Our next project was a sand sculpture festival in Usedom, just on the German/Polish boarder. We travelled to the hotel in Poland, where we would be staying for the next two weeks and took a walk to explore. The area we were staying, was by the beach, a pretty beautiful beach, unspoilt by buildings and too much tourism. We walked along as it was getting dark, amused by the seagulls chattering away to each other. Their mannerisms reminded me of a colony of penguins, it was very funny a sweet to watch. We then walked along the promenade back towards the hotel for an early night, as we had another two weeks worth of carving to go and we needed our energy.
The next day we all went off in taxis to the site. We were all split off into teams and given projects to work on. This festival was about stories from the Bible, which meant lots of figurative work. This was great for Jamie, as it’s a good opportunity for him to work on very complex pieces and study anatomy. For me, pretty new to sand sculpture, it was terrifying! I can’t make people yet!!! Our first project was part of a scene for Adam and Eve. Francisco was making Adam and Eve and we were making the angel and the Garden of Eden. Phew……..I began making a huge apple tree, while Jamie concentrated on the angel. He explained to me how you map out a face and body and how to work out proportions. We also looked around at how other sculptors were approaching their pieces, some clearly mapping out everything in a logical way and others simply taking it in a more organic way.
After 4 or 5 days, the Garden of Eden was finished. We moved on to another sculpture. The Angel Gabriel visiting Mary to tell her she was pregnant with the Son of God. We acted out poses for how this could look. Jamie’s acting skills are certainly better than mine, he made a lovely Mary! My challenge was to block out the figure of Mary. This tested the lessons Jamie had taught me about proportions and scale. It was very difficult at first. Blocking out the main shape of a figure is very difficult, as you can easily get lost and before you know it, you have chopped off an arm! I worked slowly at first, worried to cut away too much, but eventually I had to listen to Jamie and be a bit braver and more confident with the sand I was cutting away. This advice worked, as the more sand you get rid of, the more you can see the figure emerge.
The inspiration for Gabriel’s head came in the form of Ralf. Ralf is a fork lift truck driver, for the compaction team, who get everything prepared in the tents, compact all the sand in it’s correct locations and set everything up for the festival. He is German and speaks little English, but over the years, he and Jamie have developed a bond. We were sat with him at lunchtime and Jamie decided Ralf should be Gabriel, he then started taking photos of him from different angles. Ralf seemed embarrassed by the attention, but allowed him to carry on. Jamie then started to create the angel. People started to notice the likeness of the sculpture and Ralf, it was really starting to take shape. Ralf kept walking past and shyly glancing at the figure that was emerging.
Meanwhile, I was set to work creating Gabriel’s wings. This was a good project for me to tackle, as I had to use many different skills to make them and they had to be the same on both sides, so I needed to be in full control over what I was carving. I was happy with the outcome and thought they looked rather good. During this couple of days unfortunately, sickness travelled through the team. A few of us had woken suffering from a fever and quite a nasty cough, including me. It was really hard to keep on working, as we all really needed to be resting and keeping warm, but we had a job to finish, so we did. You could hear the terrible coughing echoing through the tents. After a few days we all started to recover and things began to get easier. Jamie finished Gabriel just as Ralf was due to finish his part of the project. Ralf came to say goodbye and they both took pictures together with the sculpture. We then had to move on to our final piece. As we were running out of time, we were joined in the last couple of days by another sculptor, Marina. We were to make Moses and the Pharaoh. Moses throws down his staff in front of the Pharaoh and it turns into a snake. We completed the sculpture in time and even had a little time on the last day to look around at what other people had created. The standard of work I saw on this project was really high. The figurative work some people can create from sand is incredible.
This project was made really enjoyable by the hospitality of the Dani and Oliver, who were running this festival. They both really worked hard to make sure everyone was happy and looked after us. The day Dani bought throat pastels and painkillers in for everyone who was ill, I could have married her! On the last evening they hosted a BBQ for everyone. Unfortunately we didn’t know they hadn’t even constructed the BBQ’s yet and as everyone had been drinking champagne, this became quite a challenge. Jamie and I took one BBQ (the most needlessly over engineered BBQ’s ever) and two ex engineers took the other one. We won and put ours together first, although we had put the legs on wrong and didn’t bother with the shelves, it worked! That night everyone ate and drank and chatted together and said their goodbyes, as the next day after one month together we all went back to our different homes around Europe, until next year.
This month has been incredible for me. I have learnt so much and worked really hard to try and get the most out of this experience. I met some great people and some new friends. I will never forget it. I thank Thomas for inviting me onto the project and giving me such a great opportunity and Martin for all of his help, advice and great challenges he set me. He is a star.