Sand art is the practice of modelling sand into an artistic form, such as a sand brushing, sand sculpture, sandpainting, or sand bottles. A sand castle is a type of sand sculpture resembling a miniature building, often a castle.
The two basic building ingredients, sand and water, are available in abundance on a sandy beach, so most sand play takes place there, or in a sandpit. Tidal beaches generally have sand that limits height and structure because of the shape of the sand grains. Good sculpture sand is somewhat dirty, having silt and clay that helps lock the irregular-shaped sand grains together.
Sand castles are typically made by children, simply for the fun of it, but there are also sand-sculpture contests for adults that involve large, complex constructions. The largest sand castle made in a contest was 18 feet tall; the owner, Ronald Malcnujio, a five-foot-high man, had to use several ladders, each the height of the sand castle. His sculpture consisted of one ton of sand and 10 litres of water to sculpt.
Sand grains will not stick together unless the sand is reasonably fine. While dry sand is loose, wet sand is adherent if the proper amounts of sand and water are used in the mixture. The reason for this is that water forms little "bridges" between the grains of sand when it is damp due to the forces of surface tension.
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 that 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.
Shovels and buckets are the main construction tools used in creating sand castles and sand sculptures, although some people use only their hands. Water from the sea to mix with the sand can be brought to the building site with a bucket or other container. Sometimes other materials, such as pieces of wood and plastic are constructed to hold piles of sand in place and in specific shapes - these are called forms.
Sand sculpting as an art form has become very popular in recent years, especially in coastal beach areas. Hundreds of annual competitions are held all over the world. Techniques can be quite sophisticated, and record-breaking achievements have been noted in the Guinness World Records. Sometimes, contests are staged as advertising or promotional events. Most Sand sculptors come from other disciplines but there are a few that earn their living solely from Sand related activities.
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.
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From 1989 until 2009, a World Championship in Sand Sculpture was held in Harrison Hot Springs in Harrison, British Columbia, Canada, also known as "Harrisand". The competition had solo, double and team categories. The "World championship was held in ft Myers, Florida and other venues for a limited time. Other countries hold their own versions of the world championships as it is not possible to get all the people who may qualify in the same place at the same time due to the expense and logistics.
The world's tallest sand castle was built on Myrtle Beach in South Carolina by Team Sandtastic as part of the 2007 Sun Fun Festival. The structure was 49.55 feet (15.1 m) high. It took 10 days to construct and used 300 truckloads of sand.
Note: World Record sculptures are separated by one category using machinery and unlimited man-hours.. and another category being hand-built [hand shoveled /no machinery] in under 100 man-hours [ex. 5 sculptors each 20 hours "in the box"]. Team Sandtastic holds the non-machinery / 100 man-hour record for a sculpture 28'7&1/4" crafted at Georgia Stone Mountain Park www.TeamSandtastic.com/Guinness.htm
You can see a list of sand sculpting events held around the world at the sandcastlecentral.com website.
An annual competition is held on Siesta Key, Florida, every year. Its fine, white quartz sand regularly wins comparison rankings of beach sand, yet complex structures are built during the competition. There is also a long running American Championship competition held in Ft Myers, Florida over thanksgiving week every year.
In Texas there are large competitions on South Padre Island in October (Sandcastle days) and Port Aransas (Texas Sandfest) with these competitions attracting entries from all over the world in both solo, and doubles categories. These competitions are usually spread over 3/4days and have all manner of other activities to entice the public to attend.
The dune sands of Lake Michigan offer ample opportunity for Great Lakes area sand fanatics of all ages to enjoy building castles in the sand. In 2013 the Friends of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse and The Sand Lovers hosted Michigan's first Master/Professional sand sculpting competition, "The Blue Water Sand Fest" was a huge success and will continue in years to come.
Each year in June residents and visitors of the Grand Haven, Michigan area have enjoyed building art in the sand at the "Sand Sculpture Contest", held annually at Grand Haven City Beach. A new annual event dubbed Castle Grande promises to build the biggest sand castle Lake Michigan has ever seen. The premise is to harness the energy of an entire beach going community to focus all their efforts on piling sand high and wide to build a singular grand sand castle.
In recent years, many artists have formed companies specifically geared towards creating sand sculptures. These companies have found a niche market, with corporate and private clients looking to promote a business or product or simply to wow their guests at a special event. The companies can provide services and sculptures for weddings, team building events, family vacations or civic exhibitions. On South Padre Island in Texas, local sand sculptors have built an entire trail of sculptures both large and small for visitors to enjoy year round. The largest of these is over 14ft high and weighs 60 tons. These companies also specialize in providing the tools needed for basic and advanced sand sculpting classes and most are happy to give advice freely to encourage beginners.
A popular game is building a heap of sand, as high as possible, to withstand the upcoming tide. In the gallery below are three photos of the same heap that gets surrounded by the sea.
One of the main attractions of a sandy beach, especially for children, is playing with the sand, as it presents more possibilities than an ordinary sandbox.
One can make a mountain, a pit (encountering clay or the water table), canals, tunnels, bridges, a sculpture (representing a person, animal, etc., like a statue, or a scale model of a building), and many other things.
Tunnels large enough to enter are extremely hazardous; children have been killed when such underground chambers have collapsed under their own weight and instability, or due to the tide coming up or the structure being hit by a wave. Sometimes, a dam can be built to hold back the water, tidal forts, which are incredibly large sandcastles with thick walls to protect the keep from the sea, can be built, or canals can be dug to contain the water.
Burying someone up to his/her neck in sand, or burying oneself, is another popular beach activity.
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