Snow is nature's most joyful art material: Free, abundant and malleable, it's easily transformed into snowballs, snowmen, forts and angels...

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Snow is nature’s most joyful art material: Free, abundant and malleable, it’s easily transformed into snowballs, snowmen, forts and angels. So why not make even more of its sculptural qualities?

When weather is particularly icy, the snow that slips through your fingers is a fine powder. What makes snow dense and good for sculpting?

Dave Robinson, a professor of geography at Rutgers University, says, “It’s all a matter of whether there’s enough liquid in the snow to bind the flakes together. The water serves as glue. For good snowman weather, the air temperature should be pretty close to freezing.”

Even on colder days, sticky snow can sometimes be found. “Good, strong wind also acts as a glue,” says Robinson. “It hammers the snow together.”

Such a lovely material warrants your best artistic efforts. Take inspiration when the blizzard subsides and the outdoors is a chilled white wonderland, pull on your cap and gloves, stop by the kitchen for supplies, and tromp forth to make snow sculptures.

Detailing a snowman

Use nonstick and tinned-steel kitchen molds to add to your snow-sculpting repertoire: Pack snow in, then unmold. If the snow you scoop up is powdery from cold, try spritzing some water onto it.

• Create a snowman’s buttons in a gelatin mold; sticks poked into the torso will hold the buttons steady.

• A conical hat can be formed inside a plastic funnel; the ball at its tip, with a snowball.

• A fluted Bundt pan is a great mold for a collar.

• A bow tie can be created using a small ice-cream scoop for the knot and a mini-brioche mold for each bow.

• Give your snowman raisins for eyes and the classic carrot nose.

Building an ice forest

Conjure a magical snow-covered evergreen forest with brioche molds. Knee-high trees can be made with graduated molds ranging from 8 ½ inches to 2 ½ inches in diameter. Nonstick or tinned-steel molds work well. Pack the snow tidily into each, hold the mold by the side and flip it over, stacking the tiers of molded snow from largest to smallest.

To make your forest feel inviting and dramatic, vary the sizes of your trees and place them randomly in a little clearing. Sculpt the pointy tips of the trees with plastic funnels. Spritz the trees with water when the forest is completed so the white conifers will stay steady overnight.

Caterpillar comes to life

Create a larger-than-life caterpillar using a plastic device called a snow-baller to make perfectly round snowballs for its body. Spread a thin layer of snow on a low, wide tree branch, and line up the balls so they touch each other. Give the caterpillar currants for its eyes and nose and dried flower stalks for its antenna.