Amusing Monday: Sand sculptors continue to shape offbeat creations

We’re near the peak of sand sculpture season, and the works being created this year by artistic sand masters seems to be as good or better than ever.

“Muse” by Pavel Mylnikov, first place at the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival.
Photo: Revere Beach Partnership

The latest event this past weekend was the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival in Revere, Mass., billed as America’s first public beach.

The first photo on this page shows the top prize winner in the contest titled “Vanishing Muse,” and the artist is Pavel Mylnikov. The second photo shows the People’s Choice Award, titled “A Nouveau Love” by Rachel Stubbs.

See all the winning photos on the Facebook page of the Revere Beach Partnership. Photographer Joe Siciliano of posted some nice photos on the website Meanwhile, WBZ-TV in Boston produced a video of the event.

Another recent event, held in June, was the Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Classic in New Hampshire. Photographer Matt Parker of Seacoast Online put together a nice photo gallery of the sculptures along with the artists at work. (If necessary, scroll down to June 18.)

In Cannon Beach, Ore., the annual Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest attracted large teams of sculptors at various skill levels. The NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt visited the festival and produced a national story, shown in the video on this page. Results of the contest along with pictures can be seen on the festival’s website.

“A Nouveau Love” by Rachel Stubbs, People’s Choice Award winner at the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival.
Photo: Revere Beach Partnership

Upcoming sand sculpting competitions include the Sand Sculpting Challenge and Dimenstional Art Exposition, Aug. 31 though Sept. 3 in San Diego, and the International Sand Sculpting Championship at Virginia Beach, Va., as part of the annual Neptune Festival from Sept 28 to Oct. 1.

One of the most comprehensive calendars of sand sculpting competitions in the U.S. can be found on the website Sand Sculpting Events. Unfortunately, some of the events on the list have been discontinued. Look for the dates in green type, indicating that the events have been updated for 2018 from previous years.

I must say that I’m always amazed how loose sand can hold together enough to be turned into magnificent works of art. It seems like a vertical portion of a sculpture would be hard enough to hold together, let alone fighting gravity with structures containing all conceivable angles.

The experts will tell you that the key is to use fine, angular sands. If working with beach sand, one should search out a uniform patch of fine sand, which is sometimes hiding under a layer of coarser material. To see if the sand will work, the “Sandscapes Manual of Sand Sculpting” suggests that you roll some wet sand into a ball in the palm of your hand. If it holds together, it should work.

Once you have the right sand, adequate compaction is essential to getting the sand to stick together. The “Sandscapes Manual” describes three methods of compaction to pack the sand tightly. The choice of techniques depends on the size that you need.

Using tools is carve the sand and get crisp edges without having the sand fall apart is described in the last part of the basic manual. Through trial and error, one can determine the limits of what can be done without breakage. Obviously, sand sculpting is more limiting than working in wood or stone, which are not affected much by gravity. Once you’ve got the basics in hand, the intermediate section of the manual describes the use of more complex forms to build large sculptures along with additional tips on the use of tools.

If a sculpture is to be judged in competition, experts may spray a finished project with a dilute mixture of white glue to keep the surface layers from eroding as the wind dries out the sand. Although nontoxic glue is the standard, experts say the use of foreign materials on a natural beach is not for the casual beach-goer.

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