Posted 6th Jun 2013
As the Weston-super-Mare Sand Sculpture Festival gets in full swing, we find out how it all began, from building simple sandcastles to sculpting awe-inspiring art
In the summer of 2006, the pretty seaside town of Weston-super-Mare was transformed as a colossal 30 tonne gorilla appeared on the Weston seafront. Made entirely of sand, the impressive sculpture caused quite a stir inspiring a trend of beautiful sand sculptures the following year. In 2008 the astonishing artworks graced the sands of Weston beach where they have continued to flourish every summer since, attracting visitors from far and wide to the sandy scapes of Weston.
From March to September, over twenty world-class artists come from across the globe to transform the sultry sands of Marine Parade Beach into a haven of awe-inspiring sculptures. From fairy tales and jungles to continents of the world, a different theme shapes the seafront each year. This year the magic and movies of Hollywood will be lighting up the beach, celebrating iconic figures, childhood heroes and blockbuster films using over 4,000 tonnes of Weston's sand. The festival is not only a showcase of some of the world's most amazing sand sculptures, but is an ever-growing interactive event inviting visitors to get up close and involved with all aspects of the fascinating sculpting process.
From oversized insects to larger than life people, the sculptures at Weston are often mammoth in size and highly detailed, leaving a lot to the imagination when you realise they're made of sand. Initially the sculptures are created in a similar process to building a sandcastle. First, the sculpture starting block is built using a wooden formwork filled with a mixture of water and sand. The sand is then compacted using a trench hammer before another formwork is layered on top, continuing until the desired sand shape is achieved. When ready, the wooden formworks are removed from top to bottom, revealing a strong block of sand ready for carving. The sculptor can then get to work, using a small spade and trowel to 'rough out' the exact shape before more detailed work can begin.
Sand sculptures can take anything from a few hours to over a week to create, depending on their size and detail. Though it may seem a fragile medium, sand is actually quite tough. When compacted with water it is able to withstand rain, wind and considerable force without much damage. When building a sand sculpture there are varying types and strengths of sand to consider. Coarse sand containing lots of small rocks or shells can be particularly difficult to use and will most likely collapse under pressure, whereas fine, smooth sand sticks together more easily for sturdier sculptures.
Read the rest of this feature on p.114 of the July/August 2013 issue...
Weston-super-Mare Sand Sculpture Festival
29th March to the end of September
Brighton Sand Sculpture Festival
8th April to 30th September
By Natalie Mason