Sand art: Ont. man uses needle and sand to make art

Using a needle and a small spoon, Ontario artist James Sun has built a business that creates unique and breathtaking art for clients around the world.

“Right now I think I can do almost anything,” says Sun. “If I have an image in my head, I can do it.”

About four and a half years ago, the Markham, Ont. resident saw a video posted online of a teacher making sand art, a practice where sand is poured into a jar and moved precisely to create images. Sun was mesmerized and reached out to the teacher to ask if he could teach him how to do it.

“So I quit my job and flew back to China,” he said. “Thats crazy.”

It took Sun about 55 days to learn how to create basic images. He is guided by dots that he can print on the glass container. Everything else – from the colors to the shade – is up to him. It took practice and a lot of patience to create the intricate pieces he makes for clients.

Sun spends about 14 hours a day in his studio creating everything from logos to portraits to iconic moments in history.

“Every week, every piece is moving forward,” Sun says of his skills.

Sun keeps about three tons of sand in his garage, including 66 different colors. He often mixes them together to create the perfect tone or shade. Before starting a project, he puts small drops of glue in the sand. When the piece is done, it goes into the oven to bind everything together.

For Sun, sand art is a labor of love, and it even helped him court his wife. He made a piece for her to hang on her car’s rearview mirror, “so she could think of me every time she drove her car.”

The former mechanic now counts brands such as BMW, Nickelodeon and the PGA among his customers. He also does a lot with NFTs. Those customers pay the bills, but Sun’s real passion is recreating moments from history, like the moon landing.

“Sand art is impossible and every iconic moment is impossible, so these two things are mixed up, which is why I want to do it,” he says.

Whether immortalizing history or gathering a log, Sun is able to turn any grain he pours into art.

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