CARLSBAD — World-renowned sand sculptor Gerry Kirk will be carving up fun at the Once Upon a Garden: Faeries and Flowers Celebration and Fairy Parade at The Flower Fields from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 31. “This is the first year we’ve had the parade and I can’t think of anybody better than Gerry to capture the essence of what we are trying to create,” Joni Miringoff, special events coordinator, said. “Gerry’s sculpture is phenomenal. He’s a pioneer who is not only known locally, but internationally.”
Kirk and team member Bruce Phillips will unveil a whimsical, 6 1/2-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide sand sculpture reflecting the local culture titled, “Surfer Gnomes Rule!”Although Kirk is a lifelong resident of Solana Beach, and a San Dieguito High School graduate, he has become a world treasure since the late 1970s when he first began building elaborate sand sculptures on the beaches of Del Mar, Cardiff and Encinitas.
Today, his sand sculptures have captured the imagination of millions from the Netherlands to Dubai (United Arab Emirates), the Caribbean, Mexico, the Gobi Desert, Indonesia, Japan and the South Pacific.
Kirk and his team hold four world records and two European records for both the largest, and tallest, sand sculpture recognized by Guinness World Records. He is also president and founder of the World Sand Sculpting Academy (previously World Sand Sculpting Association) in The Hague, Netherlands.If he hadn’t been a sand sculptor, Kirk says he most likely would have been an art teacher. He earned a bachelor’s in art from San Diego State and 11 credits toward a master’s in education when his career veered off in a new direction.
While he considers himself fortunate to enjoy the lifestyle he has, building sand sculptures around the world has its occupational hazards.
A few years ago he endured 21 days of cold and dampness as he toiled in a subterranean park adjacent to the dyke in the Netherlands while creating a complex, 33-foot-long sculpture of a Neanderthal tribe slaughtering a giant mammoth. And that wasn’t the worst of it.
“In Japan, we were totally wiped out twice by a typhoon,” he said.
“In Long Beach, we (his team, corporate sponsors and building owners) were admiring the beautiful, indoor 20-foot-tower we just finished when it went down. Maybe it was a vibration in the building. You never know about the foundation, whether it was moving or not, but everybody understood. We took photographs before it fell.”
An important factor Kirk takes into consideration is that not all sand is created equally. He says the best sand is right here along the Pacific coast in Southern California.
“Iron oxides make the sand dark,” he said. “You can see that at Cardiff Beach which is gray. In the summertime the rain carries the light-colored sand down the river. That, and the light-colored sand from the Batiquitos Lagoon, mixes with the darker sand on the beach, which makes a great combination because they interlock. This creates an opportunity to stack vertically.”
Kirk says the oddest project he took on was a series of human figures with tails he was asked to create in Denmark.
“It was strange but it came together at the last minute and we got some nice images,” he said.
His proudest project was an intricate, 100-foot sculpture of Gulliver he created on a beach in Japan.
“He was laying face up on his back, and one shoe had a hole in the sole,” Kirk said, chuckling.
Through experience, Kirk says he has learned to avoid projects for political events.
“It takes a long time for the organizers to come up with an image, and it’s usually not till the last minute,” he said. “Afterward people come up, and start yelling at me. They don’t realize that I was just hired to do the job, and don’t like getting in the middle. It takes the fun out of it.”
These days, Kirk, now 74, prefers smaller, local projects. At times, he even contemplates stepping aside altogether and focusing on oil painting.
“Every once in a while I think I want to retire, then I get a call.”