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Learning to Pound Sand Like a Professional

August 18, 2003|Claire Luna | Times Staff Writer

Mister Sandman, bring them a dream.

Or at least teach them how to build it. That was professional sand sculptor Kent Trollen's job Sunday afternoon at Huntington Beach, advising nearly 100 would-be artists in preparation for the city's sandcastle contest in October.

Make it the cutest that they've ever seen.

Well, not just cute, or even awe-inspiring, like the wizard built by two Long Beach men. Making one's sand creation resistant to collapse is as important as an imaginative idea.

"It's about making the sand do what you want it to do, then letting the creative juices flow," Trollen said as he watched students practice their newly learned techniques. He and four assistants from his Seal Beach-based company, Sand Castles Unlimited, roamed among the 20 groups of would-be contestants, supplying guidance and pointing out potential flaws.

The key to manipulating the sand, Trollen said, is water. Lots and lots of water. Pouring it onto the sand as it's formed, so one's sculpture doesn't end up sharing the fate of the short-lived wizard.

As they used putty knives to finish the wizard's lined face and tumbling hair, Rick Emmons, 48, and Roger Moser, 60, drew a small crowd. Their creation would be finished once they removed the cutout trash can that supported the wizard's body.

As the men tugged the can upward, small fissures in the base expanded to chasms. They looked on in dismay as an hour's work collapsed, head and all, into a pile.

"Oh, well," said Moser, shrugging. "It's all play. That's the nature of the medium." The pair went back to work, tamping on the sand to make a futuristic-looking, sharply angled castle.

The "sandcastle workshop" was a misnomer. A sphinx and a sleeping Buddha made appearances, as did an octopus and a pyramid. One group of employees from a Long Beach laser vision correction company couldn't figure out whether their waist-high mound of sand would end up an eyeball or a meatball.

The three-hour class, will be repeated Saturday in Seal Beach and Sept. 21 in Huntington Beach.

Following Trollen's advice to pack the sand hard with her feet, Jaylene Valentine stood in a garbage can planted upside down with the bottom cut out, rotating as her husband, nephew and son tossed in sand and water. "The secret to sandcastles is packing," repeated Valentine, 43.

Although she and her husband have been building sand sculptures for 15 years -- their best work a miniature sand BMW -- they took the class to learn new techniques. Sunday they built a castle with two towers linked by a bridge. But for the Huntington Beach contest Oct. 4, they have a more lavish plan in mind: Sleeping Beauty's castle.

So please turn on your magic beam.

Mister Sandman, bring us a dream.

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