The art of building sand castles began a long time ago. Recorded evidence, however, only dates back around some 500 years. Records from the 14th century show that a poet by the name of Balaram Das built sand sculptures in his native country of India. There are a number of people who think that the pyramids were created in sand by ancient Egyptians, although no historical evidence of this exists.
It wasn’t until late in the 19th century that artists began to profit from their sand art when curious passers-by began to throw coins at the boardwalk sculptors. Sand art was an important part of beach resorts, and many people have warm memories of themselves buildings sand castles in beach-run competitions in the summer.
The drowned lady
In 1897, a sand artist called Philip McCord sculpted a sand likeness of a drowned lady and her baby. It’s regarded as the very first example of a sand sculpture as a true art form. It didn’t take long before people demonstrated a fascination for this intriguing style of art, which led to it becoming a business in Atlantic City. Large decorated sand castles – as well as various different works of art – attracted the local population to the beaches, where they paid to see the artists work.
In 1901, writer Emory James penned an article that was published in The Strand Magazine about a gentleman called Professor Eugen Bormel who was creating sand art on the German coast. James told his readers that Bormelnwho shouldn’t be lumped in the same category as “the cheapjacks of the sands”. Rather than take the pennies home for himself, the Professor donated any money thrown his way to charity. His subject matter of choice (mermaids and renditions of the Sphinx) remains among the favoured subjects of today’s sand artists. The writer made another observation in that passers-by had a preference for larger sculptures. That’s still the case today. He also somewhat humorously advises that unskilled people should leave hair and lace affects well alone.
The professional sand artist
By the 1970’s, California took on the mantle of being the home to a new category of sand sculptor: the professional sand artist. It was here, in fact, that Gerry Kirk and Todd Vander Plyum formed the Sand Sculptors International (SSI) in order to establish standards for the creation of this art form. They also organised sand artist teams to create detailed and large works of sand art. Today, there are numerous beach towns that host events where prizes are awarded to both amateur and professional sand artists.
While sand castles are typically fun and small strictures built by children as a fun pastime, there are also professional sand artists who create complex larger castles, as well as other works of art from sand. Now literally thousands of professional sand artists are commissioned to show their custom-created sand castles and sand sculptures for a variety of events throughout the world.