Sculpting with sand brings all of the challenges that come with working in nature, said Edith van de Wetering, a sculptor from the Netherlands who took part in the Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival.
That even includes the occasional bird coming to roost on top of a castle, she said, and the possibility of rain and wind, which could impact an artist's creative direction.
“We have four hours, so everything is still possible,” she said.
Attendees found plenty admire in the results of the artists' work at the festival Nov. 10-13, which featured 24 individuals sculpting sand for prize money, with 12 of them working as part of two-person teams.
“The community is so wonderful because it comes out and supports this, and of course, they love seeing the sculptures, which can get to be 10 to 12 feet high,” said Eileen Parkinson of the festival’s planning committee.
The experience included the Quick Sand competition, which pitted master sculptors against one another in a timed contest to realize an idea provided by the audience, sand sculpting demonstrations, an amateur competition and live music throughout the day.
The festival's proceeds fund a scholarship for students at the Ringling College of Art + Design.
Building on sand
Sculptors at the festival, many of whom come from other countries and states, work in various media, said Chris Guinto of Key West.
He said sculpting with sand is no different from sculpting anything else, and involves the same tools, but creatively it poses a challenge.
“With sand, you can’t think outside the box; the sand will collapse,” he said.
Van de Wetering said the elements can also pose a challenge; rain can roughen the smooth portions of a sculpture, and then there is also the heat to manage.
“We’re Dutch, so we’re not used to this weather, but also when you're focused on what you're doing, sometimes you feel something, instead of cold or hot,” she said.
Amanda Bolduc of Maine is another artist who finds unique qualities in the medium of sand.
“I love this medium because when you're done it disappears forever, and you never see it again,” she said. “I’ve gotten to a place (where I) don't get attached to my art.”
She agreed sand is not without its difficulties.
“Gravity is always pulling down sand. Sand doesn’t want to be vertical, it wants to be horizontal. Making it do what it doesn't want to do is very challenging," she said.
Bolduc created a sculpture of a woman with seashell spirals on the sides of her head, inspired by an image of a woman with horns she found on Pinterest.
However, by the afternoon of Nov. 13, the portion of the sculpture comprising the woman's face was reduced to a heap of sand. Lying in the sand was a sculpture of a bomb, and a newly added title for the piece, "Bombshell."
Bolduc said once a sculpture is complete, it can make people laugh or cry, or share a message that needs to be shared.
The secret to success, she said, is “brute force.”
“I start with this massive pile and have to touch every grain. I have to pad it, beat it, and use every ounce of strength to build this. … When you’re done it’s so satisfying. You’ve accomplished a feat most people in the world can’t.”