Circles in the Sand

My family has been vacationing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina almost every summer for the past twenty-five years. And for the past few years I spearheaded the creation of a fairly large sand sculpture, recruiting members of my family who were willing to lend a hand. They weren’t anything amazing, but they were fun.

This year nobody, myself included, seemed interested in sand sculpting. I went into the week thinking it would be fun to try and create a large-scale anamorphic design—a warped image that only looks correct when viewed from one specific position—on the beach. And when we arrived to find the shoreline full of washed-up seaweed, I knew what I had to do. I figured I’d keep it simple and create a basic shape—a circle. Looking back, that was a rather difficult choice, but I wanted a challenge.

Gathering clumps of seaweed I formed my circle bit by bit, constantly running back to my base viewpoint to correct and confirm. Finally I had my circle. You can see the photo below. And while you may think it looks taller than it is wide, it’s an optical illusion. It’s quite circular. But I only focused on the shape of the circle. To do it correctly, I would have had to adjust the line’s width as well, making the distant portions of the line much thicker so that when viewed from the base point, the line would appear to have the same thickness for the entire circumference. Without that, it’s difficult for the brain to ignore the landscape on which the shape exists. The actual finished shape was 90 feet tall by 15 feet wide.

When viewed from the right angle, this 90' x 15' shape looks like a circle
Dried up seaweed was used to create this anamorphic circle on the beach.

That got my wheels spinning and I considered using the circle as an artistic theme for the week. I had no other specific ideas in mind, but as I walked back from the beach, I found a weathered piece of wood floating in a puddle. It was a cross section of a wooden pole—a circle! My next piece was taking shape. I brought it inside, dried it out, and brainstormed what to do with it. I developed a piece of typography that spelled my daughter’s name. Hidden in the name is “2014,” the year of her birth. Using a silver Sharpie, I wrote the text on the wood. My second circle was complete.

Wooden pole cross section with custom lettering applied
The word “Shiloh” and the year “2014” both appear on this slice of wood discovered by the shore.

I was on a roll. So what next? Well, it’s hard not to use the sand. I dug a round trench near the edge of the water to see what would happen when a wave filled it up. The foam from the wave filled up half of it and the foam stuck around for a few seconds before being sucked up by the sand. I dug a new circle closer to the ocean and this time was ready with a camera. I made the circle a bit too big to fit in the camera frame, but was able to capture most of it as this time the foam totally filled the circle.

A circle is formed by collecting sea foam in a trench
Circle created using the foam from a wave

If you follow this site at all, you know I love working with wood. I decided to scavenge the beach for small remnants of wood. Oh, there was plenty of leftover firewood from midnight partiers, but that’s not what I wanted. I wanted small, weathered pieces of driftwood or other interesting, natural wood scraps. The variety I found was fascinating—from sea-smoothed scraps to dried-up cactus root. I took them inside on a table that was painted the perfect shade of blue, and proceeded to arrange them in a pleasing configuration, the borders of which formed a circle. This turned out even better than I had hoped. I’ll probably recreate this in the future and give it to someone as a gift.

Wood scraps are positioned to form a circle
Driftwood and other found wood was arranged to form a circle.

My final two circles were not exactly physical creations, but simply photographs. One made use of bottle caps found discarded on the beach which were assembled digitally into a four-quadrant circle. And the final circle was a photo of the reflection of the sun as seen in a puddle. As the sun had seldom appeared during our week-long adventure, it seemed like an appropriate way to celebrate its presence.

Bottle caps and sunshine forming circles of their own
A collage of litter and the sun’s reflection were also included in the collection of circles.

This was a very fun, creative exercise. I’m naturally very theme oriented, so this was right up my alley. And I always like a creative challenge. I got a few odd stares (mainly from my family), but that’s half the fun, right?

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