The sculptors use a variety of tools ranging from trowels of all sizes, through to things that you might find in your kitchen drawer at home! They all use a plastic tube, like a large drinking straw, to gently blow away the grains of sand as they carve.
The sand is compacted firmly into wooden forms to create the general shape and size of the sculpture. At this stage, the sculpture resembles a giant wedding cake with many layers. The sculptors use these layers to climb to the top, they remove the wooden formwork from around the top layer and start carving. When they have finished the top layer, they move down to the next, and so on. There is no scaffolding or ladders used.
We always use a local supplier for our sand. For example, for the Frankston event, the sand comes from Aidan J. Graham Quarries in Langwarrin on the Mornington Peninsula, and the sand for our Port Adelaide Dinosaurs comes from the Rocla Quarry in Ottoway.
The size and the number of sculptors play a big part in determining how long it takes to build a sculpture. Sand sculptures can take anywhere from a couple of days for a small sculpture or about 6 tonnes to a month for sculptures that weigh in at a couple of thousand tonnes. The event in Frankston this year features 3,500 tonnes of sand and will take 18 sculptors almost three weeks to complete.
These wires are put in to discourage birds from sitting on the sculptures.
Nothing is added to the sand - the secret that holds the sand together is the hard compaction of the sand.
The sand is taken away and reused or stored for the next year’s event.
Sand Sculpting Australia is the largest sand sculpting event in the Southern Hemisphere. As sand sculpting in Australia grows in awareness and popularity, more and more artists are taking up the challenge and learning this unique craft. This in turn creates more competition between local sculptors who then represent Australia at an international level. Sculptors from around the world are seeing what we are producing here, and that Australia is a legitimate player in the field of sand sculpting.
Sculptors come from varied backgrounds that include fine arts, architecture and design. However, most sculptures learn their craft on-the-job by participating in teams at sand sculpting displays around the world and honing their skills. Once they have reached a high level of skill they are able to compete in championship events that are held around the world.
The finished sculptures are sprayed with an environmentally-friendly, biodegradable spray that gives them a ‘water resistant’ coating. Over time, wind and rain will erode a sculpture, however, if the sculpture is housed within a protected area it can last for years.
Sculptors use a special kind of sand that is also used on building sites and was most likely used in the foundations of your home. It is called heavy sand (also known as ‘brickies’ sand) and is different to the sand you see on the beach as each grain is square, which means it sticks together better, like building blocks. The sand on the beach is smoother and rounder so doesn’t stay together quite as well. Some beaches are located near the mouths of rivers have better sand for sculpting as it isn’t worn down by the surf.