Mornington Peninsula Get Away – Sandsational Sculptures in Frankston

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By The Frankston SKN Team

Sun, sand, sea and culture! Yes, it is not the usual word that follows this well-known phrase but it is that time of year again where all eyes become focused on this amazing event: the sand sculpting championship in Frankston.

Generally when we think of sand, we think of nasty caucasian dirt that sticks to our feet, adds unwanted textures to peanut butter sandwiches and finds its way into our unmentionables, not a fantasy consisting of massive sand sculptures that will delight and invoke the internal spiritual feeling of visitors of all ages! Mermaids, sea horses, Poseidon (front row for the cronulla sharks!) and Atlantis, stand alongside whales, dolphins and other amazing sculptures – Truly the embodiment of something that can be said to transcend talent. These sculptures take around two weeks to build and form, and the result is an amazing piece of art that amazes the public.

This spectacular event catches the eye of many that go through the front gate, or those just simply driving along the Nepean Hwy (one of the main roads to the Peninsula). What a summer landmark indeed!

The highlight of this year’s event in Frankston was the sculpture of Poseidon; the god of the sea carved by Martijn Rijerse and Hanneke Supply of Belgium.

The director of Sand Sculpting Australia, Sharon Redmond, has been passionate about sand sculpting ever since she was a young girl. She had a dream of bringing together the top sand sculptures of the world and to share her passion with others. This all lead to the creation of an event ten years ago that has grown to something that’s just simply outstanding.

In 2001 the amazing Sand Sculpting Australia was held in Rye, this was the first event to be held by the organisation. The event attracted over 20,000 visitors, all of whom went down to the Peninsula to experience this awe-inspiring sand sculpting championship.

After five great seasons of sand sculptures in Frankston it is now the home of sand sculpting in Australia – 3,500 tonnes of sand is carved into spectacular sculptures every year. This year, Australian and international sculptors have brought to life an exhibition that is a combination of reality and fantasy. Sculptors, who come from places as distant as Latvia, help others with their work. It is evident that the event is very far reaching and influential on the international scene.

Sculptors come from various backgrounds such as fine arts and architecture. Most sculptors learn their craft on-the-job by participating in teams at sand sculpting displays around the world, and once they have reached a high level of skill they are able to compete in championship events held around the world.

You may have wondered how it’s possible to build such grand sculptures out of sand; why don’t they collapse under their own weight, or how do they hold their form for such a prolonged period of time? It’s because heavy sand is used called ‘brickies,’ that come from Graham Quarries in Langwarrin. It is different from the sand you see on the beach because  a grain of heavy sand is square, which means it sticks together better, like building blocks. Beach sand is smoother and rounder so it doesn’t stay together quite as well and has reduced friction.

So, how do these masterpiece structures come into being? A designer initially comes up with several concept drawings, any of which could be possible sculptures, the sculptor then chooses one to work with and begins turning thoughts in to reality. All sculptures are built in 360 degrees, so the sculptor must take in to account all angles during construction.

When construction is ready to commence a material called ‘brickies loam’ is brought on to site and moved to where it is needed by a front end loader. Each sculpture/pile requires layers of formwork to achieve the general shape of the design and is made to measure.

The base of the sculpture is made, then the forms are filled layer by layer with sand and water and compacted until very hard. When the height and shape is achieved the top layer of form is removed so the artist can begin carving. They begin carving from top to bottom, a layer at a time. In fact, one of the main keys is to always start from the highest point and to build in layers. Over time wind and rain will erode a sculpture, so therefore finished sculptures are sprayed with an environmentally friendly, biodegradable spray that gives them a water resistant coating as a countermeasure. Coupled with protective housing, sculptures can last for years.

At the end of the event the sculptures are broken down by a bulldozer and the sand is taken away by the truckload to be stored for use in next year’s event. What a shame, how could anyone destroy such pieces of art, art that can’t be described with mere words how impressive they are.

The event does have a lost children’s area, an ample number of waste disposal bins, emergency exits, an eating area and a personnel only area, all of which are clearly signed. This shows the organisation is considerate of its visitors and is also promoting the protection of the environment.

For all who want to visit this magnificent exhibition; it is very affordable and worth every cent!

The ‘Under the Sea’ Sand Sculpture event on Frankston Waterfront is open every day until the 28th of April.

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