Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Mary Ellen Botter

4/20/2009 (6 years ago)

McClatchy Newspapers (www.mctdirect.com)

The Dallas Morning News (MCT) - Her professional name is Sandy Feet, and you aren't surprised when you find her on her knees on the beach of this skinny island off the South Texas coast.

Highlights

By Mary Ellen Botter

McClatchy Newspapers (www.mctdirect.com)

4/20/2009 (6 years ago)

Published in Travel


She's elbow-deep in a hole she has dug in the sand. The Gulf of Mexico rolling onto the beach about 10 yards behind her is obligingly filling the pit with saltwater _ the more deeply she paws into the sand, the more quickly the water seeps in.

Sneak a look at her feet as she works. The soles are caked with Padre's light-brown grains, and grit clings to every toe. Lucinda Wierenga, an award-winning international competitor in sand sculpture and a teacher of the moist art, lives up to her nickname.

"I always leave a trail where I go," she says.

One of 100 or so professional sand sculptors in the U.S. and Canada, she began giving sand-castle classes 25 years ago.

On South Padre Island, she's a partner in Sons of the Beach, along with fellow sculptor-teacher "Amazin'" Walter McDonald.

"When I started doing lessons, I'd never heard of anyone doing it. I made it up," Sandy says.

She leans into her hole, her wrists cocked toward her like the bucket on a backhoe, and pulls a brick-size handful of dripping wet sand toward her. Then, with a quick movement, she plops the blob onto a tower-in-progress. It forms a burger-size patty that she settles with one hand before running her fingers around the edges.

Her "flip, jiggle, tuck" technique is the secret to getting height, she says. To get the sand patties to stick, you have to perfect that one-hand jiggle.

"What I'm not doing," she says, "is pounding, packing, pressing, patting, pushing or pummeling _ the naughty P words."

If she seems to have a gift for vocabulary, consider that she's a former high-school English teacher.

The Gulf breeze toys with her shoulder-length, salt-and-pepper hair as she declares the nascent tower tall enough. It's a ragged, upright column of sand crisscrossed with slender snakes of grit that ran from blobs and congealed.

It's not pretty, she admits. "That's where the carving comes in _ what I call the fun part."

Her No. 1 tool is a pastry knife with the tip cut off. "I do probably 90 percent of my carving with this. The offset handle lets you get close to the sculpture without your hand getting in the way."

She and her partner, Walter, designed the half-dozen other tools she uses. At the end of pencil-like handles are 50-cent-size, stainless-steel shapes: big and skinny squares, an arrowhead, a tiny trowel, a loop and a hollow U.

She sells the utensils in sets (about $40) but says tools don't have to be fancy. Any pliant metal _ bobby pins, paper clips, twist ties _ will do. A McDonald's plastic knife can sub for the pastry knife, she says. A paper straw can blow sand chaff from crevices.

She adds details from the top down, so grains cut from above don't fall on carving below.

The flat end of the pastry knife shears the top into a cone-shape roof. With four shallow stabs and a bit of gentle scraping, the first window appears. Then a door, a balcony, stairs, columns, bricks and stones.

"I like to put a lot of detail in when I carve," she says.

"People ask me, 'Where do your ideas come from?' I don't know how to answer that because I don't know where ideas come from. I do know that when I'm in the shower, I get a lot of good ones. Hot water ... relaxing ... and all of a sudden, bang, I know what I'm going to do in the next contest."

Competitions and workshops on teaching sand sculpture have carried her worldwide, including to South Africa, Asia and Europe. Last summer in a contest in Italy, she took first place in the people's choice category. At a match in Spain, she ranked first in people's choice and third in the juried competition.

Her contest designs take shape in her head or in the sandbox in her backyard. Castles are only one possibility. Characters and architecture also may emerge.

"I can work on a project there for weeks at a time," Sandy says, whereas beach art washes away with the tide.

She's philosophical about her ephemeral art and about the occasional person who can't resist kicking over a castle she's left on a beach.

"It's like buying a rose. You don't expect it to last."

The first tower has been joined by a second and connected by a viaduct with arches. The structure isn't child's play.

"Most people think that sand-castle building is for kids," Sandy says, "and a lot of people who take lessons from me feel sheepish about booking one unless they have some kids along, but I've discovered that most children, especially those under the age of 12 or 13, have about 20 minutes where you really get their attention ... and then they want to go to something else."

It takes an adult or older child to grasp the techniques, she says. When they do, "The light bulb pops on and suddenly, 'Oh, my God, I've got something I can do on the beach all day and not get bored.'"

Plus, "It's therapeutic to have your hands in the sand and the smell of the ocean and the great scenery," she says.

"I can't even imagine a job better than the one I have."

The castle complete, a lesson wraps up. Sandy bags her tools and stands, her knees crusted with grit. A last look at the hour's creation, and she steps away.

Behind her, the Gulf's white-topped waves lick closer.

___

ABOUT SANDY

Sandy Feet offers private or group lessons on the beach by reservation (956-761-6222; www.sandyfeet.com). Cost is $75 for private lessons or groups (maximum 10).

Her book "Sandcastles Made Simple" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $10.95) describes her techniques.

Tool sets (six shapes plus the pastry knife) are available in the Ship Shape beach shop (5212 Padre Blvd.) or Paragraphs on Padre bookstore (5505 Padre Blvd.) on the island (about $40) and through the Sons of the Beach Web site (www.sobshop.com; from $50, includes shipping).

Sandy will give free sculpture lessons from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 9 in Houston's Eleanor Tinsley Park as part of the Art Car Parade celebration. www.orangeshow.org/artcar

MORE SCULPTORS

Sons of the Beach (www.sonsofthebeach.com): "Amazin'" Walter McDonald (956-761-5943). Lessons on the beach.

Andy Hancock (956-433-9948) and Lisa Marie Porter (956-466-0098). Lessons atop barrels at Boomerang Billy's Beach Bar or on the beach. www.sandcastlelessons.com

FESTIVALS

Sand Castle Days, Oct. 15-18, at Isla Blanca County Park on South Padre Island. Sand sculptors from worldwide compete. Free sand-castle lessons. Kite flying. www.sandcastledays.com

SAND SCULPTURE

The sand-sculpture competition season runs April through November. Sandy Feet's Web site (www.sandcastlecentral.com) lists competitions.

The annual World Championships of Sand Sculpture Competition & Exhibition, has been in October in Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia. Dates for 2009 haven't been announced. www.harrisand.org.

___

© 2009, The Dallas Morning News.



Comments


More Travel

Top Ten: World's Least Friendly Cities Watch

Image of The citizens in Moscow, Russia are not as friendly as they could be.

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

When you think of friendly cities, images of smiling faces, well-behaved children, and quiet neighborhoods come to mind. However, the following top ten list contains the top least friendly cities! LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (Catholic Online) - This list of the world's ... continue reading


4 of the world's tallest and most intense roller coasters bring new excitement to amusement parks Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Amusement parks have been soaring to new heights - literally. As thrill-ride seekers experience the gift of advancing technologies in increasing speed and velocity on park rides, the fun does not stop there. North America has four out of five of the world's giga ... continue reading


World's largest airplane set to take off next year Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With ambition to further revolutionize aerospace technology and outer space research, a megaplane is currently under construction to become the biggest aircraft in the world. Named Stratolaunch Carrier, the world's biggest airplane is set to fly out next year for the ... continue reading


'Ghost Hunters' receive shocking, unexpected surprise when searching abandoned hospital Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A group of "ghost hunters" shockingly discover a dead body, belonging to an old lady, inside the abandoned Kuhn Memorial State Hospital in Vicksburg, Mississippi on the night of June 28, 2015. The hospital has been deserted for two decades. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES ... continue reading


15 amazing summer hacks you can't go on vacation without Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Whether you are headed over to an exotic island in the tropics or off to some beautiful scenic destination in Europe for the summer, be sure to use some of these cool tips that will come in handy for you and the rest of your family. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic ... continue reading


New floating hotel: Serene, amazing, surrounded by nature Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Salt & Water design studio's project is a total work of art that offers fine, beautiful luxury. The floating hotel houses catamaran apartments and is designed to present guests with an opportunity to celebrate the impeccable view of nature surrounding them. ... continue reading


List of the most at-risk cities for terrorist attacks in the world Watch

Image of September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, New York.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In a list that ranks cities around the world on terrorist attack risk, based by a study from Verisk Maplecroft for its new Global Alerts Dashboard (GAD), Baghdad is at the top, as the city with the highest risk of terrorist attacks. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic ... continue reading


Airplane staff reveals the shocking gruesome secrets of airplane hygiene Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Staff from an airline cabin crew claims that airplanes are a health risk, due to improper use of facilities by passengers and the lack of consequent sanitation by maintenance. The research team found that the dirtiest parts of the plane might be those we never thought ... continue reading


How safe is your country? Interactive homicide map shows the world's most dangerous places to live Watch

Image of The Murder Map shows the most dangerous places.

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Some news may frighten us about the security of our own community, as many people are victims of violence and are murdered everyday. It may seem to us, that our homes are not safe anymore. Yet, according to a database map, we may be living in a relatively safe location ... continue reading


How to explore the world without the cost: Tips from an experienced traveler Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With his eBooks "How To Fly For Free" and "How To Find Cheap Flights," Scott Keyes is sharing his secrets on  how he travels the world without it costing him a penny. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - Keyes hit the headlines first for having a plan to ... continue reading


All Travel News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Colossians 1:15-20
15 He is the image of the unseen God, the first-born ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:1, 2, 3, 4, 5
1 [Psalm For thanksgiving] Acclaim Yahweh, all the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 5:33-39
33 They then said to him, 'John's disciples are ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 4th, 2015 Image

St. Rosalia
September 4: St. Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses and Quisquina, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter