I arrived in Billund in Denmark to be greeted by Karsten that helps organise the Danish Sand sculpture event in Søndervig, a place that has miles of beaches stretching to the horizon and wonderful sand dunes with quaint houses nestled within the hillocks. This event has globally one of the best reputations in the sand sculpture community by sand sculptors, the organisers are a family who treat all the carvers to great hospitality, as well as generous creative freedom on the sculptures we make and wonderful food made by Mado the Chef which included a whole sheep. The Founder of the event is Karsten’s grandfather Erik Frederiksen, he is an 85 year old dynamo who is full of energy, in fact I do not believe he is 85 years old at all even though we all sang happy birthday to him and it was announced that he is 85, it is obviously an elaborate lie and he is only 42!
Whist in the car to the site Kartsen relayed to me the list of people that would be at the event and there is always a bunch of people on these international platforms that I haven’t seen in some time, namely Helena Bangert and Kimmo Frosti. Kimmo once said to me “I don’t want to wait until the evening to start living!” and that is why he started making sand and ice sculptures for his job. There was even Jeroen Meijer and Jan Selen that were considered the great sand carvers in the community when I first started 9 years ago. Now they work in other professions but take a holiday to carve here each year because it is such a great event.
Karsten fired my imagination by telling me about the wall of sand. This he described as a compacted wall that was 7 meters high and 165 meters wide. This is a phenomenal amount and I could really only believe it when I finally saw it looming on the horizon as we drove closer, a monster compaction of sand hiding in a giant wooden box that resembles a colossal Roman amphitheater. This is the single largest compacted piece of sand that I have ever seen, and that my colleagues have seen for that matter. Our Sandinyoureye team compacted 120 tonnes of sand a few months ago with great effort, this is something like 6,000 tonnes of sand compacted in 10 days. Unbelievable. But then we still had to carve it.
On the Monday thirty or so sand carvers from across the globe set about the sand pile. I say set about in the loosest sense. We spent most of the day talking about the overall concept which was ‘wonders of the world’ and designing. The wall was neatly divided into 6 individual teams of 3-5 people who would make a scene each. Our team was the last on the pile and I was the last person on the pile finally turning up 8 minutes before the finish of the day because I had been preparing our design. The new boy knows how to make a good first impression!
Our reluctance to be hasty seemed to pay off from the moment go. It is nice working alone as you have total control over what you make. However when working in a team other peoples strengths are often your own weaknesses, if individuals are able to work at what they excel in then you have the potential to make something wonderful. However, if this is not the case and individuals are not able to do what they are good at and there is no clear plan for everyone to move towards then this can lead to de-motivation and in cases under-performance.
I have to say that I was fortunate to have a good team. My strengths are mapping and I am OK with perspective. Kuba Libre from Czech is one of the best finishers in the world and has a fantastic natural flare for composition and flowing lines. Helena Bangert from Holland simply is style and was able to make these fantastic letters that I would never have the patience for. Jeroen Van de Vlag also from Holland is an expert in architecture with Kevin Crawford from America who was a mediator during pressing times! He was also star of the Kevin Crawford Show as journalist after journalist came to him for interviews.
Our chosen ‘wonder’ was the Tower of Babel. Kevin had the original concept of a modern twist with the tower being made out of ancient and modern buildings, Kuba brought in the God figure and I made it fit in a nice perspective which we spent some considerable time re-adjusting, playing with strings and shouting a lots of instructions as well as mapping out the piece so that the 17m sculpture resembled the A4 sketch that we scribbled on the first day. On the whole I think we were very pleased as it seemed to go quite smoothly with the odd fall out here and there, but these artists you know are very passionate and have fiery hearts. Go Team Babylon!