Sand-Sculpting

THE INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNISED DEFINITION OF SAND SCULPTING

Sand sculpting is an art form which uses sand as its primary and only material to create pieces of art. Only fresh (tap) water or salt (sea) water may be used to compact the sand and give the sand its required hardness. This art form allows anyone, amateur and professional artists, to create any shape by hand within a short time frame. No other structural supports and no pre-produced forms of any kind may be used either inside or on the sculpture.

THE RIGHT TYPE OF SAND

In general, beach sand is not suitable for sand sculpting, because its grains have rounded due to tidal wash and wind, and it contains no silt and clay.  If you want a semi-permanent sand sculpture, then professionals use sand originating from fluvial deposits (river sand) that has angular grains mixed with a fraction of silt and clay.  These characteristics enable the sand to bond better. However, if a beach is situated near estuaries, the sand is constantly replenished with new fluvial sand. In that case the beach sand can be suitable for sand sculpting.

QUALITY OF THE SAND

The sand used for sculpting must be guaranteed free of toxins and environmentally unfriendly elements. Either beach sand can be used or (pre-produced industrial) river sand, which is processed and washed clean before use. Sand sculpting is only considered as such when it is fully compatible with the environment and when it does not deteriorate the quality of the sand in any circumstance. No dyes, no additives, no decorative materials, no artificial colouring, no paints, no flour, no sugar, no cement and no adhesives may be used. After use, the sand should be delivered back to nature as clean as it was before use. This makes the art form completely sustainable and friendly to the environment.

THE BUILDING PROCESS

The building process of a sand sculpture was developed by Gerry Kirk in the 1970’s and is still used nowadays around the globe. This method is used for table top sand sculptures up to sand sculptures measuring 20 meters or higher.

This process consists of two stages, the compaction stage and the creative stage of actually shaping the sand into its final form.

During the compaction stage, the sand is put into wooden forms, mixed with water, and layer by layer compressed into a hard mass, using hand tampers or machines. For sculptures measuring higher than 1,5 meters, heavy machinery is being used to speed up this process. This compaction process is the actual foundation of the sculpture.

When this process is finalised up to the very top, the wooden forms are taken off one by one and the artists will start shaping the blocks of sand in its final form, from the top of the sculptures right down to the bottom, using the wooden forms as a ladder during this process. The compaction process can take from a few hours up to many days, depending on the size of the sculpture(s). The creative stage can accordingly take one day up to 14 days or longer. The animation shown here visually explains the process.

Gerry Compacting

WHERE CAN WE BUILD?

Since the right type of sand is crucial to create large professional sand sculptures, most times the sand is not readily available on the location itself. So in most cases the right sculpting sand has to be located elsewhere and transported to the location, where the sand sculpture is intended to be built. Therefore any location could be suitable to create sand sculptures. From open spaces in urban areas to indoor locations in shopping malls and from beach areas to museums and castle grounds.

The location itself should meet certain requirements, depending on the type of location and the size of the required sculptures. Before you start planning a sand sculpting event of any kind, WSSA can provide you with the right parameters for the specific location of your choice, as well as conduct a site inspection to make sure your event is going to take place at the right spot.

THE LIFESPAN OF A SAND SCULPTURE

The lifespan of a sand sculpture mainly depends on the quality of the sand, used to create these pieces of art, as well as the weather conditions, location and climate. When using the right type of sculpting sand, the sculptures can stay intact for at least 4 to 6 months in moderate climate conditions, like the weather in Europe and Northern America. The sand sculptures can withstand this type of rainfall and wind.

If the weather has more distinct tropical conditions, like southeast Asia and parts of South America, with heavy downpours of rain and strong wind, then we advise to use temporary buildings or event structures like big tents. This will prevent the sculptures from deterioration faster than anticipated.

Sand sculptures built indoor can last for years and years, as long as they are not touched by visitors.