August 18, 2014 6:53 pm
Updated: August 19, 2014 5:07 am

Sand sculptor paying tribute to Star Wars at the CNE


WATCH: Sand sculptors are part of a very exclusive club and the job comes with many perks. Peter Kim reports.

TORONTO – Seeing the world in sand is a full-time job for Karen Fralich. The Burlington resident makes a living crafting scenes in sand at fairs across the globe.

She gets to be a kid, and travels the world while doing it.

“It’s a pretty good living. It’s very creative and I’ve travelled to places like Japan, Italy, Taiwan and Russia,” she said.

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Karen has been designing and building sand sculptures at the CNE for 11 years. This year, she’s paying tribute to a sci-fi legend with a 21-foot wide recreation of the iconic throne room scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

“I’ve been obsessed with Star Wars since I was eight. It’s been a very bright spot in my childhood and I’m having the time of my life carving this sculpture right now.”

May the force be with her because the massive display involves 100 tonnes of sand and will feature Jabba the Hutt, Han Solo and Princess Leia all painstakingly carved one curve at a time.

Karen says sand sculptors are part of an exclusive club: they travel the world to fairs and exhibitions showcasing their rare skills.

“It’s like a dysfunctional family reunion. Probably around the world there are around 200 professionally.”

Her path to this rare craft began 20 years ago when she met a sand sculptor at a pottery class who asked her to help on a project. Since then she’s been crowned the sand-sculpting world champion five times.

The secret to an award-winning design is what she calls the “wow factor” – recognizable content and strong design – and the eyes.

“If the eyes don’t look good, the rest of the sculpture is not going to look good, so I spend a lot of time on the eyes.”

Many eyes will inevitably be drawn to her homage to Star Wars; it’s expected to be completed by August 28.

On rare occasions thing will fall apart – literally. But many sculptures are made indoors where the environment can be carefully controlled.

When creative disaster does strike, Karen says you need to be flexible.

“You need to see if it’s worth building that portion back up, or change the design. The sand will usually tell you what to do.”

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