A fleeting masterpiece
The only body of water in Woodstock may be a pond in Emricson park, but the city is home to a very beach-centric record-holder — the builder of the world’s tallest and longest sand sculptures.
Ted Siebert started sand sculpting more than 25 years ago on the West Coast. Since then, he’s literally written the book on the subject — “The Art of Sandcastling” in 1990 — and turned the hobby into a career.
“[The book] is what really got the ball rolling,” said Siebert, who now spends half the year traveling around the world creating sand sculptures. He’s been to more than 30 foreign countries and sculpted everything from “Star Wars” creatures to cathedrals to the Starbucks logo.
“To do this professionally, you have to be good at everything,” said Siebert.
He’s proved his talent throughout the years with his Woodstock business, The Sand Sculpture Company, earning several Guinness world records dating back to 1989.
“Someone said, ‘Well, we should go and break a world record,’” said Siebert.
His team, working in Long Beach, Wash., set out to beat the world’s longest sand sculpture, a record set by a team in Myrtle Beach, S.C., a week before. They beat it with a creation 2.97 miles long.
The next year, Myrtle Beach challenged Siebert and company to an East Coast vs. West Coast sculpting competition. Creating giant dragons 6.53 miles long, The Sand Sculpting Company successfully defended its title.
“They were the size of semi trucks,” said Siebert. “We were on the front page of over 600 newspapers.”
Since then, he’s set records for the world’s tallest sculpture in 1990, 1991 and 1993. In 1998, he decided to add a twist to the task.
“We said there should be a world record for the tallest and [have] a time limit,” said Siebert. One hundred hours later, Siebert’s 24-foot, .2-inch tower — a castle sitting atop a rock base — was crowned the world’s tallest hand-constructed tower in the shortest amount of time. It was built in DuQuoin.
Siebert built his last record-setter in 2008, and he admitted going for records isn’t as meaningful as it once was.
“Some of these records get out of hand,” he said, adding that Guinness doesn’t publish them anymore.
He continues to travel the world, building the granular statues for public and private organizations. His most recent favorite was a festival in Taiwan.
“We did all sorts of sculptures, from space ships and aliens to American Indians,” said Siebert.
In all, he collaborated with artists from around the world to sculpt 4,000 tons of sand into 16 works of art. The experience was a step up in scale from the core group of six people he usually works with.
“The best jobs are the ones where the client gives some leeway,” said Siebert.
Creativity is something Siebert’s job depends on; none of his creations last beyond the next rainstorm.
“‘You do it for the beauty of the moment,’” he said, borrowing a phrase from one of his coworkers. “[Before digital photography], you pray your photos turn out.”
Siebert lives in Woodstock with his wife, Laura, and children Danielle, Nicolas and Gus. Some of his most recent work will be on display at the Stratford Mall in Bloomingdale through January.
For more information on The Sand Sculpting Company, visit www.sandsculpting.com.