SANDOLOGIST: Empire Vale's Steve Machell has made a career out of sand sculpting which he started 20 years ago on a beach on St Kilda, Melbourne.
SANDOLOGIST: Empire Vale's Steve Machell has made a career out of sand sculpting which he started 20 years ago on a beach on St Kilda, Melbourne.

Millions of tiny grains of sand build one cool career

STEVE Machell literally makes sand castles for a living - but don't ever call him a beach bum.

He's one of a select number of Australians who make their living sculpting sand and salt water into imaginative and ephemeral works of art.

His CV includes trips to Dubai to carve 260 tonnes of sand into a replica of the extravagant Dubai skyline, and carving a life-size replica of Mark Webber's Formula 1 car which the star driver could sit in.

And it all started quite randomly 20 years ago when the then uni student was travelling around Australia and happened to be playing with sand on St Kilda beach in Melbourne.

"Basically me and my mate were mucking around on the beach and we made an octopus, and someone walked past and offered us some money ... so I sort of took off from there," he said.

"I was doing computers at uni and didn't really want a job in that field, so as soon as I made my first one or two sculptures I thought, 'this is me, I'll see what I can make out of it' ... I stuck at it and honed my skills.

"I managed to make a living off it straight away with the busking, and then slowly got offered beach weddings, corporate team building, kids' workshops, things at festivals, things for advertising.

"After a couple of years of travelling round to all the busy beaches in Australia I ended up in Byron Bay.

"It's a bit of a niche, there's probably only a dozen people in Australia who make a living out of it. We quite often work together when we've got a big job, it's always fun to see different people's styles and share trade techniques.

"I guess for me is a big part of the appeal - which many people don't understand - is how can I spend so much time producing something which is not going to last.

"My general reply is, 'it's a pretty good office'.

"For me it's about the ephemeral thing, it's the moment and I manage to get paid for the creation and don't have a product at the end. It's quite a unique way of making art, of not having anything at the end. It's just sand and water."



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