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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

ABC Wed Sandcastle Sculptures



History of Sand Sculptures
It is hard to believe that there was ever a time when people did not sit down near a shoreline and try to push wet sand around until it resembled something else. My fellow sand sculptor Ted Siebert writes in his book The Art of Sandcastling that the ancient Egyptians made sand models of the pyramids - though I doubt this is more than conjecture. An Orissan (India) myth dating back to the 14th century makes reference to the poet Balaram Das who built devotional sculptures from sand, but the first documented references of serious sand sculpture will not appear for another 500 years.

It is commonly believed that the first artists to actually profit from their sand sculpting abilities surfaced in Atlantic City, NJ in the late 19th century. Spectators walking along the boardwalk would throw tips to the bowler-hat wearing artists. Some credit one Philip McCord with creating the first true sand sculpture in 1897 - it featured a drowned mother and her baby. By the early 1900s, word had gotten around that there was money in sand sculpture and enterprising "artistes" could be found at nearly every block -- so much so that the town fathers began to view them as a nuisance. In 1944 a hurricane ripped up the Boardwalk and demolished the sand dunes. The city government saw the change in landscape as an opportunity to ban sand-sculpting along the boardwalk, a law that has yet to be rescinded.

It would appear that sand sculptors were earning money - as well as a reputation for dodginess - on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1901, A writer by the name of Emory James wrote a rather lengthy article published in "The Strand Magazine" about a Professor Eugen Bormel, who was creating sand sculpture on the German coast at the North Sea summer resort town of Nordeney. He assures the reader that the good professor should not be classified with "the cheapjacks of the sands, who, for a hatful of coins and his bread and butter, deigns to display his artistic skill before the multitude." (Apparently Professor Bormel was renowned for donating all of his hard-earned pennies to charity.) His preferred subject matter - mermaids and renditions of the Sphinx - are still some of the favorite subjects of modern-day sand sculptors. The writer observes that the larger sculptures drew the most interest - something that has certainly not changed - and also rather dryly notes that "hair and lace effects are two things which the unskilled should leave alone." Words to the wise.

After WWII, when Americans started taking beach vacations, family sand castle contests started popping up in beachside resort towns all along the east coast. But modern day sand sculpture really started in California in the early '70's with the teaming up of Gerry Kirk and Todd VanderPluym, collectively known as Sand Sculptors International (SSI). This team set the standard for the art form by organizing teams of sculptors to create incredibly huge and detailed replicas of famous castles and fantasy architecture.

Today every beachside resort town worth its salt hosts at least one sand castle contest - I try to keep a list of the largest ones updated on this site - and western Europe turns into a virtual sand box every summer with multiple huge projects employing hundreds of sand sculptors trying to outdo each other in hugeness and special effects. Big sand is big business these days and it all seems to be getting bigger still by the year.

21 comments:

Mike said...

That's an amazing sand sculpture. The amount of detail is fantastic.

Andrea said...

Amazing post. Beautiful sand sculpture.

dot said...

Now THAT'S a sand castle!

LC said...

The sand sculpture is amazing, I love the waterfalls shot too. I have never been to Glacier National Park, which is kind of goofy since it is only a few hours drive from here, maybe this summer. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Lloyd and Ranger.

Mike said...

That's amazing. I saw these in Holland once. Such a shame they all get washed away. A bit like ice sculptures.

RuneE said...

Did you both make it and take picture of it? Amazing. Impressed.

Ackworth Born said...

Interesting - I don't know if it is just me but none of the links in the post seem to work.

Lilli & Nevada said...

Runee, no we did not i borrowed the photo

Ackworth, no they don't come up i copied and pasted the history, really didn't think anyone would read the whole thing LOL

happyone said...

That is amazing! Hard to believe that it is made out of sand. The links didn't work for me either.

Annie said...

Castles come in all kinds of forms and come made of all kinds of material. These temporary ones are very special, aren't they?

You asked how cold it gets here in Little Rock. Usually it is in the 50's and 60's until after Christmas and then we'll have a cold spell for a month - usually. Today it was 64 Fahrenheit.

Oswegan said...

Howdy Neighbor yourself.

I didn't realize you were an ABC'r.

I'll add you to my roll.

That is a pretty remarkable sand castle.

Cheers,

~Oswegan

AVCR8TEUR said...

I saw some beach sandcastle building contests on tv. The judges would decide which sculpture they like or didn't like. The ones they didn't like would literally get blown up to bits. Sad because they were all beautiful, took hours and a labor of love to build.

Jean M Fogle said...

My husband loves to make sand sculptures. A few years ago I found him sand sculpting tools and he makes some amazing creations. My favorite was his pool table complete with balls.
If anyone is interested the place I got the tools is the Sons of the beaches.

TorAa said...

What a research you have done here. Very interesting reading.

Thanks for sharing.

kml said...

Wow - the details in the sand are awesome!

I have added you to my ABC list - thanks fr stopping by!!

LC said...

The photo in question is the symbol on the grill of our Toyota. Lloyd and Ranger.

Kerri said...

Very Neat "S" post!! And that sandcastle is AMAZING!

Peter M said...

Wow, where do you get the kind of bucket with a shape in it like you have shown here, nice one

Neva said...

What an amzaing sand castle! I have added you as well to my ABC Wednesday. Welcome!or I am just late adding you!

Peter M said...

Thanks for your comments you are now added to my blogroll

sam said...

this is a most delightful post, the picture and story are equally fascinating!