The Bedford Citizen’s Summer Reading Week: Barbara Purchia ~ ‘Contemporary Sand Sculpture’

By Linda White

Author Barbara Purchia – Image (c) Linda White, 2018 all rights resolved

What do fairy homes and gardens, contemporary glass art, sand sculpture, and ice sculpture have in common?  Barbara Purchia.  With her writing partner, E. Ashley Rooney, Purchia has published a number of beautifully orchestrated and researched books on each of these topics.

When she retired from a career in high tech management, Purchia directed her interests and skills to a more creative direction.  A chance meeting with Rooney, a former Bedford resident who now lives in Lexington, opened a door for Purchia to assist Rooney with proofreading, editing, eventual collaboration, and a rewarding new career path that has utilized her talents — attention to detail, technical precision, appreciation of art, and the ability to work effectively and productively with members of creative communities.

Purchia’s level of engagement with the numerous and varied artists who have been included in each of her books is evident as she enthusiastically describes why their individual works have been selected.  She has gained insight into their lives, work, styles, visions, and personalities and incorporates those elements into each anthology.

Published in March 2018 and just in time for your trip to the beach, Contemporary Sand Sculpture will give you plenty of ideas for the next time you have sand between your toes. Don’t be surprised if you feel compelled to ratchet your sand sculpture skills up a notch. Purchia and Rooney have selected an amazing photographic collection of incredible sand sculptures from around the world. The topics and themes depicted by the simple elements of sand and water are unique, jaw-dropping in their complexity and beauty, as well as inspiring. You will wonder, “How did they do that?” page after page throughout this book. The backstories of the artists who created these works of temporary art will give you an insight into their motivation and techniques.

Purchia’s inspiration for Contemporary Sand Sculpture came from the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival, one of the largest sand sculpting festivals in the country. Revere Beach, was the first public beach in America and has hosted the International Sand Sculpting Festival for 15 years.

Look for Contemporary Ice Sculpture, the next collaboration of Purchia and Rooney, in the fall. It is scheduled for a November 2018 release and contains the works of more than 25 contemporary ice sculptors. Contemporary Ice Sculpture is an interesting follow up to Contemporary Sand Sculpture as both are ephemeral art forms.  Multi-media sculptor Ben Firth noted, “Carving ice is a good reminder that no art lasts forever; that, in the end, art is not about creating a permanent object, but about changing people.”

Published in 2016, Glass Art: 112 Contemporary Artists is a lush, comprehensive collection of the works of more than 100 artisans that will leave you questioning how glass can possibly be used and shaped in so many unique transformations and in every size, shape, color, and dimension. It required a year of Purchia’s coordination to acquire the photographs, copyright permissions, and narratives. Purchia is also an accomplished stained glass artist in her own right and is a member of The Glass Cooperative, Inc. in Bedford (

Purchia and Rooney’s first collaborative effort was Fairy Homes and Gardens in 2014. The photos and narratives provide a wealth of detail to assist those wishing to create their own fairy habitats. If you look carefully, you will find several fanciful fairy installations in gardens, yards, and on decks around Bedford that have been created by children as well as adults. Additionally, as Libba Shortridge states “creating fairy homes and gardens is an integral part of recovery for adults with serious mental illness at Skyland Trail, a non-profit, community-based mental health treatment facility in Atlanta, Georgia.”  Read more at

Purchia’s summer reading bag includes The Hush by John Hart, The Rooster Bar by John Grisham, The Belial Fall by R.D. Brady, and Every Note Played by Lisa Genova.

When Purchia is not working on a book or creating a custom, stained glass project, you can probably find her volunteering as the Membership chair for the Friends of the Bedford Council of Aging, helping with the Bedford Arts and Crafts Society (BACS) yearbook, or volunteering with several community organizations.

All of Purchia’s books are available at Fairy Homes and Gardens is also available at the Bedford Library.

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