Person of the Week
Dan Medeiros: Have Saw, Will Sculpt
When an old tree needed to come down at the Westbrook Congregational Church, a parishioner approached ice sculptor (and landscaper) Dan Medeiros with an idea: Make art from the stump. Dan’s skillful use of the chainsaw now applies to wood as well as ice. (Photo courtesy of Dan Medeiros)
Every holiday season Westbrook residents eagerly await the annual tree lighting ceremony on the green and the ice sculptures created by Dan Medeiros are always among the highlights.
Years ago, when Dan was a college student at Johnson and Wales one of the things he learned was that he was not interested in a career in the culinary arts.
“It wasn’t really what I wanted to do,” Dan explains. “It’s hard —[professional chefs] are there early in the morning and working holidays and everything.”
He was enthusiastic about ice carving, an activity offered as part of a club at the school. In the years since, he hasn’t looked back.
Dan says that seeing people’s reactions to the carvings is the best part for him.
“It’s cool when the kids get up close and see it and then when people say ‘I didn’t know you can do that’ or don’t realize it was me,” says Dan.
“As for the least favorite part: It’s when the weather melts the ice away and they’re all gone,” says Dan.
Dan also enjoys being able help charities and give back to the community with his expertise.
“It’s good to give back. I helped an eagle scout with his project on building a retaining wall,” he says, adding that he has helped teach some students a trade and “ quite a few I still keep in touch with.”
“We’re all about that, giving back to the community,” Dan adds. “It’s the people that make Westbrook what it is.”
In fact, Dan says it’s not unusual for him to grab his kids and their friends and take them to learn snowboarding for a day, or motocross.
“Anything to get them off that dang computer and get outside for a bit,” Dan says with a chuckle.
Dan sets the bar low for those seeking to use his ice sculpting skills to help others.
“People ask for different charities and if they buy the ice, I’m in,” says Dan.
Dan has been carving at the tree lighting for about 10 years but he’s also made the rounds at other endeavors.
“Bill’s Seafood did a chili contest before the Super Bowl and I used to make a carving of the Vince Lombardi Trophy out of ice,” says Dan.
Dan says that each carving takes a few hours to do, but Mother Nature obviously has a role to play in that.
“In perfect conditions, you can do a carving in about two to five hours. If the temperature is just right, too, you can use the carved-off pieces to make smaller parts for the carvings and kind of glue them together,” says Dan.
For example, for this year’s tree lighting Dan made a carving of Frosty the Snowman holding presents using the smaller pieces of ice carved off the main block.
Asked the favorite carving on which he’s worked, Dan tells the Harbor News that he was proud of the Frosty carving, but he’s also done other intricate carvings.
“I’ve done some really good swans and eagles. I also really like the chili cook off and of course what we do on the green. Kids get to get up close and see them,” says Dan.
Recently, Dan was able to expand his carvings beyond ice. Dan was helping take down old trees at the Westbrook Congregational Church when he was approached.
“One parishioner whom I’ve known for years reached out and asked if I could carve something out of the trees and I said, ‘Yeah, I can get it done’,” says Dan.
What he proceeded to do was carve a cross and bible out of the wood for display at the church.
“People have said seeing it gives them such inspiration and it feels good to give back,” says Dan.
Dan originally grew up in Old Lyme, but as he says when he was young his family “moved right over the bridge into Westbrook and I’ve been here ever since!”
For work, Dan runs a lawn care and construction business he started in 1996 called Designer Fence and Stone, LLC.
“I realized running my own business is more what I wanted to do and I really liked it,” says Dan.
In his spare time, you can find Dan snowboarding, playing golf, at motocross events, doing competition barbecue, and just enjoying the small-town vibe offered by Westbrook.
“I love how small it is to the point you can’t go down the street without seeing someone you know waving at you,” says Dan. “It’s a tight-knit community in a great location and that feels good.”