Artisans: Sand Sculptor Marianne Knight
Marianne Knight travels the world like a modern-day Midas, turning the sand on our shores into garish and glittery creations.
Photo by Jim Freeman
Years in Southwest Florida: 13
Years as a sand sculptor: 11
The first rule of sand sculpting is simple: Don’t get attached. Professional sand sculptor Marianne Knight knows the rule, and yet she can’t seem to stop breaking it.
“I don’t want to be there when it’s coming down—especially if it’s a piece I really liked,” she says, adding, “I can’t watch.”
Aside from this one flaw, she’s a by-the-book sand artist, with her exacting technique earning her a bevy of awards and competition titles. Together with her husband, Bill Knight (who is also a master sculptor), Marianne Knight travels the world like a modern-day Midas, turning the sand on our shores into garish and—when the light is just right—glittery creations.
“The first contest we ever did we entered the amateur division at the Fort Myers Beach competition and we placed; that really got us started. I’d basically learned by watching the master sculptors in previous years and playing in the sand at the beach. We just watched and asked questions.”
No Day at the Beach
“It is a lot of hard work. It’s not just mixing sand and water; you have to pack the sand down really hard and that’s a lot of work. You use these 25-pound tampers to pack the sand and it’s exhausting—but if you don’t pack it well the whole thing could collapse.”
The Couple That Sculpts Together...
“Mostly my husband and I complement each other. He’s more of a nuts-and-bolts guy; he’s good at the architecture. I’m good at visualizing things and doing detail work. Of course, it doesn’t always go smoothly. If someone tells you they haven’t had tough times with their partner, they’re lying.”
Win, Lose but Don’t Make Me Draw
“I’ve always been artistic; I used to do a lot of wood burning. But I cannot draw worth a damn. When I draw it looks like kindergarten art.”
The Sand Lot
“The sand you’re using makes a big difference in what you can do. I recently had a client mail me four different sand samples so we could choose which one we wanted to work with. On this side of the state, we have some of the best sand for sand sculpting. Over on the East Coast, it’s courser and you can’t go as high.”
Don’t Let the Sands of Time Rush You
“If you want to be a good sand sculptor, first and foremost what you need is patience. You can’t hurry it—if you hurry you’re going to have a collapse.”
Go with the Grain
“What makes me good at this is that I don’t fight the sand. I figure out what kind of sand I have and I work with it, instead of having an idea and trying to force the sand to do what I want it to do. I’m also very visual—if you give me a picture of something, I can make it.”