In a Grain of Sand

— Join a collaborative art project

Have you ever truly looked at a grain of sand? Imagined it as a small part of the world, coming from somewhere, going someplace, with its very own story to tell? From children, artists and scientists to neighbours, travellers, and dreamers, we invite everyone, worldwide, to contribute a sample of sand that we will melt into glass. Join us to become part of an expanding collaborative art project that will reveal the broad array of colours and textures of the world. Have a favourite location or place that holds special meaning? Collect an empty bottle of sand from that very spot and send it to us! 

Collect a 50cl (500ml) bottle of sand from your favourite location and take a photo that best describes the area. This could be of the terrain, plant life, trees or landscape. Use your mobile device to take note of the GPS coordinates or send us the precise address or location!

Sand submissions from Oerol Festival 2017.

Since 2010, we have been collecting wild sand from dunes, beaches, rivers, mountains, mines and quarries to make our own glass. For our new project, we call upon others to send us sand and help us realize our dream of mapping the world.

By melting these diverse sands into glass, we will reveal the unique colors and textures of the world. We will explore the origins and stories of both sand and people from all corners of the globe.

We are passionate about sharing the wonders of everyday things that normally go unnoticed. You can see this celebration and recognition in all aspects of our work. The greater objective of  ‘To See a World in a Grain of Sand’  is to create stronger ties between the earth’s materials and living communities. As people learn about their surroundings, they begin to identify more deeply with place. Sand is a universal and testimonial material that touches all people from all walks of life. By understanding the journey of sand, we shall develop a deeper understanding of the world around us: the world in a grain of sand.

A beach holds as many grains of sand as there are stars in the sky. They come from far away, driven by water, wind and ice. Just like people, each grain of sand has its own character and tells a unique story of the land, history and time. Every beach has its own story, as does every landscape and person connected to it.

Sand, as an everyday, common, and accessible natural material, has the innate ability to impart knowledge about the earth. It tells both our personal stories of everyday life and the collective stories that form the history of humanity on earth. Together, we will tell the story of sand through collaborative contribution and storytelling by design. Through a process of research and experimentation we are mapping the earth via its local raw materials. When we fire sands at high temperatures, a stunning array of unique colors, opacities, and fractal patterns are revealed due to the unique circumstances created by thousands of years of movement, erosion, and transformation.

A group of festival goers head off to dig at Oerol 2017

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour

The title of this project is an excerpt from the poem “Auguries of Innocence” by William Blake. The opening lines of the poem, above, capture the spirit of the project. As British geologist Michael Welland, author of Sand: A Journey Through Science and the Imagination explains, “Sand is anything but ‘just tiny little rocks’; sand is one of our planet’s most ubiquitous and fundamental materials and is both a medium and a tool for nature’s gigantic and ever-changing sculptures. Because, as William Blake recognized– ‘To See a World in a Grain of Sand’– every sand grain has a story to tell, of the present and the past. Because without it, our world, both on a global scale and on the scale of our everyday lives, would be dramatically different.” Welland’s work has greatly impacted the way that we discern and understand the importance of sand in our world. As he so eloquently put it, “there are worlds to see in a grain of sand, and countless grains to see in our world.” According to Welland, "Lonny and Nadine’s works are powerful evocations of our often forgotten but intimate relationships with the primary materials of our planet and our lives. The deceptively simple act of transforming sand into glass reveals stories of the grains themselves and their dazzling diversity, stories of deep time and endless change."

We rarely think of sand as a resource and its countless contributions to our lives, but this innovative project takes us on a journey that provokes contemplation of our connections not only with sand, the apparently most humble of materials but with the Earth as a whole.

- Michael Welland, geologist and author of Sand