Peter Volegaar began sculpting 27 years ago, and since then has taken home six trophies from Parksville sand sculpting competitions. (Emily Vance photo)

‘What people create in 30 hours is amazing’: six-time sand sculpting champion

The inside scoop on a delicate art with former solo division winner

The NEWS sat down with Peter Vogelaar, winner of the solo division in the 2018 Quality Foods Sand Sculpting Competition, for a deeper look at the joys and challenges of working with sand. Vogelaar won the solo division last year with his sculpture of Jimi Hendix, entitled Hendrix Live – Wild Thing.

Vogelaar’s sculpture this year, of a sandcastle flanked by a mermaid and a sea dragon, is entitled Beneath the Waves.

What’s the most difficult thing about working with sand as a medium?

I’m always pushing, pushing for height, or pushing for something dangerous. And then when you take the bottom form off, it starts to crack, and some of the people have had collapses here. So far mine has stayed up.

It’s very vertical, and very tall. Everywhere you go the sand is different… I’m always an optimist. I’m always thinking the sand is really good. This sand is pretty good. The stuff we’re doing with it is pretty amazing, but still, it’s got some qualities that scare me a little bit.

What’s the most rewarding thing about sand as a medium?

It’s just how much you can do in a short time. If you look at my piece, even with all the preparation and the shovelling, in thirty hours you can produce so much. You look around at all these pieces – what people create in 30 hours is amazing. So that’s what I like about sand.

What kind of tools do you use?

Quite a variety. The main tool is a small trowel that’s sort of adapted from masonry. To do that wavy sand bottom I use a big spoon, artist pallet knives. A little shovel is always good. And then there’s odd things like garden tools. And I made little loopy tools out of banding and stuff. Sometimes you actually make a tool for a job.

What other mediums do you sculpt in?

Everything. Concrete, stone, steel, bronze, ice, snow. I don’t carve wood, but pretty much everything else.

How does weather factor in?

I have a harder time with the heat. It’s funny because sand sculptors are generally working on hot beaches. They think that snow sculpting is so awful because it’s so cold, but I can dress for the cold. I can’t dress for the heat.

What’s it like having all these people watch you?

I’m a ham. (laughs) I think most of us are quite used to it. I’ve been sculpting in public for almost 30 years. I started with snow 27 years ago. And you’re always getting either stupid questions, or good comments, or both. It’s part of it. Very, very rarely you get a heckler.

Did you sculpt this in advance, did you have plans, or did you just go with it?

I did a little bit of research. I’ve done a few castles but not too many. I looked at some of those. I looked at an underseas scene that a friend did in Virginia. Just to sort of get some things that I could incorporate. I really wanted to put in more fish. That was one thing I didn’t have. But I ended up with a sea dragon, and that wasn’t planned. (laughs)

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