Save the Best for Last
medium. wood sculpture
size. approx. 6x2.5"
by. Nick Modrzynski
location. Easton, PA
Welcome to Ice Cream Social, the summer's socially distant group art show, featuring creators and makers from all walks of life, coming together to share their love of the greatest treat known to man. Each week through Labor Day, come chill with new artists as they discuss a wide range of topics spanning their personal journeys, art, pop culture, and, of course, ice cream!
We took an unexpected hiatus last week, courtesy of a tropical storm killing the power, but it's exciting to be back with more fantastic art and stories to share, including a terrific homage to Garbage Pail Kids by Elliot Dickson, and a delightful sculpture from Nick Modrzynski. Visit the gallery to see these and all the tremendous efforts that stayed cool in the spotlight since July 3rd.
I swear I'm an adult, but if an ice cream truck showed up in front of my house...
Nick, thanks for joining Ice Cream Social. This Q&A is a little weird for me, because unlike the others, I already know a lot about you, because, well, I've literally known you all your life. That said, I never expected my little brother to design this amazing ice cream sandwich, and this sculpture is emblematic of everything I wanted Ice Cream Social to be. So let's dive in here. How'd you get the idea to make this?
The idea actually came from our other brother, Steve, when we were brainstorming. I just executed it with a little bit of help from him at first.
What materials did you use to make this sammich?
The cookie and chocolate ice cream is made out of walnut, the vanilla ice cream is oak, and the strawberry is mahogany. The mahogany was the closest material on hand that was somewhat on the red side.
Where do you get your hands on this wood?
I build cabinets. We usually don’t use regular hardwoods that much for any cabinets, so we have a small stockpile of wood that has been sitting in the shop for over 20 years. I usually use it for any project that I have. I’ve made a bunch of furniture for myself in the past year during my downtime.
What kind of furniture do you build in your downtime, and what do you do with it? Do you sell any of it?
So a lot of the furniture I have built has been mostly tables. The first piece I worked on was actually a free table we took off the side of the road. It was an old 1900s enamel top table that had definitely seen better days. The top had a bunch of stains on it and wasn’t salvageable, so I made a new one of several pieces of plywood to create a chevron pattern.
The next project was two nightstands I made out of walnut, which I had to build out of necessity since my apartment is quite small. Then COVID-19 hit and my girlfriend needed a desk to work from home. I ordered some hairpin legs from Amazon and made a desk similar to the 70s-style desks you would see.
I have sold a piece of furniture I’ve made personally, but it seems like too much work to try and sell the things I create. It takes the joy out of creating something as it’s mostly a hobby at this point. I’m slowly trying to perfect my craft here and there with these personal projects.
When you say "perfect your craft", where do you think you're currently lacking?
I still don’t have the full confidence to build something without having to ask a single question. There are certain shortcuts and tips that you learn from an experienced woodworker that I’m definitely not aware of.
I think there's an expression about knowing the things you don't know... or something. Anyway, what's a thing on your craftsman list to focus on in the now?
I don’t really have a focus on anything. When it comes to my projects, I like to have a vision of what I want and then work from there. Anything I need to learn, I try to learn as I’m building. I prefer to learn as I go with anything I do.
Makes sense. So as a self-proclaimed novice, what tricks did you pick up in making this sweet Neapolitan ice cream sandwich?
Um... no tricks were used. It was probably one of the most basic things I’ve made. The “cookie” was actually left over from the desk I made for my girlfriend. Any technique I used was actually very basic. I found brown, white, and somewhat red woods, glued them together, cut the wood to size, and glued it together.
You make it sound comically easy, but it's pretty cool to me, that between different wood types and some stain, you can "paint" these sculptures with almost no additional effort at all. Honestly, it's kinda genius.
Well, you have to use whatever materials you have on hand. You make due with whatever you have. Ideally, I would have used cherry for the strawberry pink third, but we didn’t have anything like that. Mahogany was my backup plan. I just tried to get the closest colors I could find with the natural wood grain.
Still, I'm seriously impressed by this. Let's talk about ice cream. I specifically want to know what your favorite ice cream memories are, since I was possibly there for them.
My fondest memory was when I was seven or eight, and had a strawberry shortcake ice cream bar. The house rule our parents made was one ice pop and that’s it. We were home alone – you watching me – and I finished my first one. You were watching TV, so I ran to the freezer and grabbed another. I was three bites in when you asked if I had grabbed another. You scolded me and sure enough I couldn’t finish it. That’s when I learned why it was only one ice cream and that’s it.
I don't remember that, but I know myself well enough to say I definitely finished that Strawberry Shortcake for you. And what the hell about that is a fond memory?
You definitely did finish the rest of it.
You know what's weird? Before I even asked you this question, I was thinking about one of my favorite ice cream memories, and it was sneaking, not a second, but a third Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bar at [our grandmother's] house! I must have been around nine or ten, but I had my one, managed to sneak another, and remember triple-dipping and hiding in the basement while I devoured the third bar.
See! Now you know why it’s up there for one of my fondest memories. There’s excitement with trying to get away with something (except I got caught instantly).
Are Strawberry Shortcakes your favorite ice cream bar?
Strawberry Shortcakes were up there as a favorite at one point, but nowadays, I actually love any of the superhero pops, Spongebob pops, or Ninja Turtles. They look terrible most of the time but I love them. I swear I’m an adult, but if an ice cream truck showed up in front of the house, that’s what I’m getting. Screwballs are a close second.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: We spoke with Maria Solias about South American Screwballs in July.]
All terrific choices. There have been dozens of characters made into sherbet and gumball form. Name one who should have had a gumball eye ice cream but never did.
If they ever make any current character ice creams, then Rick and Morty definitely needs to be made. I have and/or will indulge in all of them. I think they all say it’s some sort of sherbet ice cream on the wrapper. I know that sherbet or sherbert is always on of your questions and if you taught me anything, it’s sherbet. Don’t people know how to read?!
It is "sherbet" and I should have enlisted more people who lived with me for a number of years to boost those numbers, because "sherbet" is not doing so well.
What's your favorite ice cream joint in the Wildwoods?
Do you even have to ask?
This what they pay me for.
Are you getting paid for this?
No. I spent about $250 on the domain and hosting, so I'm actually in the red.
Sounds about right. So what made you come up with the idea for the Ice Cream Social? And why ice cream?
It spun out of the X-Men trading cards collaboration I did. I really fell in love with the idea of artists of different disciplines coming together. I also wanted to get more into the heads of the artists than those cards allowed, so these Q&As were born. One day, I'd also like to have my own gallery, and this is a good digital primer to get me into that mindset. Now stop derailing my project and tell me what your favorite ice cream parlor is.
Well you asked what my favorite in Wildwood was which would be Cool Scoops. It’s a cool 50s themed ice cream parlor with the backs of old Cadillacs as booths. But my all-time favorite ice cream parlor is Salt & Straw on the west coast. They have some funky flavors, but the chocolate brownie they have was my go-to when I lived in California. You can actually get their ice cream shipped to you. Everything they make is in-house. The worst flavor I’ve tried from them has to be the jalapeño jam and cream cheese. Their honey lavender is to die for, as well.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Some of Salt & Straw's spookier seasonal offerings were featured in the sidebar of Jeff Somogyi's Q&A.]
I use the Salt & Straw cookbook in my own ice cream making. (Thanks again for that, by the way.)
Cool Scoops is an amazing place, and I could go for a Kryptonite Sundae any day of the week, but if I'm being honest, Duffer's holds my favorite Wildwood ice cream memory. I once rode my bike to the boardwalk at 8am to ride go-karts, stopped at Duffer's for a Fluffer Nutter sundae at breakfast, and then hit the beach to protect the citizens from riptides all day.
You've seen those sundaes. They're like asteroids. Definitely not something you should eat in one sitting, especially before a long day in the sweltering heat when you gotta be on your game.
My love of chocolate ice cream and marshmallow topping came from Duffers and Bandanas. If I ever go to a “non-fancy” ice cream place that is always my go-to. I still need to take you to Owowcow in Easton, PA. They’re close to Salt & Straw with their flavors. Mexican hot chocolate was my favorite, but it was limited release. It was a spicy chocolate ice cream that was so unique and delicious.
It sounds like we need to hit up a bunch of different ice cream parlors. When we go, are you saying "sprinkles" or "jimmies"?
Rainbow or chocolate?
Cup or cone?
Cup. It’s less messy.
Before I let you go, Nick, tell me, if you had a full box of Strawberry Shortcakes, how many would you eat right now?
Probably just one. I’ve learned my lesson.
You're responsible with your power. I raised you well.
Thanks again for jumping in on this project, and honestly, really raising the Neapolitan bar. I'm blown away by this piece.
Yeah, no problem! It’s found a home on Katie’s desk at work. I’m just surprised how well it came out.
With that confidence, you'll be a professional artist in no time.
What is Snoop Dogg's favorite woodworking tool?
Good Humor's legendary ice cream bar, Strawberry Shortcake, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020. It is the only good thing to happen this year.
Nick Modrzynski is the editor's brother. He's wicked smart, and one of those people who sorta aimlessly dabbles in everything, good at all of them. He has nothing to promote, which has saved me a considerable amount of work. I owe him a bottle of Balsamic vinegar, but it's unrelated to this.