to I would pick Bedtime Story by Wilfred Stijger and Edith Van De Wetering. When you walk into their room its like walking into a white cardboard box with a 'cardboard' and 'bubble wrap' chair and and ice bubble wrap bed! when you lay down on the bed you notice a window in the wall. You ask yourself if it's a window to another world or if its all a dream. Your eyes take a trip through a tiny forest carved from the snow and suddenly you realize you are being watched as you notice a pair of icy eyes and a nose protruding from the depths of the snow forest. See? Doesnt it sound amazing?

Eszter: That's pretty hard. Every room was so different and so unique. I loved the elliptic room a lot. They set up a bed and the room in an oval shape, and made an ice ramp around the wall, connected to the bed. They added ice balls to the room, so when you let them go the top of the wall, the balls rolled around the entire room and ended at the bed. I really appreciate the interactive rooms.
Q: Were you two the only ones to use a chain saw or did everyone have access?

Nikkila: Anyone could use the chainsaws when they wanted or needed to. We both practiced but Eszter really loved it and was more comfortable using one than I was. She was the chainsaw queen in the Illuminated Suite! :)

Eszter: Everybody used it. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it more than Nikkila, so we always tried to do what we liked. She loved chiseling the clouds, and I loved using the chain saw!
Q: Eszter, you have a specialty working with ice. Did anything surprise you while working in this extreme environment? How did you improvise?

Eszter: I use ice from my freezer at home. Of course, it is different! The natural ice is much cleaner. No small white bubbles. The Thorne River ice was especially clean as the river is the purest in Sweden. I've never worked in such a cold environment, so I wasn't sure how the ink would respond to this extreme climate. I tried several things to substitute the acrylic ink. I tried to print with butter, cream cheese and Swedish Caviar from a tube. The cream cheese was my favorite.
Q: Nikkila, your art seems to deal a lot with nature and its cycles, did you receive any new ideas or directions to take your work?

Nikkila: I started immediately imagining how I would design another suite now that I am familiar with ice, snow, and the tools used to sculpt them. I was even more inspired by the culmination of artists from all over the world. We all came to this remote location to create and it felt like working with family, a very strange but amazing feeling.
Q: How was the definition of a 'completed' room determined? Did you two have the freedom to judge when the room was finished?

Nikkila: We pretty much just had to be finished the day before the first guests were staying in our room. We still worked on last minute things because, as artists, we tend to be perfectionists. :)

Eszter: That is a good question. We had absolute freedom, but it was very hard to stop working, because we could always find a spot to make it better.
Q: Well, we're glad you guys had such a wonderful experience. Any tips for anyone engaging in a project such as this in a foreign environment with a short deadline?

Nikkila: Enjoy yourself and work hard, if you combine the two then anything is possible!

Eszter: Have a good plan, but be ready to change it.
Hi there!

We're busy working trying to meet our deadline, so this will be a short update with a few photos to help! We only have 4 days left to finish the room so we're beginning to focus more on the digital aspect of our design. Right now, we're trying to execute the cloud wall projections as you can see in the photo, so we're setting up the projector and hopefully we will have a meeting with the light team today. Next up, screen prints into the wall! Enjoy the photos, and we'll back soon.

Eszter and Nikkila
Hello all!

The last few days, we have been working hard but still managed to have a lot of fun! As you'll see in the images, we're currently forming the clouds and carving into the ice walls, which are key features to our design for the room. Hopefully, in our next update, we can get some more close up images for you.

Yesterday (Saturday), the ICEBAR opened! Check out the hot pics of the bar and of course, our drink, "Illuminated." Apparently, our drink is one of the two HOT drinks at the moment!

Ok, back to the grind stone, I mean the ice stone? You get it.

With a glove and a chisel, Eszter and Nikkila
Greetings from ICEHOTEL!

We haven’t begun work on our room as they are still casting the walls and establishing other infrastructure, which means this weekend has been for rest and play. Yesterday, the hotel organizers threw a party for the 300+ staff here on location. No doubt, it was an amazing time dancing and singing til 2am. We must say the team assembled here is truly amazing and turns out we are not the only Americans here! There is a small crew from the US helping cast the ice walls.

Another update we are particularly excited about is there will be a specific cocktail inspired by our room design on the ICEBAR menu. The cocktail’s name: illuminated. Even better, when you order the cocktail, they serve it alongside an iPad playing a song selected by us to enhance the sensory experience. We choose Yan Tiersen. Amazing!

The ICEHOTEL experience has been great thus far. Obviously! There's a possibility we can start working on the room tonight, if not, we might jet out on a snow mobile to catch the Northern Lights. Here are a few images for your enjoyment!

-Eszter and Nikkila
The Artists
Eszter augustine-sziksz
Eszter augustine-sziksz

Eszter Augustine-Sziksz is a European artist and has traveled and lived in several countries from Asia to Europe. Eszter's work blends papermaking, installation and video elements. She is an active artist shown at the regional and international level from Tokyo to Budapest. Her works were recently shown at the Santorini Art Biennial, International Artists Collective Museo del Brigantaggio, Itri, Italy and the Krakow International Print Triennial. After earning a BA from Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Eszter made her way to Memphis College of Art where she completed an MFA degree in printmaking. She is currently an instructor at the University of Memphis and Memphis College of Art.

Screen prints on ice

Nikkila Carroll is an active artist based in Memphis, Tennessee where she recieved her BFA in sculpture from Memphis College of Art.  Her work focuses on nature, people, and the symbiotic relationships between them. She uses ceramics, paper, and fabrics to convey these ideas in her sculptures. For two consecutive years, Nikkila's artist books have been acquired by The University of Florida for their collection. Currently, Nikkila is an art teacher at the Grizzlies Preparatory Charter School, an all boys accelerated program in downtown Memphis. 

The Interview

How did you hear about the opportunity?

I heard about ICEHOTEL as a child, and it’s been a dream of mine since to work with them. Two years ago, I decided to call ICEHOTEL to see how they selected designers for their rooms, and they said they host open calls on their website every season. So we applied online and were selected!

What was the most challenging aspect of applying?

Trying to sift through all of our ideas was a painstaking process. Once this was completed, the more difficult task of combining our selected ideas and develop into one concept to design around awaited us.

Why are you two partnering together for this? How does the other compliment you?

Thankfully, our work is very similar, yet each of us work in a different medium. I (Eszter) work mainly in 2D, while Nikkila works with 3 dimensional objects. Together, our art, simply put, is better.

What was the inspiration for your room design?

The inspiration for the room design was the ICEHOTEL itself. Every winter they take blocks of ice from the nearby Torne River to construct the hotel, and every spring, the buildings literally melt back into the river. Thus, our design is focused on cycles.

Around the bed, we will carve cloud shapes while projecting a video featuring moving clouds on to the ice walls. Then, we will carve out circles from the walls, print images on the ice, place them back into the wall with a lamp installed to create back-lit images.

Besides time, what is the most worrying limitation or struggle you might face while in Sweden?

We live in Memphis, and our winters are very mild here. We hardly ever see snow. And we’re going to be building a room out of ice and snow! So yes, we are worried about the cold temperatures.

What is a desirable outcome for this opportunity?

That’s a hard question. Working with different media is always a challenging, yet rewarding experience. Yes, we have worked with ice before, but as we mentioned before, snow in Memphis is quite rare. So the opportunity to work with snow under these circumstances should be very rewarding. And fun!