Most mall kiosks attract only a casual glance from passing shoppers.
Khaled Safi’s can stop them in their tracks.
The sand artist has been turning heads at Bower Place Shopping Centre since setting up shop there earlier in the month. Using an elongated funnel and a colourful array of sand, he creates detailed images inside glass containers.
On Tuesday, he attracted a small gathering of spectators as he manipulated his sands into a line of camels trekking though the desert, with birds flying overhead and mountains in the background.
The scene, produced inside a small vase-like container, took Safi about eight minutes to complete. Larger, more elaborate projects can require hours.
“If it’s detailed, it takes me time,” he explained.
The desert sand Safi works with comes from Jordan. Some of the more than 20 colours he uses are natural, others he creates.
Many of Safi’s containers are made in Jerusalem specifically for his sand art.
Although he’s produced everything from eagles to horses, camels seem to resonate with sand art buyers and now account for about 90 per cent of his work. But Safi also does custom pieces, including reproductions from pictures or drawings.
His sand art ranges in price from $10 for a simple piece to hundreds of dollars for larger, detailed projects.
Safi has been creating and selling his art at West Edmonton Mall for the past four years. This Christmas season, he decided to venture south to Red Deer, leaving his son in charge of the Edmonton shop.
He plans to return to Edmonton after Christmas, and hopes to teach sand art in the new year.
Safi believes he’s the only person in Canada doing sand art as a profession. Even among his counterparts in the Middle East, he said he’s well-known.
“They call me the King of Sand.”
Born in 1949, Safi became interested in sand art as a young teen — influenced by his father’s work in the area. After growing up near Jerusalem, he immigrated to Canada in 1985.
For years, Safi participated in craft shows and others exhibitions across the country. He continues to show his work at events like the Calgary Stampede, Edmonton’s Capital EX and the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver.