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Sand sculptors groom grains at Nanaimo's Woodgrove Centre

Shakia Pearson, 7, left, Mackenzie Pinckney, 7, and Ryker Pearson, 9, get some tips on how to make a really great sandcastle from sand sculptor Craig Mutch, right, as his teammate Fred Dobbs, background, packs sand into a mould for a giant sand sculpture being created at Woodgrove Centre Friday morning. - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Shakia Pearson, 7, left, Mackenzie Pinckney, 7, and Ryker Pearson, 9, get some tips on how to make a really great sandcastle from sand sculptor Craig Mutch, right, as his teammate Fred Dobbs, background, packs sand into a mould for a giant sand sculpture being created at Woodgrove Centre Friday morning.
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Woodgrove Centre customers and staff are getting down to the nitty gritty as a giant sand sculpture takes shape in the shopping centre this week.

Craig Mutch, internationally renowned sand sculptor from Vancouver, and his teammate Fred Dobbs of Victoria are crafting 17 tons of sand into a giant sandcastle at centre court near the water clock.

Work on the sand sculpture, which depicts a boy boosting his friend up the side of a sandcastle to get at a big ice cream cone at the top, started Friday and will be finished Wednesday (July 10).

During the build Woodgrove Centre is hosting kids' sand sculpting demonstrations Saturday and Sunday (July 6-7) 11-11:30 a.m. and 2-2:30 p.m. when they can learn sand sculpting techniques directly from Mutch. Children 12 and under can also receive free pails and shovels until supplies run out.

Mutch, formerly a commercial sports, weddings and product photographer, and founder of Sand Sculpture Canada, is hired to create his masterpieces at major events such as the 2010 Winter Olympics and major businesses and organizations around the world. He recently returned to Canada from a commission at the Helsinki Zoo in Finland.

"I love doing this and I get paid to do it," Mutch said. "It doesn't get much better than that."

The complex and delicate shapes carved from the packed sand are held together simply by adding water and compressing the sand in moulds as the basic form of the structure is built up. The compressed sand can hold its shape for weeks if left undisturbed.

Mutch said for outdoor sculptures he will spray a thin layer of diluted white glue for protection from the elements.

"Just like the paint doesn't hold up a house, the glue only adds some mild protection from rain and wind," Mutch said.

The sculpture, intended as a fun summer event for Woodgrove Centre as well as a promotion for the Quality Foods Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition in Parksville July 13 to Aug. 18,  will remain on display at the mall until July 28.

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