The Art of Sand sculpting Part 2 The Technicalities of Sand or ‘Oil’s ain’t oils’ and ‘Sand ain’t Sand’.

Last week I identified how Sand Sculpting has had a landslide shift in interest and popularity. From the hands of children on beach holidays Artists have taken the bait into the corporate and community environment. As stated last week inevitably as the art form has developed so too have the dos and don’t, the competitions, and the private companies that offer a variety of services. This shift from child play to corporate offering will be explored in later blogs. But first: images-3
How does sand sculpting actually work?
Height and structure of creations is often limited on tidal beaches because of the shape of the sand grains. Good sand for sculpting is somewhat dirty, as it contains silt and clay. This impurity helps lock the irregular shaped sand grains together. So location is important but it does not completely define success.

Warning…Technical content following.
Sand grains will not stick together unless the sand is reasonably fine. While dry, sand is loose. Wet sand is more sticky if a suitable proportion of sand and water are used in the mixture and best again as stated above is somewhat impure. The reason for this is that water forms little ‘bridges’ between the grains when damp due to the forces of surface tension. But note: if too much water is added, the water fills the spaces between the grains, breaking down the bridges and thus lowering the surface tension. This results in the sand being flowing easily and the structure collapsing. According to a BBC TV program, Coast, the ideal ratio is eight parts dry sand to one part water this however this will depend on the quality, makeup and type of sand being used.

When the sand dries out or gets wet, the shape of a structure may change and “landslides” are common. Furthermore, the mixture of fine (mostly sharper) and coarse sand granules is very important to achieve good “sand construction” results. Fine granules which have been rounded by the natural influences of seas, rivers or fluvials, in turn negatively influence the bonding between the individual granules as they more easily slide past each other. Research is thus necessary to find the most suitable sand to achieve an optimal, landslide-free construction. Needless to say Sand sculpting is an imprecise art with much experimentation required for those new to the medium. Workshops are available and individual artists have their favorite mixes, which they teach.
A variant on the sandcastle is the drip castle, made by mixing the sand with water and dripping it from a fist held above. Some refer to the technique as “dribbling.” When the slurry of sand and water lands on existing sand structures, the effect is Gaudi-esque.

Remember that the secret to throwing sand up and convincing it to stay there long enough to be carved into something spectacular is compaction. There are three ways to compact sand: “soft pack” is the most intuitive: pack and pat moist sand into a mound that roughly resembles the shape you are envisioning. “Hand stacking” will help you reach greater heights in altitude while letting water and gravity do the compacting for you. But if you want to “go big”, then you will want to give forms a try. Serious sand sculptors usually use a combination of these three methods.