See Hannah’s ‘sandiwork’ all year round

  • Calendar girl: Hannah Emmerson, organiser of the Bermuda Sandcastle Competition, has released a calendar featuring her designs (Photograph supplied)

    Calendar girl: Hannah Emmerson, organiser of the Bermuda Sandcastle Competition, has released a calendar featuring her designs (Photograph supplied)

  • Available now: Bermuda Sandcastle Competition organiser Hannah Emmerson has created a calendar of her many builds (Photograph supplied)

    Available now: Bermuda Sandcastle Competition organiser Hannah Emmerson has created a calendar of her many builds (Photograph supplied)

  • Creative contemplation: one of Hannah’s more spiritual sand creations (Photograph supplied)

    Creative contemplation: one of Hannah’s more spiritual sand creations (Photograph supplied)

  • Hannah Emmerson at work (Photograph supplied)

    Hannah Emmerson at work (Photograph supplied)

  • Hannah Emmerson, organiser of the Bermuda Sandcastle Competition, has released a calendar featuring her designs (Photograph supplied)

    Hannah Emmerson, organiser of the Bermuda Sandcastle Competition, has released a calendar featuring her designs (Photograph supplied)


Hannah Emmerson started building about 20 years ago.

She and her best friend, Erika Jenkinson Matatall, had just graduated from art school. Eager for something new, they decided to enter the Bermuda Sandcastle Competition.

To their surprise they won. So, they kept entering.

“It was just something fun we did and looked forward to every year and challenged ourselves,” Ms Emmerson said.

She and her boyfriend, Mikal Thomas, jumped at the chance to organise the annual event when founder Nicky Gurrett decided to retire a few years ago.

The job brought the challenge of promoting the competition year round, “to keep people interested and inspired”. With that came the idea of creating a calendar.

“I spend a lot of time on the beach building — in sunshine, in showers,” said Ms Emmerson, who posts her creations on the competition’s Facebook and Instagram pages. “I try to get out there, if not every weekend, every other weekend.”

She gets her inspiration from holidays, from current events, even movies; stormtroopers and Chewbacca have both featured on Star Wars Day.

“I keep a list of running ideas, of suggestions,” she said. “I love it when people say you should do this or that. It’s been an interesting journey of discovery and with every sandcastle I learn something new.

“I build bunnies for Easter and puppies for Valentine’s; flowers for Mother’s Day. Last year I started a whole series of elf-on-the-shelf builds that were very popular.”

Complicated builds can take anywhere from six to eight hours although most take between three and five.

“I took advantage years ago when the competition had professionals come to build and they taught a workshop. I also follow a lot of people on Facebook and Instagram who are professionals and get inspiration from them,” she said, explaining that the designs often have to be tailored to accommodate Bermuda’s sand.

“Our sand doesn’t have a lot of clay in it and not all beaches here are the same. The sand on the South Shore is a finer grain and holds together really well [when building]. So it’s easier on Elbow and Horseshoe and more tricky on say, St Catherine’s Beach or Tobacco Bay.”

Having mastered the skill set, she gets great joy in sharing her work with others, by leaving the builds for passers-by to see and through the workshops she offers.

“They can last up to two days in the right conditions,” Ms Emmerson said. “Sharing them is part of the joy of sandcastles and why I love teaching workshops and inspiring others with what’s possible. It’s not as hard as most people think.”

By regularly taking pictures of her builds, photography has become a second hobby.

“As long as I get a good shot when it’s done, I’m happy to walk away and let nature take it back. It has also forced me to look at the backgrounds and vary the locations of the sandcastles. Some days I get lucky with kite surfers, dramatic storm clouds or rainbows behind my sculptures. Every day is a clean slate to build a new, bigger and better sandcastle full of surprises.

“I’m hoping that with the calendar and my posts, that it will encourage people to see the beach and sand in a whole new creative way. The potential to build amazing things, share our island’s natural beauty and touch other people’s lives is only a bucket of sand away.”

The Bermuda Sandcastle Competition 2020 Calendar is on sale for $12 at Bermuda Book Store, The Bookmart at Brown&Co, People’s Pharmacy and the Stationery Store. Orders of five or more calendars can be placed through the Bermuda Sandcastle Facebook page and delivered. Follow @bermudasandcastle on Facebook and Instagram

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Published Dec 9, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 9, 2019 at 7:43 am)

See Hannah’s ‘sandiwork’ all year round

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