When Fred Dobbs was buried in sand on the beach near Dublin, Ireland, he didn’t just lay there like most five year-olds might. He sculpted a dashboard and steering wheel in front of him, while his father crafted the body of a car.
“When the whole thing was over with, there I was sitting in this sand car down at the beach,” said Dobbs, who would later travel the world working professionally in the medium. “I believe that there’s some connection to why I like to be a sand sculptor.”
Dobbs, a Saanich resident who also works in bronze, is the sculpting director for the Cadboro Bay Festival, which, for the first time on Aug. 11 and 12 includes a sand sculpting competition.
In years past, sculptors have created a single exhibition sculpture along Cadboro Bay beach. This weekend, “Desserted Island,” a 28-tonne dessert-themed sculpture sponsored by Pepper’s Foods, will continue the tradition.
Meanwhile, four other artists will go in head-to-head creating seven-tonne sculptures with themes relating to their sponsors: Shaw, B.C. Hydro, Uptown and the Cadboro Bay Village Business Improvement Association, for which Dobbs will be sculpting. At stake: the people’s choice award bearing the likeness of the much mythologized Cadborosaurus.
Suitable sand for the sculpting – younger, more coarse sand – is trucked in from Duncan. On Friday night before the festival, sculptors will begin adding water and pounding sand into wood forms.
Just those two components, sand and water, are used to create the structures.
A sealer designed to guard against wind and rain damage is sprayed on finished sculptures only to preserve details already carved into the sand. Sealer doesn’t play a role in creating structurally sound pieces.
Sculpting begins Saturday and wraps up by the 3 p.m. deadline on Sunday amidst the fanfare of the Cadboro Bay Festival.
“When you’re a sand sculptor, you are almost given an immediate critique, because you’re sculpting in a performance-type (environment),” Dobbs said. “You typically have people watching you and as you’re moving along through the sculpting process. You’re getting feedback almost immediately.”
While both cold and extreme heat, as well as heavy rains, have been hurdles Dobbs, like any other pro sculptor, has had to overcome on competition day, they haven’t stood in the way of his championships, including a 1993 Guinness World Records title for height.
Before his quarter century spent as a sand sculptor, Dobbs initially pursued work in graphic design, but chose sand over all other mediums.
“Sand affords sculptors the opportunity to be outdoors with other sculptors and to create things quickly,” he said.
See www.saanichsunfest.ca for more information. Free activities run from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at Gyro Park. Saturday also features a street party in Cadboro Bay Village.