Call me old fashioned, but when I think of a sand castle competitions my mind is filled with images of giant structures adorned with mermaids, pirates, and sand dollars, enormous boat-devouring sharks, and faithful replicas of Mount Rushmore or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. How pleasantly surprised I was to find these striking figurative sculptural works by Cleveland-based sand sculptor and woodworker Carl Jara, who says his intention is to sculpt things with sand you would never expect to see at a sand castle competition. His work is so accomplished you almost forget the medium you’re looking at, the pieces appearing as if carved from marble or wood. Jara began working with sand in high school when a desperate art teacher, afraid Carl’s insatiable hunger for art might lead him to re-take the available art classes a third time, connected him with sand sculptor Tom Morrison. Once in college he studied fine arts, mainly illustration and graphic design, but when it came time for his degree show at Meyers School of Art in Akron, he realized he possessed neither the desire nor talent to become a designer, and decided to focus his efforts on a 15-foot sand sculpture. The response was overwhelming and landed Jara on the evening news and served as the formal launching point of his career that now includes nine World Championship medals. You can see much more of his work here.