On the weekend I witnessed a sand sculptor at work. He was creating a sand castle on Sydney’s Tamarama Beach as part of Sculpture by the Sea. Children silently congregated to watch this Pied Piper of the beach, as he meticulously troweled and scooped wet and dry sand onto his growing masterpiece. In between his labours (his knees and back must have ached by project’s end) he ferried buckets of salt water from the shore. He looked like any beach goer in his T shirt, straw hat and board shorts.
Our sand magician had a female companion with him. She had set up a temporary home on a sarong inside the cordoned off area that separated him and us, occasionally getting up to take photographs of his progress on an elevated camera.
I noticed his steady, neat hands. On any other day I could imagine him watching a football game on the big screen at the pub with friends. But inside his sandy plot he was a man possessed by his craft. He built matching turrets for his elaborate castle and took great pains to scour out big arch windows with sticks. I noticed a length of clear plastic pipe strung around his neck. It could have been a homemade wind instrument. He blew through it gently to remove any unwanted specks of sand from his creation.
Next he was sluicing water onto the big terraced section he had made at the front of his castle with great gusto, then patting it all evenly using his eye as a guide. The children, still mesmerised, looked quietly on. They were lined up cross legged on their side in a neat row, as if at a school assembly.
I wanted to tap him on the shoulder and ask him questions – how did you get into making sand castles? Does this talent take you far from home? Does being at the beach remind you of work? But it would have been inappropriate to break the silent aura he had created around him as he concentrated on his task. He had masterfully pulled us all into his moment of creativity. The world had stopped for a while for all who were in his radius.