A trip to the beach is filled with excitement of fun in the water and in the sand. What beachgoer young or old hasn’t tried their hand at building the perfect sand castle?
The anticipation before each sand sculpture is created is one of greatness. The best sand sculpture ever that will bring awe to those nearby sun worshipers who admire your talents. Unfortunately, the anticipation is generally far more inspiring than the finished product. Buckets of drying sand turned upside down and lined up to resemble castle walls.
This may be why most kids end up taking whatever digging tool is available and digging the ever popular hole in the sand. You can sit in it, jump in it, or put water in it. For some reason it is just fun to dig in the sand.
If you aspire to create more than a hole in the sand, there are tricks to help you build your perfect sand sculpture.
Pick Your Location
Remember when choosing your spot on the beach, you want to be close enough to the water but not so close that the tide will compromise your work before it’s completed.
It is best to clear the top layer of dry sand away before starting.
Start With a Mound of Sand
You must start with a mound of prepared sand. To prepare the sand there are two key ingredients. Experts agree that you must saturate the sand and it must be thoroughly compacted.
“Compacted sand is the key thing for sculpting,” said Mario Ciasulli. He is an award-winning abstract sand sculptor for his creations including “Alien Harmony” that took Best of the Beach in Belmar, NJ.
The best way to prepare the sand is to use a tapered plastic garbage can with the bottom cut off.
John Gowdy of Atlantic City has been a professional sand sculptor for over 15 years. He has won countless national and international titles. John adds that when cutting of the garbage can bottom be sure and sand (no pun intended) the rough edges of the plastic to protect small hands.
Place the garbage can upside down and add some sand and water. Each time letting the water saturate the sand but the excess water is drained out. Before adding more sand, tamp the sand so that it is thoroughly compacted. Repeat this until the garbage can is full.
You can use a landscape tamper or other solid, flat object to compact the sand. However, it would be a lot more fun for the kids to just let them smack the sand by hand.
Let the compacted, saturated sand sit for about ten minutes and then gently remove the garbage can.
John also notes that it is much easier to use three shovels to pry the plastic bucket sides away from the sand before lifting the bucket off the prepared mound.
“You really need to start with a solid mound of sand,” offers Mario.
Pick Your Tools
Once your sand is prepared and ready to be sculpted any number of tools can be used to design your work.
Kitchen utensils are popular sculpting tools. Try a butter knife, melon baller, spatula, or any gadget you can find. Mario uses a piece of wood or flat item to smooth the sand in his designs. A straw is also a common item to gently blow the sand particles clear of completed areas.
A child’s imaginative mind can surely find something interesting and fun to use as a carving tool.
If raiding your kitchen for tools is not an option, there are many sand sculpting tools available online or at most local beach shops.
Carve, Chisel, Mold, and Create
Here is where the fun begins. Whether you’re building a castle, an abstract design, a person, or other artistic work of art, you need to create from the top to bottom.
“Your final object is in the mound and you’re sculpting it,” said Mario.
Carve where the mood takes you as Mario does in his abstract designs. Or, come up with a more tangible design.
You can get ideas from things in your life or your surroundings. If you need some inspiration, check out the sculptures from professionals like John Gowdy or Dan Belcher. Belcher won solo 1st place at the World Championship of Sand Sculpture in 2005 for his creation “Apollo Landing.”
Keep It Wet
For his work, Mario uses a household pump sprayer filled with tap water to wet down his sculpture during the building process. He learned from experience that sand that is mixed in with the salt water tends to clog the nozzle.
Professionals will be on the beach for hours creating their award-winning works which would require constant moisture. Those of us creating less extensive designs can probably get away with a handy little spray bottle.
If your aspirations are the perfect sand castle, elaborate sculpted art, or just a hole in the sand, remember to keep at it. The most important thing to do when sand sculpting is to have fun with your family and friends.
You never know, you may just build that perfect sand castle one day. Both John and Mario began their sculpting careers by entertaining their kids on trips to Jersey Shore beaches.