Crafter Profile: Katherine Kurylo's Ice Art

Crafter Profile: Katherine Kurylo's Ice Art

Meet Katherine Kurylo, a scientist at a biotech company in San Francisco. She has a dog named Mochi and a passion for protocols and optimizing workflows, skills she seamlessly applies to her ice-making hobby. Katherine is a different kind of Crafter; she wants to share her art with people who already love clear ice. Although she's not a part of the cocktail industry, she has a deep appreciation for their craft. For her, it's all about turning ice into something magical, living by her favorite saying: “Ice that makes you look twice.” Klaris has completely transformed her ice making journey, taking her from the unpredictability of traditional molds to the precise control of the Klaris’ craft ice machine.

We sat down with Katherine as the first crafter for our profile series, answering questions about her process, art inspiration, being a crafter and advice for clear ice lovers. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started with ice art?

My fascination with clear ice began at a speakeasy in San Francisco called Bourbon and Branch. A friend ordered a drink that had a large clear ice cube, and I was instantly captivated and decided to look into it a bit more. As someone who thrives on protocols and optimization at work, I found the trial and error of ice-making a natural extension of my professional skills. I started out with basic molds from Amazon and experimented with the cooler method and researched different types of industrial machines as well. Klaris has been a game changer for me compared to the classic rubber mold where I would throw them in the freezer and hope for the best. Klaris’ system allows me to see the process and make adjustments in real time. This transparency and control has elevated my ice making from a hobby to an art.

What inspired you to choose ice as your platform?

For me, turning something as simple as ice into an unexpected experience is what drew me to it. The process of making clear ice mimics how lakes freeze in nature; if water didn't expand when it froze, evolution could not have happened and life as we know it wouldn't exist. It's fascinating that we can capture that phenomenon inside a glass!. I believe it plays a big role in inclusion, whether you enjoy a cocktail or a mocktail, everyone can enjoy the clear ice experience. It bonds us all at parties no matter what beverage we choose to imbibe.

Do you sketch out your ideas beforehand or do you prefer to work more intuitively with the ice?

I do a bit of both. Knowing how ice freezes helps me start intuitively but I also experiment a lot. For example, I once tried freezing a lemon, but it floated and the juice made the ice cloudy. So I tried dehydrating the lemon first, tried again, and it worked! It's all about trial and error, pushing the limits. Often, the concept of an event or a pun comes first, then I figure out how to make the ice match. I even get inspired sometimes by the items in the grocery store, thinking about what would look cool frozen. I keep an Excel sheet full of ideas and try to execute them when I have the time.

A particularly challenging piece was incorporating coffee beans. The beans would float so it took a lot of navigating to get it right. Possibly my favorite creation is my rainbow cube. I cannot bring myself to melt that one! I also made a cube with intentional cloudy and clear ice layers to highlight the contrast. What people think is clear ice isn't always accurate, saying you just need to boil the water first, and it’s fun to show them what clear ice actually looks like. Ice art is a process filled with a lot of errors, but that's what makes it so fun. Trying things that don't initially work and finding ways to make them successful, much like my approach in the lab.

How does Klaris play a role in your process?

In today's world, speed and convenience often lead to lower quality and we've been conditioned to accept that as the norm. The Klaris makes ice how it was always intended to be made in nature and enables you to craft exceptional ice at home. I often call cloudy ice “sad ice” and avoid serving it whenever possible. Clear ice is a form of respect to the guest and lets them know that a lot of effort and thought was put into what is being served. I'd much rather make myself a thoughtful drink at home than pay $16 for a cocktail at a bar with sad ice, which ruins the experience.

How does your audience typically react to your work? What has been the most rewarding aspect of your journey so far? 

Audiences generally react with curiosity to my work. Mochi, my dog, has become a main attraction adding a different layer of charm to my page. One of the highlights of my journey was when the author of the Ice book followed me, someone who I admire and whose resources helped me in my journey. While I do ice art mostly for myself, the positive comments and reactions are definitely appreciated!

People appreciate my passion for it; they love seeing my enthusiasm. I believe that if my work can make someone pause, do a double-take and even feel a moment of happiness, I feel grateful to have provided that. Amongst all of this, the most rewarding aspect is turning the ordinary into extraordinary with clear ice. Seeing people's reactions and knowing I've made their day a bit brighter is pretty awesome. 

What are tips and tricks and some advice you have for someone starting out or for people who are interested in clear ice?

Starting with a cooler method is a great way to begin your journey into clear ice making. Experiment with the materials you already have at home and see how this simple technique can elevate your experience. If you find yourself passionate, do know that there's so much more you can explore and that there are a lot of resources out there! Everyone has different reactions to clear ice so just focus on enjoying the process and sharing your creation with others.

While Klaris has a higher price point, if you can appreciate the method in how it creates the ice in only 8-10 hours (the molds would take me 24-36 hours) then it is a worthwhile investment. Just like how a stand mixer doesn't make you a baker, your efforts and passion do, the same applies to clear ice. You were always going to make those amazing creations, whether or not you had the equipment, but finding the right tools certainly helps! Remember, the community is niche but we are out there. Don't hesitate to follow, ask for tips and reach out for support.

What are your final thoughts on clear ice and your journey with it?

Clear ice is all I see now. When I was a kid, I couldn't stand boiled Brussels sprouts, but as an adult, I started roasting them and now they're one of my favorite vegetables. It's the same thing for ice, just changing the way you make it completely transforms it, taking it to a whole new level. You don't truly appreciate clear ice until you understand how it is made and the importance of why it needs to be made this way in nature. 

If I had to sum it up, I'd highlight three main things: Keep turning the ordinary into extraordinary, create ice that makes you look twice, and that clear ice saves lives (evolutionarily speaking). These principles guide my passion and keep me excited about what I do!"

We were grateful to sit down with Katherine Kurylo and learn about her journey from a curious observer to a master of clear ice art. Her passion for turning ordinary ice into extraordinary pieces of art is truly inspiring and a visual for the beauty of scientific methods mixed with artistic expression. Stay tuned for more from our Crafter series and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to keep up with the latest updates.

Back to blog