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Sand artists take to Treasure Island for 'Wonderland' sculpture


T he larger-than-life top hat rising from the sand drew plenty of stares Friday, as people gathered to watch sand sculptors Meredith Corson and Dan Doubleday at work.

The pair, who compete nationally and run the Treasure Island-based company Sanding Ovations, was hired to create a replica of the Mad Hatter's hat to celebrate Monday's release of Disney's Alice in Wonderland on DVD and Blu-ray.

They worked to transform the eight tons of sand all day Friday, stopping along the way to answer questions from bystanders. The pair generally charges $1,000 a day, plus expenses.

By day's end, every detail of the sand hat, down to the stitching, patches and plumes, matched the one Johnny Depp wore in the movie, Corson said.

"It's performance art," said Corson, 53, who started dating Doubleday after meeting him at a sculpting competition. "Anyone who watches us do it wants to come back and see the finished result."

Corson talked about her craft with the Times on Wednesday and then demonstrated the sand sculpting process as she carved Friday.

What's a typical day as a sand artist like?

It depends if we have a job or not. If we're not out on the beach doing sand, I'm usually on the computer. A lot of my work is spent on the computer, where Dan is very much the artist. He's the conceptual person. I'm the detail person. If we're doing a job, we're organizing and waiting for dump trucks waiting to drop sand off. We're toting hoses. It's a very physical job.

What happens to the sculpture when it rains?

It doesn't do as much damage as people think it would. Now, if it downpours for hours, you'll probably lose some of the detail, but the basic form will stay the same.

Any tips for casual sand artists?

They have to find good sand. The only way I can explain it is if you can make a ball of sand — what we call a Florida snowball — get it wet enough but not too wet. If you can throw it up in the air and it doesn't crack, you can do something with it. The key is water. You absolutely need water.

Sara Gregory can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or

Fast facts

If you go

The Mad Hatter sculpture can be found behind the Bilmar Beach Resort Hotel, 10650 Gulf Blvd. in Treasure Island. It will be taken down Sunday.

On the Web

To see how the sculpture is made, go to

Sand artists take to Treasure Island for 'Wonderland' sculpture 05/28/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 29, 2010 1:19pm]
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