Travel Channel Star Rusty Croft Brings Sand to Life
BY Brett Wilbur • PHOTOGRAPHY BY Rusty Croft
Rusty Croft has a popular new TV reality series, “Sand Masters,” is booked frequently by the Silicon Valley elite, and spends his days doing exactly what he loves: playing in the sand. But Croft, an artist with a penchant for creating large-scale sand sculptures, lights up the most when talking about his baby girl.
Born and raised in Iowa with pit stops in the Caribbean, New Mexico, and elsewhere, Croft landed in Park City, Utah, where he fell in love with Natalie Taggart, a Carmel-based photographer/ graphic designer and fellow ar tist. Marrying Natalie relocated him to Carmel, but his Travel Channel show has got him criss-crossing the globe on a regular basis. Carmel Magazine caught up with Croft in Carmel while he was on a brief hiatus between filming and flying around the world for sand sculpting contests.
Carmel Magazine: Where’s the video crew? I was hoping they would come along!
Rusty Croft: I left them in L.A.!
CM: So you are a recent resident of Carmel…how did you get here?
RC: I met my wife in Park City [while she was vacationing there]…there were lots of trips back and forth and finally I said, ‘I’m moving out.’ We just had a baby last year and it changed everything… the [responsibility of having a] baby pretty much brought about [the decision to be on] “Sand Masters.” The decorative painting world and my Frostbite Studios I used to own in Park City [an ice sculpting company] fell apart. I knew nobody here except for my friend and fellow sand sculptor Kirk Rademaker in Santa Cruz. We teamed up as the Sand Guys. That first summer we had jobs for Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Genentech, LinkedIn.
CM: When you say jobs, what exactly were you doing there?
RC: Sand sculpting.
CM: Why do they want that?
RC: Because they know what’s good for them! A variety of things: team building is number one. They come down to the beach, we do a quick lesson, divide them into teams, provide all the equipment, and turn them loose for a few hours. We turn these corporate, stuffy bigwigs into little kids. It takes about 20 minutes in the sand and they are giving each other smack talk, throwing sand around, getting creative…
CM: What kind of materials do you use in addition to sand and water?
RC: When it is all finished, we spray it with Elmer’s Glue and water and it puts a little M&M crust on it. Everyone thinks it’s for the rain, but it’s mainly for the wind. That’s the number one problem: hot dry wind.
CM: Where do you usually sculpt?
RC: Most of our jobs are not on the beach…we truck in the sand. Like for the “Sand Masters” show we did in the middle of Times Square, we hauled it in. It’s usually river sand or a lot of time we use the waste sand from quarries.
CM: How much time do you spend planning your designs?
RC: Not nearly enough!
CM: How do you pick your themes?
RC: For contests, it’s usually based on something that’s going on in my life. My main theme is the human figure, but I’m very versatile. When we do a job, we do what the client wants.
CM: Do you ever get bummed out by the impermanence of what you’re creating?
RC: Nope. If it [falls apart] while I’m working on it, it sucks. If a face falls off while I’m carving the neck because I carved it too thin, or I made the chin stick out too much, that sucks. But when I’m done, I’m done. And it’s beautiful. It’s all perspective. Nothing lasts. Nothing. And this just lasts a little less long than anything else. I just embrace it. I love it. It’s one of the things that really draws me to the sand. It’s about now. It’s about the moment.
CM: How did you get on the show?
RC: I was driving to a job for Google last summer, and the phone rang. It was Painless Productions, producers from L.A. I had done a few TV programs with them before called “Sand Blasters.” They told me they were revisiting sand and they remembered me. They said, ‘What are you doing?’ I was like, ‘Guys, you won’t believe it. I have a baby, I teamed up with Kirk, we are working with corporate clients.’ They said, ‘This is exactly what we wanted to hear. The-party-boy-turned-family-man hooks up with the old wise mad scientist of sand sculpting.’ So we started the show “Sand Masters” in June this year.
A few days after meeting with Croft, he sent this e-mail:
One of my most memorable jobs came when Kirk and I got a call from the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, asking us to spend a day sculpting with a family of six. They had a terminally ill son whose last wish was for his family to spend the day at the beach making sandcastles. Determined to make their day as fun as we could, we made cars, boats and airplanes they could sit in and pretend to drive; we also made castles and mermaids…I tear up every time I think of this day. The sick boy was too ill to get out of his wheelchair and join in, but he had a great time watching his last wish come true. The mother explained to me that they have had nothing but tests, crying, treatments, doctors and hospital rooms for the last two years. It was a fact not wasted on the sick boy: he knew what his little brothers and sisters had been through watching him get worse and worse, and his last wish was for them to have fun! Kids are amazing.
Rusty Croft can be reached at www.sandguys.com. For more information, go tohttp://www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows/Sand_Masters.