Mark Mason, a sculptor and architect of a sort, has built elaborate castles around the world. Eventually, though, they wash away.
This sandcastle expert and leader of a company called Team Sandtastic has been making a living from his artful sand-and-water creations for more than two decades – along with “three others on the team and nine independent contractors who are juggling gigs all across the globe,” he says.
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“As a business it’s not 9 to 5,” says Mason. “It’s admittedly feast or famine.” His team’s sand-building fees for sculptures created at theme parks, fairs, shopping centers, corporate headquarters, weddings and more range from tens of thousands of dollars for “large, long-term events that attract national media” to “trade-out if we want to visit the location and ‘put a pin in the map’ there.”
The group will be doing just that at the end of July for the American Embassy in Haiti when they “craft something fun and photogenic,” he says. At the venue after the build, they’ll share hands-on sand sculpting tips with the public to get onlookers engaged.
Mason’s group is booked solid for nine summer weekends in a row and recently built a jaw-dropping sculpture for Busch Gardens in Tampa. They also did a “sand clinic” team-building event for a group in Miami at the Loews Resort on South Beach and built castles in the sand for companies such as LinkedIn and Univision, as well as a Louisiana casino, earlier in June. Just par for the course.
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“In business you get jobs by having jobs,” says Mason. “We’ve got the latter – so the former are lining up to get on our calendar.”
Mason, 49, grew up in Fort Lauderdale and admits he loved playing in a sandbox as a kid. This father of two has parlayed a child-like fascination into a company that builds roughly 75 structures a year and in 1998 earned a Guinness World Record for tallest hand-built structure in under 100 sculptor hours for a structure 28 feet and 7 ¼ inches tall at Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park – a project that required 5 days, 240 tons of sand, and absolutely no machinery, such as bobcats or front-end loaders.
Kitchen spatulas, melon ballers, other fine cooking tools – bring ‘em on for the highly precise work that professional sandcastle builders can hack.
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“This is a hobby gone crazy and most people can’t fathom how making ephemeral art as simple as sand sculpting could ever be lucrative,” says Mason. Then people see the group’s creations – “and it’s shock and awe that we’ve taken the age-old tactic of turning a sand bucket upside down” and wowed people with it.
“You tell me a more fun and unique business to be in and I’ll find the time to apprentice,” adds Mason. “Until then, professional sand sculptor will be my title.”
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