From seaside fun to serious art

This summer, 18 sand sculptors from around the world will be strutting their stuff at the 'Stories in Sand' exhibition in Tel Aviv.

sand 521 (photo credit: Michel Regan)
sand 521
(photo credit: Michel Regan)
Sand sculptor Nicola Wood hopes her creations will inspire a new generation of artists to discover their talents. Sand castles aren’t just for children anymore; this summer, 18 sand sculptors from around the world, including several from Zandacademie (the World Sand Sculpting Academy) in Holland, will be showcasing their talents in the “Stories in Sand” exhibition at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.
Wood, whose works will be featured in the fairy-tale exhibition, discovered her knack for constructing complex works of art from the pliable material when she attended a sand-sculpture exhibition in Australia in 2006.
Having won numerous awards for her creations – including the gold medal at the 2010 World Sandsculpting Championships – Wood has helped take the medium from a fun seaside activity to a serious artistic endeavor.
In an interview last week, Wood, who hails from Leicester, England, explained that she was immediately drawn to the activity.
“I saw the exhibition [in Australia] and I was intrigued as to how you could make something so big from sand.
Initially, it was just a great medium to work in. Sand is so forgiving, and it’s very fast.”
Over time, she said, that fast-paced art form allowed her talents to evolve.
“With every sculpture, I learn something different. Because the medium is so fast, I get to practice and learn quickly, which can inspire the next sculpture,” she said. “I often base an entire sculpture on one lesson I’ve learned [from a previous sculpture].”
As for the exhibition in Tel Aviv, Wood says she’s quite excited about the subject matter. The artists were asked to choose a few of their favorite fairy tales for inspiration.
“I’m working on a story called ’Elijah and the Carrot,’ and Arabian scenes like [from] Aladdin, Ali Baba [and the 40 Thieves], and Sinbad [the Sailor],” she explained.
Because the exhibition features cherished fairy tales from around the world such as Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio, many of Israel’s youngest are expected to come and enjoy the show. The Eretz Israel Museum, hoping children will be inspired after viewing the scenes, will be providing experts on hand to help children try their hand at sand sculpting.
Wood explained that inspiring children to become more interested in art is one of her main goals.
“I used to be a teacher. I love the fact that I can use sand to educate and inspire children,” she said. “As a child, I was always very creative. Life should be fun – but for many children, it can be very serious sometimes. They should embrace that free, happy spirit.
“Art is a great way for children to express themselves.”
Of course, after the “Stories in Sand” exhibition is over, Wood and the other artists won’t be able to take their creations with them. And the knowledge that their hard work will be destroyed is bittersweet, said Wood.
Actually, “The ephemeral nature is my favorite part,” she said.
But it wasn’t always that way.
“The fact that it doesn’t last forever was a bit devastating at first. But nothing lasts forever. [Sand sculpting] teaches you to let go of something you care a lot about. In the last few years, I’ve lost a lot more important things than sand.”
Some would dismiss sand-sculpting as little more than building glorified sand castles, but Wood had this to say: “First of all, come and have a look. Come to the exhibition and make your mind up. Originally, a sand castle on the beach was as far as the imagination could go.
“I’ve noticed a definite change in quality and standard even in the last five years... The art is in capturing something using a medium that has limitations. You have to be creative and artistic. You have to make those limitations stretch.”
“Stories in Sand” will be on display at the Eretz Israel Museum from July 20 until August 31, 7 p.m.-11 p.m. (except for Fridays and Tisha Be’av eve, August 8). NIS 70, including a workshop for children. Discounts are available. See