EASTWOOD MALL Exhibit mixes art, sand crafts

Being bored at the beach is how one artist got into sand sculpting.
NILES -- Playing in the sand is just for kids, right? Not if you're a professional sand sculptor.
Carl Jara of Cleveland and Tom Morrison of Akron are the creative force behind the "Spirit of America" Sand Sculpture Spectacular inside Eastwood Mall this summer. The exhibit officially opened today.
Morrison has been involved with sculpting 25 years; Jara, for 11. Jara does most of the carving while Morrison oversees the projects.
Morrison plans to leave the business soon, saying he's "been digging ditches long enough."
He got into sand sculpting because of "boredom at the beach." It began with sand castles, which got progressively bigger and fancier.
He started the International Association of Sand Castle Builders and created business cards proclaiming him "president for life."
Once he started handing out the cards, calls started coming in for jobs. As he soon found out, there was a market for sand sculptors. "I thought I was the only one dumb enough to do it all the time," he said.
Morrison's involvement with sculpting was what got Jara interested. The two knew each other, so Morrison asked Jara if he wanted to "play in the sand," which sparked Jara's interest.
Jara had attended art school but decided he didn't want to do graphic design or illustrations as a career. Five years ago, he decided he had a good thing going with sand sculpting and pursued it professionally.
He does work across the United States and internationally.
Domestic work is mostly demonstrations and displays, but international work is usually done for competitions. He travels between four and five months a year.
Jara creates all of his own designs, refusing to use someone else's imagery or to repeat his own. "Art is about exploration, not repetition," he said.
Tools of the trade
The sand used is finer than the sand usually found at the beach. There is more silt in it, which allows it to hold water longer. Tools used are basic trowels and carving tools. Paint brushes are used to smooth sharp edges.
To create the sculptures, sand and lots of water are packed into large buckets and then stacked. Jara compared the stacks of compressed sand to a birthday cake. The sand is then whittled away to create the sculpture.
When a display ends, Jara and Morrison knock down the sculptures with a front-end loader. Morrison said one thing that makes sand sculpting a unique art form is that it is more permanent than a form such as ice sculpting, yet is temporary.
"You create something and know it won't be there next year," he said. "Not too many artists destroy their own work."

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.