Life's a beach for sculptors

Life's a beach for sculptors

Raymond Wirick and Stephen Schomaker at work at HK Disneyland. Photo: Edward Wong

HK Disneyland has invited a Florida pair to carve famous characters out of tonnes of sand, writes Chitra Karamchandani

For most people, building sandcastles is a fun, summer outdoor activity, and nothing more. But for Raymond Wirick and Stephen Schomaker, of award-winning American sand sculpting company Team Sandtastic, sand sculpting is a full-time profession.

This summer, they have been invited by Hong Kong Disneyland to create three life-sized sand sculpture displays based on the Disney themes of 'Classic Disney Friends', 'Toy Story' and 'Disney Princesses'.

Wirick and Schomaker are based in Sarasota, Florida. The team holds the Guinness World Record for building the tallest sandcastle in less than 100 hours - a massive 8.5 metres.

They travel the world creating magnificent displays at shopping centres, conventions, fairs and theme parks.

They are now working on 'Classic Disney Friends'. They will use more than 150 tonnes of sand and the process involves intricate detailing. They have been working on the display since June 2.

The most challenging character to carve was Peter Pan 'because he is small and positioned right at the top, which is the starting point', Schomaker says. Their technique is to start from the top of the 'picture' and work towards the bottom.

The strength of the sculpture depends on the weather and the type of sand used. 'The sculptures can last up to six months,' Wirick says.

For these sculptures, Disney provided them with local sand, which the pair described as 'fantastic because it was angular - the preferred type of sand'.

Although they create a blueprint beforehand, the sculptors never know how it is going to work out until they start sculpting because the sand is different in each place.

Wirick says the humidity in Hong Kong does not affect the strength of the sculptures.

Apart from the weather and type of sand, key skills and techniques are another very important aspect of the art. 'One needs to learn the tricks and techniques, which take years to learn,' says Wirick, who studied fine arts at the Maryland Institute and has been carving at theme parks for years.

Wirick and Schomaker say that the sculpting process is flexible and they have the freedom to change things around a bit. 'During the process, we may realise that a particular character may not be able to hold the weight of another, so we reconsider the positioning of a character,' Schomaker says.

Wirick, who has been a sand sculptor for 14 years, says: 'This experience at Disney is unique because it's not just about completing the construction of a sculpture, it's about the continuous process that allows interaction with people from Hong Kong'. The pair will be refining their sculptures daily for visitors to see. They say it is the best part of their job because it gives them 'the chance to travel around the world and meet and interact with new people'.

The pair advise budding sand sculptors to start sculpting from the top, use enough water and, while the best tool is your hands, it is useful to invest in a pie-wedge knife and a spade.

Wirick and Schomaker will be displaying their three sand sculptures at different times at Disneyland until August 29, as a part of a huge summer party at the park.

Don't miss out on the other Disneyland attractions, such as 'Stitch & Friends Summer Surprise' and 'Buzz Lightyear Intergalactic Party' among others.

Chitra is a Young Post intern

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