Sand sculptor returns to Tupper’s BeachFest

TUPPER LAKE – This weekend’s second annual BeachFest will begin with a day-long sand sculpting demonstration.

First, sand sculptor Phil Singer will pack sand into a 6-foot-high pile on Little Wolf beach. Singer will wet the sand down, and then he will get to work.

“You’re always battling against the clock,” Singer said. “I’m going to be working on this for a day and a half, so I have that limited time to work. You have to work your way down from the top, because everything falls on whatever you’re doing below. You have to kind of just time yourself so you can put the detail you want in and you still get the whole sculpture done in time.”

Singer will sculpt throughout the day, using clay sculpting tools to etch details into the moist sand pile. When he finishes Saturday morning, the nondescript mound will have metamorphosed into a recreation of a sketch Singer made of a black bear scooping a fish out of a stream. If there’s time, he might even add some trees and a beaver dam to the sculpture.

It’s Singer’s second time creating a sand sculpture in Tupper Lake, but he’s been sculpting his entire life. He began doing it professionally about five years ago.

“It starts out by having a grandmother in Daytona Beach, Florida, and going on vacations and playing in the sand as a kid,” Singer said. “By the time I hit my teenage years, they started to get pretty big.”

The sand castles evolved into more elaborate structures, and soon Singer was broadening his horizons by sculpting animals and dragons. Singer’s present-day work, like the lumberjack he created for last year’s BeachFest, is the product of years of perfecting his technique.

The artist insists that sand sculpting is something anyone can pick up, though, and he encourages people to watch him sculpt. Casual observers often walk away with a trick or two, like using a paint brush to create smooth surfaces or using a straw to gently blow grains of sand off of intricate patterns.

Those intricate patterns take time to create, but they don’t always take time to destroy. Some sand sculptures last months, while others are washed away by the first heavy rainfall. Singer said he’s used to the transitory nature of his craft.

“Growing up doing this I was on the beach, and when the tide came in the sculpture went away, so I’m kind of used to it,” Singer said. “As long as pictures are taken and as long as I get a couple of good pictures of it, I’m going to be happy.”

To see Singer’s work, visit