Making spheres from sand

Victoria sculptor tries new tool and technique at the PNE

Victoria sculptor Fred Dobbs' creation 'A Lure' took fourth place in Parksville's sand sculpting competition. He will represent Victoria alongside the best sand sculptors from the province at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver.

An innovative new tool for sand sculpting is making it possible for local sand sculptor Fred Dobbs to attempt a masterpiece he’s had on his mind for the last 10 years. He’ll be presenting his masterpiece, titled Squeaky Clean at the Pacific National Exhibition sand sculpting competition, Aug. 20 to Sept. 5.

Dobbs’ vision for Squeaky Clean is to sculpt a group of mice doing dishes in a washtub. Two of the mice are pouring soap into the tub, but they’ve gone too far and suds are bubbling out everywhere. The new tool, called a “Willysphere,” will allow Dobbs to create perfect sand spheres, or bubbles.

“I had this idea and I wanted it to come into fruition but you can’t always tell if your idea will turn out as a sculpture,” he says. “I didn’t know how I was going to carve perfect spheres in sand until the Willysphere came along. I’ve had this idea for a long time and I’ve just been waiting for technology to catch up and because of this tool I can see my idea come to 3-D life.”

Dobbs will be competing in this solo competition against the best sculptors in the province, including Andrew Briggs and Greg Jacklin of Victoria.

The sculptors will arrive at the fair Aug. 17 and will have a few days to sculpt before the gates are open. On Sunday, Aug. 21 patrons will have a chance to see the sculptors in action, while they put the finishing touches on their works. The finished sculptures will be on display until the fair closes.

Dobbs lived in Dublin, Ireland as a child. It was in Ireland that he made his foray into sand sculpture.

“My whole family was at the beach. My dad buried me in sand up to my chest and built a sports car around me. I was on the inside designing the dash and steering wheel. I was hooked,” he says.

He moved to Canada and ended up in Victoria in the 60’s. Dobbs worked as a competitive sand sculptor for years before leaving the competitive arena to work as a professional. His sculptures have appeared at festivals, fairs and shopping centres in Canada, The United States, Mexico, Australia, Germany, and Japan.

Dobbs decided to go back to competition in recent years and recently competed at the Quality Foods Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition in Parksville. His approximately 15-tonne mermaid sculpture, called A Lure, took fourth place in the solo category.

“Sand sculpting is really entertaining for people of all ages,” says Dobbs. “And because the PNE is free for children 13 and under, it’s also affordable for families from Victoria to come over and check it out.

Dobbs studied fine arts at the Victoria College of Art and commercial art at Camosun College in the late 70’s. He’s also a fine art sculptor who works out of Nathan Scott’s studio in Central Saanich. M

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