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By Mike Wagoner
Sand sculpture accents conservation theme
Some will remember Tennessee Ernie Fords version of
the song “Sixteen Tons,” which was a hit on the pop music
charts in 1955. The lyrics include a question: “You load sixteen tons, what do you
get?” How about a giant sand sculpture in front of the North Carolina Aquarium at
Pine Knoll Shores? Built by the sand sculpture artists from Sandy Feat on the first
weekend of June, it is both sturdy and intricately designed.
Visitors to the aquarium learn that it all begins with a dump truck full of 16 tons
of beach sand. Sandy Feat professionals Ed Moore and Damian Hoffman shouldered
most of the load to pack and carve this years sculpture. It illustrates this years
theme for the aquarium—conservation. The message is “to turn the tide, its in our
hands” (to protect all creatures of the sea).
The sand sculpting process begins with construction of a wooden box (with
an open bottom) that gets filled with sand. The artists add water to keep the sand
moist so it will pack densely, tight and hard, using a mechanical tamp. Additional
boxes are built, each one progressively smaller, and filled and tamped “until you
have a stack of boxes that resembles a big, wooden tiered wedding cake,” Moore
said. “Working with 16 tons of sand, it took five people about six hours to make our
The carving process is a top-down effort, as the uppermost box is removed first.
“We carved fish jumping out of the ocean from the top layer,” Moore said. “As we
moved lower on our ‘sand pile,’ we formed a sea turtle, octopus, otter, jellyfish and
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Sand sculpture at the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores created by Sandy Feat—P/?oto by £d Moore
other creatures. Then we carved two large hands to hold and protect them all.
Damian and I worked for the better part of three days to get the carving just right.”
This is the 11th consecutive year for Sandy Feat to build a sculpture at the
aquarium, and Moore says the artists build them to endure the weather and last
through the busy summer season.
Moore is a retired architect from Raleigh, and he and his wife, Sally, are second-
home owners in Atlantic Beach. He has been a sculptor most of his life, working
in clay, wood and metal (as well as sand), developing “a love for three-dimensional
art.” “Sand sculpture is a performing art,” Moore says. “There is almost always an
audience watching, and I enjoy engaging these spectators in conversation and
trying to answer their questions about how to work with the sand.”
“With a little practice, most beachgoers can mold the sand and learn to work
with the elements—sand, water, gravity and shadowing—to create unique sand
sculptures. These can be happy memories of a great beach vacation for families that
sculpt together as a team. The cool thing about sand sculpting is there are no rules.
Use your imagination. We’re all still kids at heart when we put our toes in the sand,
so get your feet sandy and have fun,” he advises.
“Sand sculpting is a temporary art form, and when one sand sculpture is washed
away by a rising tide, it’s time to build another,” Moore concludes.
Score yourself a bonus point if you knew that the song “Sixteen Tons” was
written and first recorded by Merle Travis in 1946.
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