Ed Moore and his Sandy Feat sand sculpting team have been creating “feats” in sand for over 30 years. Sculpting images in the sand from beaches on the East Coast to the Western Territory of British Columbia. Working with master sculptors across the US from Miami to Las Vegas to Atlantic City. Building small sculptures from a foot high to massive works with over 100 tons of sand.
The secret is in the sand and in the hand. Sand sculpting is a performing art with spectators watching as the images appear out of the sand. The art of working with a monochromatic color requires shadows to create details. The three dimensional sculptures rely on carving into the sand to reveal what is in the mind of the artist. Starting with a dump truck load of mortar sand, the team packs 15 tons of sand into wooden frames about 8’ tall. The frames are removed from the top and the compacted sand is carved into shapes by Sandy Feat.
The type of sand makes a big difference. The grains of beach sand are rounded due to the ocean movement. Building with it is like stacking marbles. It can be compressed with a lot of water but the water dries out quickly leaving spaces between the grains causing the sculpture to collapse. Mortar sand is dug from the ground and has sharp edges or facets (like diamonds). With a little moisture, they stick together. It’s like making biscuits, not enough water and it is loose…..too much water and it’s mud. Mortar sand also has a small amount of natural clay in it so when packed, it holds together better.
Build up, to carve down. We start with a truckload of sand, about 15 tons, dumped on the ground . Then we nail together 2’ high wooden frames to make a box and shovel the sand into it. We pack the sand using a mechanical tamp and hand tamps adding a little water as it is compacted. After one frame is full, a smaller frame is built on top and filled with sand. Most sculptures are 3-4 frames high or 8-10 feet tall.
It generally takes 3-4 men about 6-7 hours to complete the “pound-up” for a sand sculpture. This is usually done before an event or festival begins. A tent is placed over the sculpture and a fence or hay bales surround it for protection.
It all starts with an idea, and a sharp pencil. Developing a concept involves a sketch of what the sculpture might be. Then the sand can be compacted into a general configuration similar to the image. The design or subject of the sculpture is the creative part. Festivals and events that have music, art, mascots or locations come into play. MerleFest has bluegrass music, ArtSplosure has art, LakeFest has a lake, the Carousel festival has merry-go-round animals, the Aquarium has fish and BugFest has bugs.
Sand sculpture is the process of removing all the sand that does not look like the creature being created. Carving deep into the sand creates shadows to make the sculpture come alive. Sculptures are three dimensional and are carved on all sides so viewers can walk around and find new interesting features hidden behind the sculpture. And it takes 2 or 3 sculptors 2 to 3 days to carve.
Everyone loves a sand sculpture. Kids love to play in the sand, so we set up an area beside the sculpture for children of all ages to build their own sculptures. Adults also love to be in the sand so we built a “sand desk” for WRAL to broadcast the weather.
Sandy Feat artist Damian Hoffman, Ed Moore and Alan Matsumoto.
Sand sculpture is different from other media like wood and stone because it is not permanent. It will only last a day or a week or a month..saved only in photos. It is a performing art that is to be enjoyed for the moment, like life, temporary.
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