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Sandcastle Artist

Photo: Calvin Seibert
Artist Calvin Seibert lives frugally in order to make his ephemeral art. He favors New York beaches for his sandcastles.

Here’s something a bit warmer to think about as winter’s cold brings out our heavy coats, boots, gloves, hats, and scarves: sandcastles at the beach.

Alexxa Gotthardt writes at Artsy, “It’s early September on New York’s Rockaway Beach, and the strong winds — aftershocks of Hurricane Harvey — keep most beachgoers away. But not sandcastle artist Calvin Seibert.

“He’s sitting on the shore, midway through sculpting the latest of the many whimsical castles he’s made over the course of the summer. This one — whose angled edges and shadowy nooks resemble a Brutalist temple by way of M.C. Escher — rises from a plot close to the crashing waves. …

“The artist, now 59 years old, has been making sandcastles most of his life. Over the last five years, he’s made the ephemeral structures the focus of his overall art practice, which has also included sculptures forged from cardboard salvaged from the street. ‘I’ve always made things outdoors from the materials I find around me, so this is sort of a long continuation of that,’ Seibert tells me …

“Seibert grew up in Vail, Colorado, in the 1960s, when the resort town was growing fast and mired in construction projects. ‘Everywhere you looked, there were construction and sand piles to play in, and scrap and garbage mounds to pull stuff from,’ he remembers. From these leavings, he built treehouses, fantasy worlds, and models of buildings that he’d glimpsed, like the TWA Flight Center at New York’s JFK Airport. …

“Like most other aspects of Seibert’s life, his process is economical. ‘I do this partly because the main materials I use, sand and water, are free — and there’s a lot of them,’ he explains, smiling. ‘I also live very frugally. No eating out. No movies. No air conditioning. No dog. No car. That’s how I can afford to do this.’ …

“This past winter, Seibert [exhibited] his sandcastles at Ramiken Crucible on New York’s Lower East Side. For several months, he made them on the gallery floor with construction-grade sand trucked in from a local lumberyard. The show marked a rare occasion that Seibert’s castles were for sale (one went to an unnamed private collector).

“Seibert has made money from his sand creations in other ways, too. … Hermès also tapped Seibert’s skills for one of the luxury brand’s photo shoots. The trip to took him first to Paris, where he gathered supplies. ‘On Facebook, I said, “I knocked that off my bucket list … I’m in Paris, shopping for buckets!” ‘ he laughs.”

More great pictures at Artsy, here.

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If I had known how to get to the shuttle at the Wonderland dog track or if the other shuttle had been at Suffolk Downs when I arrived too early, I might have made it all the way to Revere and taken my own photos of the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival.

I probably should have waited, but oh, my! How sad Suffolk Downs has become since the horse racing ended! Acres of haunted parking lots. No sign of human life. No one to ask about the shuttle.

John and Suzanne and I went to the racetrack on its 40th birthday (1984). I got a visor that said “40 Years on the Right Track.” John tells me he won a few dollars, but I’ve forgotten. Quoth the Raven, Nevermore.

Fortunately, the Boston Globe took pictures on Friday as the competitors got to work at Revere Beach. Monica Disare interviewed contestants from has far away as Russia.

The Globe also offered the following tips from the Travel Channel on making a good sandcastle, here.

* Find good sand
Look for sand that sticks together. ​This makes it fit for building and carving.
* Form a castle foundation
With a shovel, create a sand pile to serve a base. Pat it down ​and ​soak with plenty of water.
* Create towers​
Use​ a plastic bottomless, 5-gallon bucket​ and place it atop base. Fill it halfway with sand and the other half with water. Slowly lift the bucket letting the water drain out.
* Pack and shape rough forms
Fill another 5-gallon bucket (with a bottom) with sand and water. Scoop the sloppy, wet mixture out and pat it down on your tower bases to form steeper towers. Rough form walls or other features around castle.
* Carve and smooth
With plastic shovel or mortar trowel, ​s​lice sand away from ​your rough forms, adding shape details like stairs, windows, doorways,​ and parapets​.​ Add more detail to castle, working from top down. Smooth out details and moisten your castle with water if it begins to dry out.

Photo: Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
Deborah Barrett-Cutulle, of Saugus, worked on her sculpture on Friday.

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Here are a couple of Rhode Island sand castles from Crescent Beach (one made by inverting buckets, one made with the drip technique I favored as a kid) and an elaborate castle that Suzanne photographed when she was in Copenhagen earlier this month.

This website promises to teach you how to make the perfect sand castle. It involves keeping the sand moist at all times so the castle doesn’t crumble.

sand-castles

sand-castle-lef-overnight

copenhagen-sand-castle

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