For Greg Grady the beach isn’t just a place to stick an umbrella in the sand and enjoy the ocean. For him the beach is a place to create and display his – and others – fabulous sand sculptures. A masters-level professional sand sculptor, one of a handful in the world, Grady is the driving force behind the hugely successful Hampton Beach competition held each June. If you’d like to build a sand sculpture yourself, he’ll give you a lesson. Also, he offers his talents for group build events, birthday parties, weddings, grand openings or wherever wonderful whimsy is needed.
What’s the secret for holding the sand together for sculpting? You’re only as good as the sand you have. You know it’s good if you make a ball with wet sand and hold it with two fingers and it doesn’t fall apart.
Does the competition use Hampton Beach sand? No, I get it from a Hudson company. They have sand with sharp edges, rather than round like at Hampton Beach. Sharp edges hold the water; round edges don’t. Water is the glue.
So if it rains, that’s good. Yes. Sun and wind are the real problems. The sun dries the sculpture out and the wind blows it away. To combat that we spray the sculptures with a mixture of 10 percent Elmer’s glue and 90 percent water after they are completed.
How hard is it to organize the competition? It’s all-consuming. I’ve already started to organize next year’s competition.
Do you sculpt things other than sand? I sculpt a lot of different mediums – sand, snow, ice, stone, wood. I love working with clay. I’ll do anything you put in front of me.
Are you still competing? I do still compete. I’m just very fussy about where I go.
What’s the best place on the beach to build something? North Beach in Hampton, Wallis Sands beach in Rye and by the jetty at the Hampton State Park are great spots because they collect the natural silt and sediments.
How did you get started? When I went to the beach with my dad, I wasn’t one to just lie on the beach. One day I started sculpting the family dog and, after that, I was trying to learn how to get better. When I was older – I had some art background by then – I tried to create things I saw on TV. Finally I started entering competitions and never looked back.
Do you still sculpt things for pleasure? Yes, all the time. I did this past weekend. It’s relaxing.