Glass artist garners new nickname as Eureka’s ‘Sandman.’
Silica-and-glass artist and outdoor adventurist Randy Woodward of Eureka Springs has big dreams for himself nowadays. He’s rather enjoying his new nickname as “Sandman” around this Ozarks arts community.
I would never have known what the confident 67-year-old craftsman was up to in recent years had we not been strolling past the former Susan Morrison Signature Art Gallery in Eureka Springs the other day. And there the longtime acquaintance stood, patiently teaching three mid20s visitors from Little Rock on a patio area near the front steps.
One of those students was selecting from various bright hues of incredibly fine silica sand, then carefully feeding them between sheets of glass in a thin and narrow glass frame. The best way to describe it is like one thoughtfully filling a 5-by9-inch glass sandwich with a blend of silica sand.
“Oh, I really like that color,” the student told Woodward, who acquired the Morrison Gallery from his former wife and nationally acclaimed artist/poet Susan during their divorce after 34 years together. Susan still lives in Beaver, where she retains her art studio in the river hamlet.
“Good, so just keep pouring it through the little spout between the glass sheets a little at a time,” Randy patiently coached his student. “See how the different colors layer on top of each other? Just wait until you see what you’ll be creating here in a minute.” She smiled, the excitement evident in her eyes.
Woodward is busy converting the rambling three-level gallery (also his home) into a “fun, wholly nonthreatening” place the quirky and energized Eureka and her visitors can appreciate.
Part of the plan includes teaching silica sand art to those who stop to admire and participate. “For $15, anyone who has 20 minutes and an interest in creating something beautiful and totally personal will want to stop to appreciate and enjoy what they can do,” he said.
“But there’s going to be a lot more coming here to the gallery in the coming months. Upstairs we are creating a tea room where visitors can enjoy a nice, peaceful meal in an elegant setting. Across the hall I’m establishing a massage studio, and adjacent to that will be a healing room. It will have something for everyone, including art classes with a chance to play while creating.”
When remodeling is complete, he says he’ll rename the gallery— care to take a guess? “The Sand Castle,” of course.
Randy said he’s already created several panoramic custom silica pieces for local merchants (Mud Street Cafe, for one). And he’s completed various major commissioned scenes for customers who understandably were mesmerized by the brilliance of images and colors that emerge from backlighting.
Back on the gallery patio, a young man steps to Randy’s easel and reaches for his first plastic bottle of colored silica to gently squeeze into the glass frame. There’s yellow, gold, red, greens, purple, orange, black and pink. You name the hue and odds are Randy has it handy. As with his younger female companion, this man’s uniquely personal scene slowly came into view as Randy demonstrated how to steadily turn and precisely “thump” the particles into position. As if by some form of Eureka-esque conjuring, a mountain range suddenly appears, then another more distant, and still a third, all in different colors.
“Bet you never thought you could do this kind of thing,” Randy says, smiling. “Most who stop to watch the process become caught up in the fascination that comes from not knowing what to expect. They usually hang around long enough to become amazed by the final product. Next thing you know, they are at the easel creating one of their own.”
Randy and Susan certainly are no strangers to the state’s artists and influential art lovers across Arkansas and the nation. Some of their biggest supporters over the years have been the Walton family and the Clintons. Despite their mutual decision to part three years ago, they wish each other well, Randy said.
And while Susan continues to build on her remarkable legacy and contributions through capturing outdoor wildlife with pen and ink, as well as color pencils and poetry, Randy said it’s never too late to recreate and re-energize himself individually as the glass artist that has lain dormant for decades.
“Now is my time to create and display my own form of art,” he said. Working as the hot-end foreman in the Merry-Go-Round Stained Glass plant in Fort Smith during the 1970s helped inspire Randy and gave him the skill and knowledge needed to perfect his art form in silica.
“Now I feel the need to teach others and steadily improve myself and what I can offer in a place like The Sand Castle. I’m excited by all of it.”