Wow. What a field!
For 2016, we have 3 new international Master Sculptors joining us for the first time, and one new American (and he’s coming a long distance too, all the way from that paradise on the other coast some folks call Florida).
Our newest competitors are Katsuhiko Chaen from Japan, Agnese Rudzite-Kirillova from Latvia, Benjamin Probanza from Spain (now living in Mexico) and Thomas Koet – he’s the guy from Melbourne, on the big peninsula, just below Georgia (not the one in Australia).
Katsuhiko and Agnese are following in the footsteps of previous U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge winners from the Far East and Latvia. Let’s see if they can fill those very big shoes!
2015 saw Melineige Beauregard from Canada take almost all the marbles at our event, winning Grand Prize, Peoples’ Choice and Sculptors’ Choice awards for her amazing 4-part sculpture, ‘In the Zone’. She’ll be back this year. In 2014, JOOheng Tan from Singapore took the Grand Prize with a ground-breaking sculpture called ‘Seed’. (Sorry about the pun, but it’s true.) In 2013, the Latvian, Sandis Kondrats (he lives in the States now), won with his ‘Synergy’ sculpture (top of page left), while American Rusty Croft took the honor the year before with ‘Home is Where the Heart is’ (page top right).
Find more info below on each of the hugely talented sand artists who will be or have visited with us on the beautiful downtown San Diego waterfront, along with links to learn more about them and see more of their work. In a word, it’s totally amazing . . . oops, 2 words.
Helena Bangert/Netherlands • Melineige Beauregard/Canada • Dan Belcher/St. Louis • Katsuhiko Chaen/Japan • Michela Ciappini/Italy • Rusty Croft/Carmel, CA • Ilya Filimontsev/Russia • John Gowdy/Italy and Atlantic City, NJ • Chris Guinto/Key West, FL • Joris Kivits/Netherlands and Mexico • Thomas Koet/Melbourne, FL • Sandis Kondrats/Latvia and Seattle • Sue McGrew/Seattle • Fergus Mulvany/Ireland • Bruce Phillips/Carlsbad, CA • Benjamin Probanza/Spain and Mexico • Kirk Rademaker/Stinson Beach, CA • Morgan Rudluff/Santa Cruz, CA • Agnese Rudzite-Kirillova/Latvia • Susanne Ruseler/Holland • JOOheng Tan/Singapore
Sculpting Since: 2000
Although Helena studied sculpting and installation art at the prestigious Rietveld Art Academy in Amsterdam, she admits she never considered sculpting in sand. It wasn’t until 2000, two years after she graduated, when she was asked to create a sculpture at a retirement home for seamen, that her interest in the medium was piqued. “It was in a small coastal village, so sand just made sense.” “We clicked,” she said about her relationship with the material.
In 2002 she entered the Sand Sculpture Festival in Italy and won 1st prize from the jury. Since then Helena has continued to amass prizes for her sand sculptures and has delved into snow and ice sculpting as well. While having a plan for a sand sculpture is important, Helena loves the medium’s flexibility. “I’ll start somewhere but then see something that takes me in a different direction.” What she sees invariably translates into something beautiful for our eyes too!
- 2nd Place in Doubles with Joo Heng Tan at the 2010 World Championship of Sand Sculpting – Washington
- 1st place in Solo Speed Carving at the 2010 Internationales Sandskulpturenfestival – Rorschach, Switzerland, 2010
- 2nd Place Solo at the 2010 International Sand Sculpting Competition – Moscow, Russia
- 1st Place in Doubles with Carl Jara at the 2008 Neptune Festival – Virginia Beach, VA
- Many more
Sculpting Since: 2001
Location: Quebec, Canada
Some believe sand sculpting is art, some believe it’s a sport. While others, like Melineige, believe it’s a spiritual experience. “When my hands touch the material, when my heart opens to give life, when my head is illuminated by light, I become the co-creator of the universe,” she said. “An artist is one who spiritualizes matter.” She should know. Art is in her blood. Her father is internationally renowned sculptor Guy Beauregard, and like her father, she too has achieved international success. In fact, in 2004 the father-daughter duo teamed to win the World Championship in the doubles category. Since then she has won several individual awards and in 2011 she was Grand Champion of the “Quick Sand’ competition at the World Championship of Sand Sculpting in Florida. “For me, art is a means of communication, a way to transmit the energy of life, to affirm its vastness and its beauty,” she waxed poetically.
- 2nd place World Masters Class at the 2013 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge – San Diego
- Grand Champion of the 2011 “Quick Sand’ competition at the World Championship of Sand Sculpting – Sarasota, Florida
- 1st place Solo at the 2011 Canadian Sand Sculpting Competition
- 3rd place Solo at the International Competition of Sand Sculpting – Canada
Sculpting since: 1990
Location: St. Louis, MO, USA
Dan has been creating professional sand sculptures across the continent and around the globe for 25 years. He says he is honored to have learned from many pioneers of the art form, and now to have the privilege of collaborating with a family of many of the best new, talented sand sculptors on the planet.
Honored indeed. He is among the world’s most awarded sand artists. “Sand sculpture is a test—it can flow like a dance, or feel like a wrestling match. It is an exhilarating, physical, and creative endeavor; a wonderful process and an awe-inspiring product; a means of calm focus, and a cause of frustration. Remember— no magic, no tricks— just effort and desire.”
Dan is also an accomplished landscape architect and urban planner (degreed from Kansas State University) and is a founding partner in a microbrewery in Wentzville, MO. Carving sand. Brewing beer. Enjoying good friends. What else is there?
- 14 world championships
- 3 solos in a row (2005, ’06, ’07)
- 2 doubles and 9 team championships
On the web:
Sculpting Since: 1987
A 1983 graduate of Musashino Art University in Tokyo, Katsu has become one of the leading sand sculptors in the world. He is also a renowned producer and director of amazing events that have been staged, not only in Japan, but also in Singapore, India, Kuwait, Italy, Holland, Canada and here in the U.S.
He has been honored as “One of 100 Japanese individuals the World Respects”. In his home country, he pioneered modern sand sculpting when he founded the Fukiage-hame Sand Festival in 1987, which ran continuously until 2002. Since 2006, he has been Executive Producer of the Tottori Sand Dunes Sand Museum, the only venue of its kind in the world. In 2014 he brought together the world’s leading sculptors to participate in a ground-breaking Tri-National Celebration in Yokohama, featuring historical figures from Japan, South Korea and China.
The U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge is itself honored to have Katsu come to San Diego to compete against other amazing sculptors worldwide and some of the best sculptors in our country.
- 2015 – 2nd place, Bulgaria
- 2013 – 2nd place and People’s Choice, Copenhagen
- 2011 – People’s Choice, Slovakia
- 2010 – 1st place, Virginia Beach and Matera, Italy
- 2008 – 1st place, Harrison Hot Springs, Canada and Matera, Italy
- 2006 – 2nd place doubles, Quebec
- 1999 – 1st place, Singapore
- Many more awards from around the globe
On the Web: http://www.sand-museum.jp/en/?page_id=68
Sculpting Since: 2003
Michela’s artistic ambition was simple. She wanted to draw. And so she did, studying at the Art Institute in Italy. But it was during a scenery course that she discovered a new direction for her creativity. She worked as a set designer on several productions, creating background paintings and sculptures.
Then, in 2003, while at the beach near her home, she began carving sand as a way to visualize her ideas for stage sets. “I used sand sculpting as a way to train myself as an artist,” Michela said. Soon Michela was hooked on the beauty of the medium.
And now art lovers throughout the world are hooked on the beauty that Michela creates in sand, as she carves incredible variations of the human form. “There are so many different styles of composition,” she said. “It’s amazing what you can do with only sand and water.” Amazing, indeed.
- First place doubles with Joris Kivits, 2012 Neptune Festival, Virginia Beach
- Third place solo, 2012 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge, San Diego
Sculpting Since: 1997
Location: Carmel, California
When your first project sets a world record, you know you’re onto something big. Such was the case with Rusty Croft, an Iowa kid who became an ice sculptor in Partyville, sometimes known as Park City, Utah. Partying came to an end (not exactly) when he was smitten by his bride-to-be. They emigrated to Carmel, CA, where without ice, Rusty turned to sculpting sand. (Tough life.)
His first professional gig was in San Diego in 1997 where he worked with an international team creating the world-record setting sculpture, “The Lost City of Atlantis” (a 20-acre recreation of the paradise buried beneath the sea). He went on to sculpt and win awards all over the world and become one of the preeminent personalities in the art.
Despite his success, Rusty still remembers how intrigued he was when he saw his first sand sculpture. “I was instantly in love,” he recalls. Now he hopes that his work will inspire and motivate a new generation of sand sculptors. “My motto is ‘dig in and make art,’” he said. “It’s that simple.”
- Grand prize and People’s Choice winner, World Masters Class, 2012 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge
- With Kirk Rademaker, co-owner of Sand Guys, the sand sculpture and team-builder firm that serves legendary Silicon Valley corporations like Yahoo!, Google and Facebook
- Co-host of Sand Masters on The Travel Channel
- Appeared on Good Morning America and featured in Sunset, Phoenix Home and Garden and American Lifestyles magazines
Sculpting since: 2005
Location: Moscow, Russia
After studying at the art college in Moscow, Ilya worked as a jeweler/goldsmith designing and making jewelry for 7 years. While working as a jeweler he started making ice sculptures and found the combination of traveling and sculpting enjoyable. He quit the jewelry job and continued to study sculpture for 6 more years at the Moscow State Academic Art Institute of Surikov.
Now one of the world’s top sand artists, he is in demand all over the globe.
- 2014 — 3 1st place awards (Taiwan, Finland, Toronto) plus one 2nd (Neptune Festival, Virginia Beach)
- 2013 — 1st (Toronto), 2nd (Italy, 3rd (Holland)
- Many, many other honors dating back to his first year sculpting
Sculpting Since: 1990
Location: Jersey Boy, now living in Italy
John isn’t your average retired Atlantic City firefighter. In fact, there’s nothing average about John at all. He’s been fighting fires since 1980 and sculpting sand since 1990. He retired as a Fire Captain in 2006, moved to Italy and became a full-time (and already internationally acclaimed) artist in several media. He sculpts in marble, as well as sand.
And he paints the world’s leading personalities in minutes, using a technique he calls “Flying Colors.”
John has helped bring sand sculpting into the public consciousness with appearances on The Discovery Channel, the syndicated Martha Stewart Show, and The Travel Channel’s Sand Wars. He’s a hero in his native Atlantic City, and to sand aficionados everywhere.
- Many first place awards worldwide as both amateur and professional
- Winner of “Sand Wars” on The Travel Channel
- Performed his “Flying Colors” for Queen Elizabeth on her Diamond Jubilee
Sculpting Since: 2000
Location: Key West, FL
The U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge welcomes Chris Guinto to its solo World Masters Class competition in 2014.
After several opportunities to have a career in different artistic fields, Chris chose to become a sand sculptor . . . one who pushes the envelope through unique design and amazing height, consistently “raising the bar”. With a background in special effects and fine art, he combines the two in creative sculptures that show sometimes familiar scenes in a fresh and original way.
Chris was one of the stars in the widely acclaimed television series ‘Sand Masters’, ‘Sand Wars’ & ‘Sand Blasters’ on the Travel and Discovery Channels.
He’s married to another award-winning Master Sculptor, Marianne van den Broek. She’s the one who holds the Guiness Book record for the tallest solo sculpture at 58’ 6”. Married since 2002 and sculpting around the world, together they reach new heights.
Sculpting Since: 2006
Photographer? Graphic designer? Art director? Illustrator? Sculptor? Like most sand sculptors, Joris is…first and foremost…an artist. Whatever the medium, whatever the project, he believes that beauty should shine through. This mentality has guided his career in movies and television, in commercials and music videos, and has carried over into his work with sand. Although Joris has only been sculpting sand since 2006, he has already had several notable achievements in competitions throughout the world. Recently, Joris has gotten involved with sculpting marble, which he admits is a very different medium: “This will be around for a while,” Joris says. “But sand is like live theater…you enjoy it while it’s happening and then it only lives in your heart and mind.”
- Won juried and peoples choice awards in Italy, Germany and Russia
- First place doubles with Michela Ciappini, 2012 Neptune Festival, Virginia Beach
- Also competed in England, Belgium, Portugal, the World Championships in Washington (solo and doubles)
- Exhibited at the Sport/Fashion/Live-stile Event in Germany
Sculpting Since: 1996
Location: Melbourne, FL
A native Dutchman, Tom Koet has a Masters degree in Industrial Engineering from the world famous UT Delft University in the Netherlands and went on to become a designer and sculptor for some of Europe’s and North America’s largest sand sculpting events.
He is the founder, executive director and active sculptor for Sandsational Sand Sculpting, a firm that works with Fortune 500 companies, museums, resorts, shopping malls, marketing agencies and others who wish to use the art to improve image or employee relationships, gain consumer attention or build traffic. He and the firm specialize in large-scale projects and in figures and faces with a wide variety of expressions.
A fierce competitor, Thomas has won many first place, sculptor’s choice and other titles in contests worldwide. His ability and talent have taken him all over Europe and the U.S. as well as China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia the Middle East and Canada. He is most proud of winning the World Championship of Sand Sculpting in Federal Way, Washington in 2010, competing against 27 artists from 17 countries.
- 2014 – 2nd place, solo, Tournament of Champions, Toronto
- 2012 – 3rd place and Sculptor’s Choice, USA Team, Neptune Festival, Virginia Beach, VA
- 2011 – 2nd place, solo, Tournament of Champions, Toronto
- 2010 – 1st place, solo, World Championship of Sand Sculpting, Federal Way, WA, 1st place and People’s Choice, Tournament of Champions, Toronto, 1st place, USA solo, Art of Sand, Cape Canaveral, FL
- 2009 – 1st place, People’s Choice, Sculptors’ Choice, USA Team, Port Aransas, TX, 2nd place and Sculptors’ Choice, Canada Team, Quebec
- 2008 – 3 1st place awards, 2 2nd place awards, 3 People’s Choice awards, 1 Sculptors’ Choice, events in U.S. and Germany
- 2001-2007 – 17 more
On the Web: www.Sandsational.com
Sculpting Since: 2001
World traveler, sculptor and entrepreneur, Sandis studied art for more than 16 years, starting at age 9. He holds multiple Masters of Arts degrees from the Art Academy of Latvia.
He has sculpted at contests, festivals and exhibitions all around the world, served as artistic and technical director for numerous sculpting festivals in Europe, as President of the Baltic Association of Sand Sculpture and CEO of the Frostiart Baltic Company.
Traveling the world enables Sandis to learn more about other cultures, religions and traditions. He loves to challenge social, political and cultural assumptions, and tell stories with his art.
He works in many media and respects the nature of each. He is fascinated by the diversity of materials and technical opportunities of the 21st century.
Sandis is currently working on a social art project “the Latvian Story” and is writing a book “Anatomy for Sculptors”. His energy and passion are boundless.
- Grand Prize World Masters Class, 2013 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge – San Diego
- Named “Best Sculptor” – Cannon Beach, OR, 2012
- Numerous additional awards for his sculptures in snow, ice, sand and stone
Sculpting Since: High School
Location: Tacoma, Washington
High School love doesn’t tend to last, but for Sue McGrew it hasn’t just lasted…it’s thrived. She got a taste of sand sculpting in high school and was immediately smitten. “I was hopelessly addicted,” she admitted. And that love only grew when she went to USC to study Theatre-Stage Management (with a minor in Sculpture of course). After getting her BFA, Sue focused on sand sculpting and entered competitions with great success.
She is one of the youngest professional sand sculptors in the world and has also shown prowess in snow and ice sculpting. “I think you never stop growing . . . I want to grow as an artist across all media,” she said. She has been featured on Sand Masters on The Travel Channel, as well as Sandblaster III – The Extreme Sand Sculpting Competition. With talent, skill and youth all on her side, Sue has become a major player in competitive sand sculpting.
- Regular on the televised show Sand Masters on The Travel Channel
- Appeared on The Travel Channel’s television show Sandblaster III – The Extreme Sand Sculpting Competition
- 1st Place at the 2012 Sand Fest in Texas
- 2nd Place at the 2011 Windemere Classic in Washington
Sculpting Since: 1993
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Fate works in funny ways. Fergus Mulvany never thought about sand sculpting while studying fine art in Dublin. Even as a child, he was never drawn to playing in the sand at the beach. But Fergus’ name was randomly drawn from those of hundreds of students to participate in a sand festival held in Holland in 1993. And since that fateful event, he has developed a passion for the gritty stuff, competing all over the world. Of course he works in other media as well. During winter, Fergus focuses on snow and ice sculptures and works with more traditional materials such as steel, wood, cement and glass. Regardless of the material, Fergus’s creative philosophy remains the same, “I’m guided by an organic process rather than a strict idea,” he said. And of course, sometimes he’s simply guided by fate.
- 2nd place and Sculptors’ Choice awards, World Masters Class, 2012 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge, San Diego
- Sculptors’ Choice Award, 3 consecutive years, Sand World Festival, Weymouth, England
- 1st prize at the 2011 Tournament of Champions in Washington
- 4th prize at the 2011 U.S. Championships in Florida
- Sculptor’s Choice Award at the 2011 Solo International Championships in Moscow, Russia
Bruce has been involved in the art of sand sculpting for over 20 years (well over . . . but don’t tell him we said that). He is known throughout the world, from Tokyo to Amsterdam. He creates amazing works of art at festivals and competitions, and does corporate and private events as well. In addition to sand, Bruce has fabricated sculptures from small to very large scale in a wide variety of other media
He says he has enjoyed watching sand sculpture evolve into a major performing arts attraction. And performance is what he’s all about. Because some of the other media that he’s involved in are steel, iron and aluminum, fiberglass, glass, rubber , gasoline and oil . . . have you guessed . . . rolling works of art that some people call hotrods and custom cars.
In the world of sand, Bruce has won the 3-member division of the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition 7 times, and holds no less than 5 world records. Oh, and he won the People’s Choice award for Best Masters Sculpture of 2013 right here at the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge. ‘Nuf said?
Sculpting Since: 1988
Location: Mexico City
Born in Spain in 1963, Benjamin was attracted to art while still in the cradle. While just a teenager, he performed painting exhibitions in his hometown of San Sebastian.
He discovered sand sculpting at 25, and has been a leading figure in this art ever since. In 1997, he participated in the first International Competition in the Canary Islands and took 2nd place. (He has won dozens of awards since then.) In 1998, he began consulting and producing festivals around the globe. He has left his mark in places as diverse as Belgium and Indonesia, Holland and Colombia, Mexico and Qatar, the U.S. and China.
In addition to sand sculpting, Sr. Probanza works in stop-motion animation with sand, clay and other materials. He builds miniature models and does macro-photography. He’s into toy design and new technologies. He is certainly one of the most interesting men in the world, and may well be the model for a new Marvel superhero.
- Lifetime Achievement Award from World Sand Sculpture Association – 2003
- 2014 – 1st prize, Key West, FL
- 2012 – 2nd prize, Treasure Island, St. Petersburg, FL
- 2010 – 1st prize, Treasure Island
- 2009 – 2nd prize, Vancouver, B.C.
- Many many additional awards over a span of more than 20 years
Sculpting Since: 1997
Location: Stinson Beach, California
When your nickname is “The Sand Guy” you’ve got to be good. Of course, greatness doesn’t just happen overnight. He was a fine carpenter, a cabinet maker, but he had the capacity to be even more creative. His mission would be to carve.
In 1997 Kirk decided to quit his day job and focus on his dream. He transferred his technical knowledge of building and began to amass critical and professional success in the world of sand carving. Kirk specializes in recreating buildings and structures, of course, but his innovative and intricate designs and his “fantastical mechanical machines” are his trademark. With his pedigree, it’s no surprise that The Travel Channel tabbed him to be a regular on the television series, Sand Masters and thus the “Sand Guy” has become a true “Sand Master.”
- “World’s Best Architecture” and 9 other World Masters awards
- Star of Sand Masters on The Travel Channel
- Appeared on the Today show with Jane Pauley
Sculpting since: 2007
Location: Santa Cruz, CA, USA
Morgan is a born an’ raised California girl. She likes beaches, flowers, avocados, fruit and bare feet. After dropping out of college in 2007, Morgan stumbled into sand sculpting (or it could be said that sand sculpting stumbled into her.) It began an immediate love affair, and though not always career-monogamous, sand sculpting has had her heart through the current day.
Like many of her incredibly talented peers, this profession has taken her around the world, in front of television cameras, and deep into the caverns of dream-like circumstance. She considers herself to be quite fortunate and rich in many ways. There have been medals won and articles written; but also many long days, many callouses, and many sunburns to float it all along!
As time permits, Morgan also pursues snow and ice sculpting, clothing and costume design/construction, creative writing, kitchen witchery, scrap paper doodling, street theater, global backpacking, martini-infused philosophizing and rocking out on her ukulele.
- 6 top-3 finishes in 2014 alone, including 1st place awards at Texas Sandfest, Soft Pack Championship and Sand Castle Days in Florida
- Appeared in every episode of the Travel Channel series, Sand Masters
Sculpting Since: 2000
Agnese loves to sculpt! The material is almost immaterial. She works in permanent media like metal, fiberglass, wood, bronze and stone. She works in temporary media like ice and snow … and of course, sand. Then there’s Styrofoam and mixed media. You name it.
She has worked throughout Europe (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland) and way away from home in places like Kuwait and the U.S. She loves the huge scale that can be achieved in group exhibitions, but enjoys solo and doubles competition as well. She loves to travel around the world and introduce people to her art.
While welded metal is perhaps her favorite medium (it allows her to “turn the hardness of big objects to lightness and transparency”), Agnese has, incredibly, won numerous awards for her work in 6 different media. She just could be one of the most versatile and talented artists on the planet! We welcome her to San Diego and the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge.
- 2015 — 1st place International Sand Sculpture Festival, Jelgava, Latvia
- 2014 — 1st place, International Sand Sculpture Festival, Petrozavodsk, Russia Peoples’ Choice, International Sand Sculpture Festival, Kalmar, Sweden
- 2013 — 1st place, Women’s Masters ‘QuickSand’ Competition, Ft. Myers, FL
- 2011 — 1st place, 13th International Sand Sculpture Festival, Rorschach, Switzerland 1st prize, 10th International Sand Sculpture Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia
- Many other honors dating back to her first year sculpting
Sculpting since: 2003
Location: the Netherlands
While studying biology in college, Susanne Ruseler discovered that her true passion was not in dissecting animals but in honoring them via sculpture. She used several media in her quest to represent and beautify human beings and all creatures, sculpting in snow, ice, and sand. “I really enjoy alternating between materials but sand is my first love,” says Susanne.
And so, after graduation, she started a sculpture company and has been making fantastic, albeit temporary, art ever since. Her work now takes her all over the world, to places like St. Petersburg and Madrid, Tel Aviv and South Korea, where she creates intricate works, often involving the combination of many figures to create one comprehensive scene.
- Concentrated in recent years on major projects, rather than contests
- Still has an amazing 28 top 3 awards in contests worldwide in past 10 years, including 12 1st place finishes
On the web:
Sculpting since: 2000
2014 is the debut for JOOheng Tan at the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge and we are immensely proud to have him here.
Hailed as Vincent Sand Gogh by the London Daily Mail, JOOheng Tan fell in love with the art of sand sculpting in the late ‘90s. His debut in 2000 saw him attain first prize in the International Sand Sculpting Competition in the Netherlands. As a result of his fueling passion for sand sculpting, JOOheng’s works have been showcased in over 50 cities across more than 20 countries.
There are no signs of stopping for this sand sculptor extraordinaire as in front of him lie plenty of prizes in sand sculpting championships around the world.
- First prize 2013 Neptune Festival, Virginia Beach
- First prize doubles with Brian Turnbough, 2013 World Championship of Sand Sculpting, Atlantic City
- First prize solo, 2012 Fulong Int’l. Sand Sculpting Championship, Taipei, Taiwan
- First prize, 2011 World Championship of Sand Sculpting, Federal Way, WA
- First prize, 2011 World Sand Sculpting Championship, Minamisatsuma, Japan
- First prize, 2008 World Sand Sculpting Championship, Leipzig, Germany
- Many more