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Beauty Lying Around

By TERRY TOMALIN, Times Outdoors Editor
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 21, 2002
[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Benjamin Probanza’s unusual sand sculpture won first place at a recent contest at Treasure Island.

TREASURE ISLAND -- At the beach, the only thing a kid loves more than building a sand castle is tearing it down.

"But castles aren't the only things you can build out of sand," said Meredith Corson of Sanding Ovations. "You are only limited by your imagination."

Most beginning sand sculptors -- and that is the correct term for those who work with sand -- make mermaids, alligators or the old standby, the castle.

And while these sand sculptures are adequate, Corson, a master level sculptor, recommends letting your artistic instincts run wild.

"The secret is to start with hard, compacted sand," Corson said. "Once you have your block, then you can start carving."

Professional sand sculptors use forms made of wood, similar to those you would see on a construction site to shape concrete. The form is then filled with layer after layer of wet sand, patted down, and then left to dry. Once the block of sand has dried, the forms are removed and the sculptor goes to work.

"We use common tools, garden shovels and trowels for the heavy stuff," Corson said. "But then when you get down to the finer details, we use everything from knives to dental tools."

Another piece of essential equipment is a common plastic drinking straw. "Once you are done carving, you use the straw to blow away loose sand," she said.

Corson and her partner Dan Doubleday have traveled the world competing in sand sculpting competitions. They can only use two ingredients -- sand and water -- and other than that, anything goes.

"The sculptures are actually very sturdy," Corson said. "Rain won't hurt them and they will withstand the elements for months."

But you don't need to be a professional sand sculptor to make a professional looking sand castle.

"All you need is a bucket and some sand," Corson said. "But don't just fill it up and dump it upside down."

That is a common beginner's mistake, Corson said. The key to carving is making sure your sand block is solid to start with.

"That is why you cut the bottom of the bucket," she said. "Then when you turn it over you can pack more sand in on top of it."

Once the bucket is filled with compressed sand, gently remove the vessel and go to work. Plastic eating utensils, the kind you get with takeout food, work well as carving tools.

"Then you can use whatever is around to decorate it," Corson said. "Sea shells are always a nice touch."

But the master sand sculptor had no advice for what do once the creation is complete.

"Just watch out for little boys," she said. "Girls don't seem to like to wreck things like boys. It must be a testosterone thing."

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