Flaming pumpkin Skull - sand sculpture

Halloween is another one of those great Irish pagan festivals that got co-opted by the Catholic Chruch and turned into 'Saints evening'. In Celtic Ireland we had Samhain which was the end of the summer or harvest time and the beginning of Winter. It was a time when the boundary between this and the other world was thinned and spirits and fairies could move freely. Now of course most of this history is forgotten and Halloween is an international festival of ghosts, ghouls and goblins and a celebration of things that scare the crap out of people.

I was asked to make a sand sculpture for an arts festival in Birr, Co, offaly and told do do something Halloweeny as this would be the final night of events.
I was to make it in the courtyard of Birr castle, which is a beautiful location and very historic if you know your astronomy. More about this later.

Just because all I had was a hammer...

Now, of course sand sculpture and Halloween are not usually words that you would see in a sentence together so I had to think of how I could make some sort of connection. I had a fair amount of time as I had to shovel and compact all the sand by hand which took me two days. Shifting 15 tonnes of sand is a good workout for the body but my mind could be doing other things, like coming up with a concept.

What kind of carving is usually associated with Halloween? Pumpkins! A Pumpkin is the most logical thing to work with. not sand. So I first decided to carve a giant pumpkin and once that was finished I could then make a pumpkin carving. This approach was an interesting challenge I set for myself as I had to do all the real carving in the predefined form I had already made. I like to give myself challenges even though I know I am usually the only one who appreciates them. It probably a sign of madness.
Having finished my Pumpkin, which unfortunately I don't have any images of, I set to work at carving it. It was never meant to be anything too high brow just a scary face and a few other details to give it contrast and form. In total I spent five days preparing my pumpkin than carving it.

As the sun went down on the 31st of October and darkness fell I used a collection of firelighters and Candles to bring it to life ...or should I say death. Woohhhahhhahhhahah!

The fire really made it look scaredy (as a my son would say) and helped it be enjoyed by the Trick or Treaters of the night.

As well as the big skull, around the back, I carved evil trees which could also be back lite with fire, adding to their sinister look.


Birr Castle is the location of some of Ireland greatest astronomical finds. In 1845 the Earl of Rosse built the worlds biggest telescope and it remained so for 75 years. He built it with the help of his wife who was very wealthy and designed it in such a way that he could operate it himself using weights a pulleys. One of his best discoveries was the spiral nature of galaxies. Which he painstakingly sketched out while looking through the eyepiece.
Today Birr castle is home to Ireland's part of the LOFAR telescope, a large array of interconnected radio telescopes around Europe creating a super big eye to the universe.
For nerds who want to find out more I've include some links below

Back to the sculpture

In the plain light of day it returned to a normal sand sculpture and was left on display for a few weeks.

It was a nice project to be working on as I don't get to make many sand sculptures at this time of year, usually I change over to Ice or snow as it gets colder but I think Halloween has some great potential for creativity.


Thanks for reading. I use PeakD to document my work as an ephemeral Sculptor of sand, snow and ice, amongst other things. This will hopefully give it a new life on the Hive Blockchain. Below you will find some of my recent posts.

Saint Killian - sand sculpture

Untitled - sand sculpture

The Wizard of Oz- sand sculpture

I hope you'll join me again soon

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