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Sculpting With Sand

Any child who has been to the beach has undoubtedly mixed sand and water until it sticks together, allowing for the creation of sand castles. But sand art, specifically sand sculpture, is a much more expansive (and complex) art form. Sand sculptures can take hours or days, and reach heights much taller than people, requiring ladders to finish.

Sand Sculpting in recent years has become so popular that competitions are held all over the world, and sculptors may compete for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. The World Championship of Sand Sculpting dates back to the early 90s, and the art has only grown in popularity. In 1990, a team of sculptors completed a castle over seventeen feet and was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest hand built sandcastle. Originally a contest for ten-person teams, the World Championship opened the gates for solo sculptors a few years later, and still runs today. Sculptors have 25 hours to complete their piece.

Like any medium, there are different ways to achieve effects, depending on the artist’s goal and vision. Some sandcastle artists use non-sand materials like wood to reinforce the piece’s considerable size and weight, while others take a purist approach and do not use any artificial materials. In either case, most sand sculpting competitions require that finished sculptures be sprayed with a coating to stabilize and preserve the work. This allows it to be viewed by spectators and judges. A coated sand sculpture can last for weeks or months, much longer than uncoated sculptures. Many sculpture locations now include fencing to prevent damage to the sculptures, and lighting to improve viewing. Some sculptures are free to view, but many of the competitions have a small entrance fee.

Today, there are countless resources online for artists or sand castle enthusiasts to learn more about sand sculpting and try their hand. In addition to books and DVDs, some companies even offer lessons and workshops, familiarizing new sculptors with the tools and tricks of successful sand sculpting. In addition to shovels, new sculptors learn about using other objects for their sculpting, such as pastry knives, trowels, and brushes. As students progress, they can try their hand with plastic forms or molds.

Still other sand art “companies” exist to create on-demand sculptures for businesses, corporate events, or other activities. Some offer business logos in sand, or sand ‘portraits’ of CEOs and businesspeople, while others are employed to create fantastic sculptures to attract attention.

No matter what their purpose, each sand sculpture is a beautiful, if temporary, work of art.

Photo 1 by Guy King, in the public domain

Photo 2 © John Driscoll

Photo 3 ©

Photo 4 © Simon Carey

Photo 5 © Paul Gillett

Photo 6 © Richard Webb