Sand Sculpting with Art by Riki

Art by Riki Sand Sculpting ClassWhen I was a child, my family would go to Huntington Beach in Southern California. Sometimes, we would swim. Sometimes we would play frisbee. Other times we would make sand castles. No matter what, we always had a great time at the beach. When I heard about the Sand Sculpture Classes being presented by Art by Riki, I was looking forward to bringing my children to enjoy the sand castles I had enjoyed during my childhood. I thought that building a Sand Sculpture with Art by Riki was going to be a similar experience. Boy, was I wrong. The only things that building a sand castle with my family and creating a sand sculpture with Art by RIki have in common were the beach and the sand. Building a sand sculpture is way better than making a sand castle.

Riki and Tommy Inzano, the wife and husband team behind Art by Riki, conduct the classes right on the beach. Together with their five year old son, Ian, the Inzanos teach sand sculpture classes to families, couples, singles, and corporate groups all over the island. As long as there are sand and running water, they can conduct a class.

Setting up for the sand sculpting class takes Riki and Tommy about an hour. It takes that long for them to rake and flatten the sand, clear away any debris that might interfere with the sand sculptures, and prepare the buckets used by the class to create the actual forms. Tommy also needs some time to set up his custom built sand sculpting sprinkler system. This keeps the sand damp and the guests cool.

At Riki’s recommendation, I arrived an hour before class so I could learn some of the secrets that go into the preparation for an Art by RIki Sand Sculpting Class. The key components are, of course, the sand and the water. Equally important is the level surface of the sand. If the sand slopes, than the sculptures will tilt and may fracture. If the sand has too many twigs, rocks, or shells, they will weaken the structure. What’s more, if a twig is sticking out of your sculpture, you will be tempted to pull it out. If this occurs, the removal of the twig may cause more harm than good. In other words, the whole thing could collapse. If there are too many rocks or shells, they may lead to “dry” spots. Dry spots spell disaster for a sand sculpture. Dry sand can’t be sculpted. Dry sand simply falls apart. Damp or moist sand is the only sand that can be sculpted.

Once the sandy area, where the Art by Riki Sand Sculpting Class will take place, is cleared and leveled, the class stations can be set up. This step involves creating the sculpting stations that will be used by the participants of the Art by Riki class. With a maximum of ten stations, each Art by Riki Sand Sculpting Class maintains a high level of class participation and personal attention. Riki and Tommy Inzano do whatever they can to ensure that every member of their class receives the personal attention needed to be successful.

Now that the sand was level, Tommy set out black buckets that we would fill with sand and water. He placed a plastic bag with our sand carving tools next to the buckets, and the stations were set up. The Art by Riki Sand Sculpture Class was ready to begin. Tommy had set up six stations for the class and one station for Riki to demonstrate the techniques for the class. WIth two students per station, the class size was going to be perfect. We even had a few observers who were just scheduled to watch and enjoy.

The beach where the class was held was in Lahaina, just south of the Lahaina Shores Beach Resort. The day was perfect. People started arriving and, like a family reunion, started greeting each other like long lost relatives. In reality, the only common bond we had was the soon to begin Sand Sculpting Class. Even as arrivals continued, Riki took control of the class. She instructed everyone to select a spot on the beach with a black bucket and bag of sand sculpting tools. Next, she demonstrated the proper way to begin preparing the sand.

There is a real technique to getting the sand ready for sculpting. She and Tommy are “hands on” instructors and made their way around to all the stations and helped when needed and as necessary. Even Ian helped the others by demonstrating the proper way to add sand and water to the buckets. The process is designed to create sand that can be molded like clay. Too dry, it will fall apart; too wet, it will ooze and melt away. With just the right balance between water and sand and with all the twigs, rocks, and shells removed, the sand is perfect for sculpting.

We poured sand into the buckets and added an equal amount of water. We then reached into the bucket with our hands and mixed the sand with the water. We removed any floating debris: twigs, leaves, cigarette butts (disgusting), paper, and other light items. As we mixed the water, if we felt large rocks, shells, and other items too heavy to come to the surface, we removed them, as well. We let the water settle and drain into the sand below. Our first level of packed sand was complete. It takes about six or seven layers to fill the bucket. The entire process of preparing the sand for the Sand Sculpting class took nearly a full hour — or about half the class. It was a lot of fun. From what Riki explained it was also therapeutic. Kind of like gardening. Only dirtier and better.

Once all of the stations had prepared their sand, it was time to remove the black buckets and take a look at the sand blocks we would be carving. This is a lot easier than it sounds. If the bucket doesn’t come off smoothly, it can damage the sand before the sculpture even gets started. This is where Tommy’s innovative approach to sand sculpting becomes increasingly valuable.

Tommy created a system that involves an interior lining to the to the plain black bucket. This lining fits inside the bucket and forms around the sand blocks. Once in place, the lining protects the block of sand from being damaged when the black bucket is removed. Ingenious. WIth no friction from the sand, the black bucket is removed from the interior lining. The interior lining can then be removed from the sand without damaging the sand block. As rule, all the buckets must be removed at the same time, or as close the the same time as possible. This prevents any of the blocks from drying out while waiting for the rest of the class to complete their preparation. It also ensures that the class starts with everyone on the same page.

Riki took charge of the class once all the black buckets had been removed. She complimented us on completing the first, and very important, part of our class. The next part was to create the actual sand sculptures. Each class creates one of ten sand designs. The one chosen for this class was “Taro the Honu” a Hawaiian green sea turtle. All the characters are incredible cute and easy to carve.

Side Note: Custom characters can also be created. Art by Riki created sand sculptures of all the team mascots for the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational basketball tournament held here in Lahaina. Contact Art by Riki directly for more specific information and pricing.

Before we started, Riki told us a few general rules for the class. It is very important to go slow and take your time when creating a sand sculpture. Take off a little bit of sand at a time. Don’t rush; take your time. And most importantly, don’t get ahead of the instructor. She repeated the rules several times to make sure we all understood. It’s not that the sculptures wouldn’t turn out if we didn’t follow the rules. It’s just that if you follow the rules you will have more fun during the class.

RIki instructed us to draw a circle on the top of the sand block. This would become the head of the honu sculpture. She showed us how to round the top of the sand block to begin shaping it. The key is to remove a little bit of sand at a time. “It’s not about building. It’s about carving away anything that looks like it doesn’t belong,” Riki instructed. She constantly and consistently reminded us to remove a little at a time. Like shaving the ice from a shave ice, we gradually removed the sand that would not be part of our sculptures.

Included in our plastic tool bag was a “silicon particle accelerator” that we used to removed the little bits of sand from the sculpture. To the untrained eye, it looked just like a little plastic drinking straw. To sand sculptors like us, it was an incredibly valuable tool of the trade.

Once the blocks of sand we were carving all had their tops carved a bit, RIki instructed us to pick a spot about one third of the way down from the top. She than had us draw a line all the way around the block. This, she informed us, would be Taro’s head. The lower two-thirds would be his body, arms, and legs. She demonstrated how to removed a small amount of sand at a time to create the beginnings of a turtle head.

Riki reminded us to work all the way around the sculpture. If you stay in one spot, the sculpture won’t develop the way it needs to. Since the sand sculptures are three dimensional, it is important to work on all the different sides. “Take your time,” Riki reminded us. “Get a feel for your tools.”

Riki spent an equal amount of time creating the demonstration sculpture and helping us with our sculptures. She made a point to come around to all of our stations to offer tips and pointers. The most important point was, of course, to have fun. Riki also made sure that everyone was learning at their level. The age range of sand sculptors was five to fifty (ish) and we all experienced the class in a different way. My wife was very serious about how she shaped her turtle. She was very precise and sculpted with a very precise touch. My daughter and her best friend worked as a team to create their version of a Hawaiian green sea turtle. And my sons worked together and enjoyed the process without really caring about the outcome They simply wanted to have as much fun as possible. By the way, all three sand sculptures turned out great. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Riki’s hands on approach and her cordial affable manner make the Art by Riki
Sand Sculpting Class an incredible Maui activity for the entire family.

As we grew more comfortable with our tools and their effects on our sand sculptures, Riki instructed us to decide which direction our turtles were facing. This would help us to create the details of the sand forms with which we were working. Once we decided, we drew lines to separate the front from the back of our turtles. Next we turned our focus to creating the details of our turtle’s face.

Riki instructed us to draw a circle for our turtle’s nose and two upside down “U”s to make the eyes. If we wanted to be a little more creative, we were free to draw other shapes, but the basic shapes were the circle and the upside down “U”. One of Riki’s tips was to remind us to gently draw in the sand and then go over the drawing again. This way, the line becomes gradually deeper. The key here is gradually. If you try to dig into the sculpture, it could cause structural weaknesses in the sand. By gradually digging deeper and deeper, the structural integrity remains strong.

We removed the sand, from the face, that wasn’t the nose. A small scraper (homemade from a paper clip attached to a popsicle stick with a rubber band) was the perfect tool for this task. We used the silicon particle accelerator to blow away the “sandruff” or extra sand sprinkles from our sculptures. Very slowly and meticulously, we removed the sand that didn’t belong as part of our turtles.

Every so often, Tommy would announce it was time to make sure the sand was still wet. He then went to every station and sprayed them down with water. The water pressure was very gentle. No sand was removed during this process. The end result was sand that was easier to sculpt. Riki made the rounds to all the sculpting stations to make sure we were all keeping up with, but not getting ahead of the class.

The arms and legs of our Hawaiian green sea turtles were next on the list. We watched Riki carve the demonstration sculpture to get an idea of what to do. Then we got to work on our own turtles. By now, there were definite discernible sculptures on the beach. Everyone was having fun; the kids were starting to get a little tired.

By now, the sand sculpting class was nearing an end and the turtle sculptures were nearing completion. We added the finishing touches to the shell and the fins. Some of us created additional implements for the turtles to hold. Another created a surfboard underneath their turtle so it looked like he was surfing. Others simple left the turtles as they were. All of them turned out great, clearly a tribute to the skill and patience of our teachers.

We left the turtles in the sand. Not sure if they would be there the next day and not really caring. The class was about creating temporary art that could be enjoyed in the moment. The transitory nature of the sand sculpture to be enjoyed in memory. The memories of the class to be enjoyed for a lifetime.

Sand Sculpting with Art by Riki
Sand Sculpture Class

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About Maury Hoffman |Things to Do on Maui | Restaurant and Activity Reviews

Senior Editor of 808 Reviews and freelance travel writer, Maury Hoffman lives on Maui with his familiy, iPad, iPhone, and other gadgets. His writing proficiency is directly related to the quality of his morning coffee. He prefers Peet's Coffee, but also enjoys Living Java.

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