Friday, May 21, 2021

sand sculpture 2021

This year we were lucky to be approved to travel in-state for the Sand Sculpture class.  This class is one of my favorites to teach for a lot of reasons.  Of course, it's great to teach class on the beach and it's really great to teach something you enjoy.  I also love teaching the class because it brings so much joy to our neighboring beach-goers.  And if I'm honest, one of the reasons I love teaching this class is because of the cool connections I get to make with students.

The day after graduation, we packed our cars and headed to the SC coast, driving in the cool rain all the way there.  It was unseasonably cool.  The rain had eased up by the time we arrived, but there was still a bit of a drizzle as we met on the sand for our first class project.

That project went pretty well but everyone was very, very cold.  Most of us had numb fingers and toes and after a few hours of exposure, we were all ready to go warm up.  I had a hot shower before we headed to Habaneros for dinner.

I was up at 6:00 the next morning for my run.  It was about 45 degrees but the sky was clearing and it was looking like it would be a beautiful day.  

By the start of class, the skies were blue and the sun warmed us up a little.  I was so proud of my people all being on time and ready to get to work.

The people on this trip were so great.  I knew most of them already and was lucky to get to know the others pretty quickly.  "Beach McAbee" was in full effect and the McSelfies were good.

I did a lot of marketing to the local news stations and on the very first day, WBTW showed up with a camera and did some interviews.  I volunteered Kennedy to talk and a chunk of her sculpture fell while the dude was there.  She handled it well and was very articulate.

Every year we have some return viewers who happen to vacation during the same days we're in town.  Erica McFarland is a Lander grad from way back (the same year I graduated college) and she finds us each year to say hello.  This year she was wearing her alumni shirt so I got her photo to share with the Alumni Office.  

The first day I made a positive message to hang out for a while.  This one lasted several days until we flattened everything.

My people came out ready to be great and turned out some really strong sand sculptures from the first day.  This was Hannah's bed.

This was Amber's reverse mermaid.

Kennedy's chair that broke in its first form.  Then she very creatively turned it into a "C" and spelled out CHAIR in letters.

Desmond made a giant helmet.

Georgia made a bee hive.

Ashley made a ginormous book with snails.

Asia made a unicorn-elephant.

Dasia had some trouble and decided to turn hers into Eva.

Michael's large octopus.

I promised Dasia lots of ice cream so after our 2nd night dinner, we stopped by Gilbert's.  We were served by another Lander student and enjoyed the ice cream.

Everyone who hears about this class jokes about how it's crazy I get paid to teach a class on the beach and, I mean, I get it.  But it is a week of very hard work for me and for the students.  My days begin at 6:00 am to run and get ready for the 9:00 am start of class.  Class is on the beach from 9:00 to 3:00.  We critique from 3:00 to 4:00, meet for dinner at 5:00, and I'm usually up until midnight sending emails, grading, and preparing for the next day.  Those 6:00 am wake ups are totally worth it though.  It's so beautiful out that early.

Every day through the week the students' muscles get more sore and their bodies get more exhausted.  But every day they're out working hard, trying to top what they did the day before.

There's Taylor spraying her sand with water.

And Ashley sculpting her brain.  The brain broke late in the day and she was given the chance to make something better.  She wisely added a bunch of eyeballs coming out the the brain.

Georgia worked hard and made some fruit with a positive message.

And after working hard all day, it's important to play just as hard.  I brought out the surfboard and offered to let students give it a try.  No one had ever surfed before and Georgia and Kennedy were not afraid to give it a try even with some very rough seas.

Kennedy doesn't always trust me fully but I did keep her alive during her surfing lesson.

We have another annual friend named Denise who sends us photos every year taken from her balcony.  This was the start of the surf lesson.

And this is Kennedy taking off on a wave.

One of the running jokes was that I wasn't much of a planner.  As the only "responsible adult" on the trip it was my job to make sure we didn't die, didn't run out of money, made it to all the things on time, and that we actually learned some stuff along the way.  In my 5th year of teaching this class, I have the gist of things but I'm very flexible with the details.  We saw the opportunity to have a different kind of dinner by ordering casseroles and having a poolside picnic.  I figured out what dishes would make everyone happy, ordered by the deadline and drove to pick up everything we'd need for a cool picnic.  The students were expecting to eat when I returned but instead they got a text that said "unexpected wrinkle.  the food is frozen"  Yeah, I'm not ready to take the heat for that one.  I thought that ordering by the deadline gave them time to thaw and heat the food for you.  I was wrong.  Those puppies were frozen solid.  Luckily one of our rooms had an oven so Chef McAbee went into action.  Just like when a sand sculpture breaks, we figure out how to solve the problem.  An hour and a half later, we all enjoyed a fun hot meal by the pool.  Problem solved.

The next morning we were back at it.  The best way to work out those sore muscles is to keep working!

Every day posed a new challenge.  Students responded to the previous day's feedback and tried new things.  This day Kennedy went big.

And so did Amber!

Amber sketching in her sculpture.

And Kennedy putting the finishing touches on her almost actual sized whale.

Here's something that makes me very happy:  Georgia also decided to go very large. She made a huge pile of sand and packed it and watered it just like she was taught.  She worked all morning on piling up and packing sand.  Then she started carving her forms.  She made a space rocket taking off over a huge half moon.  It was splendid and she was feeling very good about it.  A stranger came over and took a photo of it and immediately the whole right side collapsed.  There was no saving the rocket.  I gave her a moment to be angry and then I gave her the speech about just using the remaining parts as a starting point and making something new out of it.  

She got back to it very quickly.  She repaired the broken side, assessed what she had left, and decided on a new plan to use those forms.  She turned this...

...into this.  The rocket taking off became a bunch of balloons.  Very smart, very determined, very good problem solving skills.

Meanwhile Ashley was totally vibing with the sand.  This was her alligator head.

Taylor got a bit graphic designy with some text.

After class Amber felt froggy and did a little surfing.

Dasia finished up her hippo.

And Taylor gave surfing a try.

This was a special day because I got to introduce everyone to The Grilled Cheese and Crabcake Company.  They were all pretty skeptical of going to a grilled cheese place but as soon as the food touched their mouths, they were all believers.  It did not disappoint.  We may have even picked up lunch from there the following day.

After dinner we headed to Gilligan's Island for some very competitive mini-golf.

Dasia and Michael fought all week.  From the moment they got in my car until the moment we dropped Michael off, they were at each other's throats.  They're the best of friends and they never stop taking shots at each other.  I got to observe their mini-golf battle from the next group back.  It was hilarious.

These ladies were the four amigas all week.

I love Asia.

In fact, I might love all these people.  And doughnuts.

I also love running on the beach at sunrise.

On Sunday we spent several hours at Brookgreen Gardens.  We learned a bit about Anna Hyatt Huntington and what a cool sculptor she was.

And while many of these images show us without masks because we were outside most of the week, we did follow guidelines while inside.  We wanted to make sure we kept everyone safe.

Though they knew me to not be a planner, it was funny how trusting they still were.  As we walked through the gardens and I led them past the wall and into the old rice swamp, no one really questioned my leadership.  Even when we passed the signs about alligators and venomous snakes.

I'm pretty sure we started with 11 people.  Maybe it's best not to count.

They did the labyrinth and met in the center for a quick cult meeting.  They're all so funny.  They made this trip so much fun.


We found this cool rendering of me with my wolf parents.

Then there was the "zoo".  Most of the animals were missing in action but we did find this cool caged Kennedy.  We fed her grilled cheese.  

We walked the entire "zoo" and decided that the walk would be worth it if we got to go in the butterfly house.  After we took a butterfly photo we discovered the butterfly house was locked and you needed a ticket to get in.  Bummer.  What could we do that would heal our disappointment?

Racing each other in go carts would probably do it.

We spent a few hours at the Myrtle Beach Grand Prix and I showed everyone how to drive aggressively.  

This was fun because we all got to "race" each other but the carts all go the same speed (unless you get stuck with the crappy one) and it's really hard to pass unless someone is intentionally going slow. 

I still let them pretend to be winners for the photo.  

And then we were right back at it.

Kennedy's new challenge was to carve the school mascot.

Asia made a heart.

Hannah made our department logo.

And since it was Monday, I made a unicorn butt.

With "Thank You" on the back.

Fun story:  Two young children, maybe around 8 years old talked with us and wanted to make their own sculpture out of sand.  I left them and forgot about them as I made my rounds giving feedback.  When I returned they were gone but they had left their sculpture among our sculptures on the beach.  They made a sand penis.  I was pretty surprised but with a couple of slices with a shovel I was able to turn it into a rocketship.  Thanks guys.

After the giant break of her sculpture the day before, Georgia worked very differently and went flat.  She made a logo first and then when she was finished, she started this new and very interesting experiment.

One of the most important traditions of the trip is a visit to Painter's Ice Cream to get fun temporary tattoos.  This year they had glitter fairy tattoos and we were thrilled to get them.  Thanks to Kennedy for finding a nice gentleman to take this photo for us.

The next morning I got some sunrise photos with the sculptures.  There were two ladies out in front of the sculptures going live with some sort of broadcast.  

I got this one to send to the hotel for their hospitality toward us each year.  I also got to see a fresh sea turtle nest.

Then it was time for the Sand Sculpture Deathmatch.  We divided up into two teams...

...and worked hard all day making sculptures.

Team A made a giant koi fish with lily pads.

The scales were a nice touch.

Team B made a giant octopus.

With shells and seaweed for details.

We let our beach neighbors decide the winning sculpture by votes.  They were all so eager to vote and they really got into it this year.  We had over 40 strangers vote.  Almost every voter told me that both were deserving of the victory.  The octopus finally won when all the votes were cast.

This group wasn't ready to end their beach time.

After dinner we had our annual awards ceremony in the Spirit Room.  I'd love to tell you about it but it's a tradition shrouded in secrecy.  

On our final morning I saw my heron friend for the second time on my run.

We loaded up the cars and grabbed a breakfast at Beach Burgers and BBQ before saying goodbye to Amber and hitting the road.

After a while on the road, we exited in Bishopville and made a visit to Pearl Fryar's Topiary Garden.  

I had heard that Pearl wasn't able to maintain the gardens as he had in the past but I was pleased to find most of the garden in good condition.  We walked the grounds and marveled at his living sculptures.  Then we tried without success to pet a dog.  The dog owner grabbed the dog and told us that if we wanted to talk with Pearl he was at the front door waiting on us.

This was such a great opportunity for my students and I'm so happy we got to talk with him and hear a few stories.  He's so cool.

Sadly neither of us were wearing our sculpture uniforms this time.  

After the garden we all sort of split up and made our way home.  After everyone checked in confirming they had arrived home safely, I was able to relax a bit and reflect.  The students made some outstanding work and they shared that work directly with hundreds of viewers each day.  They engaged viewers in conversation about their work and they spoke articulately.  They were kind, respectful, and they followed my one rule all week.  They are such delightful people and I'm lucky I get to teach them.

End notes:

I totally passed Michael AND Kennedy no matter what Kennedy says.  Desmond will never make a grilled cheese sandwich that can compete with the ones at the beach.  Sand sculpture is hard.  Georgia needs Instagram.