I do not have a single artistic bone in my entire body, so I am always amazed by the talent and creativity of some artists, especially the likes of street artists and others whose art is … shall we say not quite traditional. So, I was impressed by the work of Anna Chan, a jeweler and designer. The New York-based artist, not having much work during the height of the pandemic, went to Robert Moses State Park, where she would spend her days by the beach. There she started sand sculpting as she had an idea to create 12 art pieces for a 2021 calendar. Soon this evolved into “an obsession”: creating beautiful, symmetrical mosaics and real-life animal portraits. I hope you enjoy Anna’s creative works and that it starts your weekend out with a smile!
The portraits are so detailed that one might only wonder how long it takes to make one mosaic. According to Anna, larger creations take a minimum of 3 days to a week or more.
“The mosaic work looks simple once completed but finding the right shell piece to fit into space can be challenging. When I first started at the beach, I was able to complete them in 5-6 hours from collecting shells to finished sculpture, but my work has since evolved and become more detailed and dimensional, which requires extra care and precision while putting it together.”
“Sand by nature doesn’t hold shape so the challenge is to compact the sand with water so it’s solid enough to endure the long mosaic process. The challenge is making sure the sand is moist just enough to be compact but not too wet or dry that it will fall apart. And like putting together a puzzle, finding the right shell piece for the right space takes time, and sometimes I have to collect more to find the right fit. Since nothing is holding the shells in place but the damp sand, some areas that are vertical sand wall may take several tries to get the shells to stay in place and it can fall apart with the slightest touch. So, a steady hand and lots of patience is key”.
Creating things from what nature gives you is as difficult as it is interesting. The question is where to start? What comes first? The idea or the material? What Anna does first is she collects seashells of different shapes and colors to match the idea she has. After this, she models the shape of the animal from the sand:
“I enjoy this part of the process the most as sand is such a fun medium to work with. It is very forgiving and shapes easily without tools. However, the sculpture is only half finished without the shell embellishments. I liken it to putting a puzzle together, every piece has its place and they all have to fit perfectly to create a mosaic effect. It is akin to inlay work in jewelry, which I’m very fond of. The final step is to make them permanent, which I’m fine tuning the process at this point.”
Where do these animal sculptures go after they are finished? Her first pieces were disassembled as they were ephemeral, but now, since her art is permanent, it all can be found in her home garage, where she spends her time working on these mosaics.
“I still have to refine my process to make the larger sculptures permanent, so hopefully in the near future, they will find a place in a gallery wall or a collector’s home.”
“As an artist, it is my mission to keep pushing the boundaries. I have only worked with sand for one year but I feel a true connection to this medium I have never felt with anything else before. There’s nothing more liberating than creating using just my bare hands and seeing my ideas come to life.”
“I have so many ideas and directions I want 03to try with sand. I want to bring my sand technique back to my roots as a jeweler and make some experimental pieces. Also, my goal is to lift the sand off the flat surface so it won’t be just a bas relief but a 3-dimensional sculpture. I envision my work in 6 months will be very different from what it is today, but equally delightful.”
One of the things she will present in the future is a sand kit that will be found on www.annachan-art.com.