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Who’s Behind the Elaborate Sand Sculptures at Hutchinson Shores?

When you step into the Hutchinson Shores Resort and Spa, the first thing you notice is a magnificent, elaborately carved sand sculpture that takes pride of place in the lobby. Each detail and texture — whether it’s a mermaid’s flowing tresses, a sea turtle’s ridged shell, or a pirate’s bushy brows — is beautifully rendered from this most basic of natural materials. 

Guests staying at the resort might wonder: Who’s behind the artwork? We talked to one of the artists who craft the elaborate creations that take the resort’s beach vibe up a few notches, all year round. If you’re an aspiring sand sculptor, find out what inspires the pros and how you can take your sand art skills to the next level. 


THE ARTISTS BEHIND THE SCULPTURES

The sculpture is changed up every six months or so by the artists at Sandtastic, based in Clearwater, Florida, who have been crafting the Hutchinson Shores sculptures since the resort opened in 2017. “We work with them to create a theme related to what we’re doing at the resort, and it’s all geared around the natural beauty of the ocean and bringing myths to life,” says Ed Griffith, General Manager at Hutchinson Shores. 

For example, the eight-foot-long mermaid, surrounded by sea turtles, who reclined in the lobby throughout last summer, was reflected in the resort’s schedule of activities, which included mermaid shows on the pool deck, mermaid swimming classes for kids (with tails available for rent or purchase), and educational sea turtle programming on the beach. Other sculptures over the years have focused on pirate’s booty, the North Pole, holiday celebrations, and the underwater world.

HOW IT’S DONE

While there’s no danger of the surf washing it away, creating an indoor sand sculpture with months-long staying power requires a multi-step process that starts with recycling the existing materials. “After sitting inside for six months, the sand is very dry, so we destroy the existing sculpture and get the sand very wet,” explains Sandtastic artist Patrick Harsch. “The wet sand is packed into the basic shape of the sculpture, and then we carve from the top to the bottom, using shovels, buckets, trowels, cake knives, and palette knives.”

Harsch started sculpting for Sandtastic right out of college, left the company to pursue a career building sets for film and television, and then rejoined the Sandtastic team 14 years ago. He’s now a partner in the company, with first-prize wins in big-time sand sculpture competitions like the Bermuda Open and the Sugar Sand Open under his belt. He and his fellow Sandtastic artists have created personalized sculptures for oceanside proposals and weddings, tabletop displays for birthday and graduation parties, 100-ton outdoor panoramas, and sand advertisements etched on the beach, visible from rooftops and from the air. 

The Hutchinson Shores sculpture is less monumental but still gets plenty of exposure. “Guests like to do photo ops on the sculpture and sometimes they lean against it — a lot of people assume that it’s concrete,” Griffith says. “When they fall into it, we try to fix it with a spray bottle and a key card, and if that’s not enough, we call the professionals in.”

SAND ART TIPS FOR BEGINNERS

For aspiring sand sculptors or beginners who want to up their game, Harsch offers a few building tips for the beach: 

  • Work close to the shoreline so you have easy access to water
  • Make sure your sand is wet and firmly packed
  • Choose a photo for inspiration
  • Realize it takes practice to get really good at sand sculpting — which means spending as much time as possible at the beach!
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