Sand sculpture artists Jessie Ara and Dan Eyles, of Byron Bay, at Sharps Beach with the dragon they created for children from the C3 Church in Ballina for the church’s family activity day.
Sand sculpture artists Jessie Ara and Dan Eyles, of Byron Bay, at Sharps Beach with the dragon they created for children from the C3 Church in Ballina for the church’s family activity day. Jerad Williams

Sandcastle artist builds a career

BUILDING sandcastles for a living sounds like the fantasy of a six-year-old on summer holiday – but for 34-year-old Dan Eyles, it’s a real job.

Armed with just a shovel and bucket, spatula and skewers, Mr Eyles transforms the sand into mermaids and dragons, turtles and trucks – to the delight of beach-goers, both young and old.

For the past 11 years, the former Central Coast cabinet-maker has been sculpting on the Gold Coast under the tutelage of four-times world champion sand sculptor Dennis Massoud. However, six weeks ago the tide turned for Mr Eyles and his partner, Jessi Ara, when his permit to sculpt was voided by changes to Gold Coast City Council regulations.

The artist has now arrived on our shores and his talent has been welcomed by visiting schoolies and local families, including children from the C3 Ballina Church, who invited Mr Eyles to host a sand-sculpting activity day at Sharps Beach on Saturday.

“We were living on the streets after the Gold Coast council stopped us from sculpting – but Byron Bay is based on art, so we came down here,” Mr Eyles said.

Mr Eyles has been entertaining schoolies visiting Byron Bay’s Main Beach with his sand creations, made from whatever natural materials are at hand.

“Some sculptors mix the sand with fibreglass resin, but we don’t do that, it’s just sand and water,” he said.

“Dennis Massoud describes it as a spiritual thing – you get into a completely different zone when you’re sculpting.

“Sand-building gives me a freedom. I had it rough growing up, but with this work, even when you don’t make money from it, there’s a feel-good aspect to it. It makes people happy.”

It took four and a half hours for Mr Eyles and Ms Ara to complete their giant fire-breathing dragon on Saturday – further practice for Mr Eyles’ goal of competing in the 2011 Sand Sculpting Festival World Championships.

“To enter I have to win two awards first and I’ve already won the People’s Choice Award at the Swell Sculpture Show,” he said.

Mr Eyles is available for workshops and commissions on 0413 290 766.



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