Friday, 28 November 2014

So is this a scam?



I'm always fascinated by street entertainers. I'm intrigued by buskers who think they're more impressive if they're accompanied by a backing track. I often find myself thinking about those strange giant figures you find scattered around cities of the North West: men of possibly Iranian descent who just stand there on their stepladders, faces painted white and in long white robes that make them look like they're twelve feet tall. They just stare off into the distance before occasionally flinching enough to make a big woman or small Liberal Democrat scream.

Among the many which fascinate me is this character who I was surprised to see pop up in our local town today. I've previously seen him in either Manchester or Liverpool or possibly both. He makes sculptures in sand. Well, I say 'sculptures' when I mean to say that he seems to make one sculpture. He always sculpts a dog, lying down, its jowls spread out, and with four big holes, two for the eyes and two for the nostrils.

Now that fascinates me. Why does he always sculpt the same thing? If you were skilled in the art of sand manipulation, wouldn't you want to stretch yourself? Wouldn't you perhaps want a bit of novelty to liven up those long cold hours kneeling in the middle of the street? Wouldn't you want to do the occasional fish, cat, giant clam? I know if it was me, I'd eventually be drawn to do a politician's face which I'd then make available to any passerby willing to pay £5 to stamp it into oblivion.

But no, this guy only seems to do dogs and that raises interesting questions.

  1. Can he only sculpt a dog?

  2. Does he only have enough sand to sculpt a dog? Would a reclining nude might be a big too far? He could be half a cup or an entire tit short of the full figurine.

  3. Is there's some religious symbolism behind the dog? Is he trying to master the form in the belief that once he achieves the perfect mutt, he'll achieve some mystical insight?

  4. Has long experience of kneeling on cold pavements in the dead of winter has taught him that people are more likely to leave money if he crafts a dog that looks particularly pitiful? If so, then I'd like to welcome this blog's new mascot: Hairball, my cute but retarded Labrador.

Not bad questions, I hope you'll agree, but not as good as the question that really leaps out.

  1. Is this a scam? Is that dog impregnated with some chemical fixative because, I swear, that this is the same dog as I've seen in other towns and cities?

Consider this scenario.

The dog is set solid. The artist probably takes it home every night carefully covered with a cloth and then thrown into the back of his van. I'll surmise even further: perhaps there are hundreds of these dogs and this character is part of a dog sculpting ring operating country wide. There is one master dog mould and it's used to produce hundreds of the little buggers in a third world factory. They are then handed out to member of the gang along with half a cup of real sand which they spread out over their work surface. To the side of the dog, today's sculptor was making a second dog but, from where I was looking, it suspiciously looked far less impressive than the first.

Consider also that the guy is clearly making good money. He has a few quid on that mat (far more than all my apps, books, cartoons have earned me today) and he can clearly afford to buy better underwear. Look at the quality of his boxers. The elastic in my underpants went months ago. Months ago!

All of which has led me to the conclusion that I should indeed quit blogging and call it day with my cartoons. Tomorrow I'm buying myself a knee pads and I'm heading out. Look out for me huddled on the street. You'll recognise me because I'll be standing over my lifelike recreation of Sigourney Weaver in her Alien vest, her entire six feet modelled in half a hundredweight of shale chippings. Feel free to say hello or throw me a little change. I'm saving up to buy myself some quality thermals with elastic that hasn't perished.

I'm dreaming big, people. I'm dreaming big.

41 comments:

  1. Sounds like a scam to me!

    I'd be prepared to stamp on the bloody thing - with a fiver in my back pocket to give him on the outside chance that it really was a sand model....

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  2. Bloody hell. Great minds think alike. I forgot to write about that idea I had riding home on my bike. I was wondering how much I'd need to give him if I could arrange an accident which ended with my stamping on it. I was thinking a fiver might not be enough but a tenner sounded like too much. If I could get away with £2.50, I might have considered it but then I began to think through escape options and possible run ins with the Algerian mafia if the whole thing was a scam which I'd just uncovered. Then we're talking false identities, exile in some remote place like Cyprus under a false name with nothing to do all day but play with the remote control drone I'd bought with the money I'd make from selling my story to the Daily Mail...

    Oh hang on. That sounds vaguely familiar...

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  3. If it helps, I'm happy to start a collection to buy you a new pair of underpants.

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  4. Or you could offer him a fiver if he will do you a cat...

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  5. […] not only is it a different dog, it’s also a different mat and I’m also pretty certain that it was a different artist […]

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  6. If I had a fiver to throw his way, I would do exactly that. ;)

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  7. im based in bromley se london and there is a guy that every weekend appears with the same sand dog (not the same as yours) and sits adjusting it every now. i have also thought its a model underneath however there is the other possibility which is that the guy has next to no talent and has sat and learnt how to do the dog over and over again aka he cant model anything else.

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  8. You could be right, Jason. The two key points are: why do they always seem to be in the process of finishing, in that nobody ever seems to see them making the dog? And why a dog? If you're right and he has no talent, there must be easier things to sculpt than a dog. Don't suppose you fancy asking him if you can stick your finger in it to check that it's sand? I've not seen the local guy since I wrote this post so I've not been able to ask.

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  9. Have you ever seen one half way through? I haven't. They all look identical.

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  10. Like I said: never seen it incomplete but I have noticed that they're all not the same. Some are better than others. Just waiting for somebody to pluck up the courage to go and stick their boot through one to prove that it's all sand. I suspect you might end up with a broken toe if you tried...

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  11. ime beggining to think these things are made of plastic, ive seen the man with the dog, never seen him sculpturing it, he's alway finished just brushing off sand with a small brush, all these dogs seem to be lying in the same position.

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  12. You see... A pattern is emerging. *Nobody* seems to have ever seen a half-finished dog.

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  13. They are not Iranian. IS WORST! They are ROMANIAN.(Romanian gypsy, to be exact)
    YES, the same gypsys, who do pick pocketing in subway and public places.
    Romanian gypsys are just nuts for making money.
    And they have it in the blood.

    If you do some good business and they will see it... in few days/weeks/months they will come beside you, to make you competition .
    And don't be surprised if they will do the SAME KIND OF BUSINESS LIKE YOU!

    Somehow, they wildly miss a creativity, so ROMANIANS ONLY KNOW TO COPY GOOD IDEAS OF OTHERS.

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  14. OMG, we have a guy Chichester doing this, exact same dog everytime!! I desperately want to go and stick my fingers in it to see I it's real.

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  15. Ha! We've been discussing this so much but nobody has had the guts to try. If you do try, be very careful. If it is concrete, you could break you finger in you go jabbing too hard. However, I bet they won't let you.

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  16. We have one in Southampton always the same, and in neighbouring Bournemouth always the same and I went up to oxford street...guess what, the same!

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  17. We do have exactly same dog here in Cambridge... and I remember when I went to Doncaster for work training I was abit shocked to see yet the same dog sculpture again :D

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  18. But that's three missed opportunities to kick it to see if it's made of real sand! One of these days, one of us will have the courage... ;)

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  19. They're all over the North West. Liverpool. Manchester... Has to be a gang.

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  20. Pity us poor Dunfermline inhabitants, we don't even have a Romanian sand dog franchise. There is a kfc a couple miles out of town, though.

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  21. kayleigh McGowan23 October 2015 at 03:05

    We have the exact same dog in salisbury aswell 99% sure its not real.

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  22. 100% certain it's not a real dog. 55% certain it's not real sand.

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  23. if it was all sand it would be to heavy for him to carry.its a fiberglass mould coverd in sand...saw him setting up in BOLTON...but they make plenty money...

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  24. Ah, well, if you actually saw the fibreglass mould, then you're the first to confirm it's fake. Never considered the weight issue. Even a smallish bag of sand would be pretty heavy.

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  25. yes he had it wrapped up in a blanket.he placed it on the pavement then quickly removed the blanket and spread some loose sand round the edges which hides the gaps....then the knife,trowel,and paint brush..come out and he appears to be working on it...he pretended not to speak English when i asked him questions.....but he certainly understood when I told every one he was a con man ..

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  26. Great, so iv noticed this in kingston town centre and iv never paid much attention to it but last week, i got to work early (i work on kingston highstreet) i got there about 7:20am, as im walking through the highstreet, i see the guy with the sand dog on the highstreet and it was already complete and he was sitting next to it with a coffee, this really got me thinking cz surely if he did do it all from scratch, he would have to have been there since atleast 4am, this is what made me google this and it bought me to this article, very interesting and the exact same dog and same position, defo a scam

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  27. There are two in Bath about 200m apart using the same mould. Business must be booming.

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  28. Such a depressing thought. I need to buy myself a mould!

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  29. 4am! The strange thing is: if they really need to get up that early to work their scam, wouldn't it just be easier to get up five hours later and actually learn how to sculpt a dog?

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  30. Well, on Friday evening on my way home from work I called at the Sandman's pitch because I'd seen it on FB and I like sand art. As I arrived he was just scooping all the sand neatly back into plastic bags, very tidy. On the Friday he had created 3 dogs of varying breeds. Went to town on Saturday, he was back but just the one dog this time. So yeah - there's no scam. He sculpts. Simples. You all make life too complicated!

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  31. Well, thanks Ann. You are the first person to claim that it's real. And I do think that some are real. Just not all of them. I think the fact that you say he did varying breeds shows that you found one of the true artists. The rest always seem to be variations of the very same dog and seem pretty dubious, imho.

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  32. […] since this article on Quirker shed doubt on the veracity of these dogs, as did this forum and this blog, important questions have been […]

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  33. […] any of them. However, I wanted to quickly revisit the sand dog controversy. Brief catchup: I wrote this blog post a year or so ago. I think I might well have been the first person to raise the issue of sand dogs and whether they […]

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  34. […] since this article on Quirker shed doubt on the veracity of these dogs, as did this forum and this blog, important questions have been […]

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  35. I have seen these in my local town and in the nearby capitol Cardiff. The one in Cardiff had sculpted a lil bit too much off the back and revealed a blue plastic underneath. No doubt what they all use !

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  36. Here's a documentary about them with one shown being made from scratch:
    https://vimeo.com/118930118
    Looks like it has become a standardised 'busking' system

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  37. Sophie worthington24 December 2015 at 01:16

    Theres a one in Sittingbourne town centre aswell, nearly the same but is lying curved instead of straight but it's the same every day! EXACTLY the same...... the worst part is, there not even that good sculptures! I totally agree that this is a scam....

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  38. OMG !!! they are not doing any harm are they ?? if you dont want to donate money to him/her then DONT !!! simple !!!

    People are so petty, all these people are doing is trying to earn a bit of cash, what does it matter if it's sand or plastic for god's sake !!

    Leave em alone !!!

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  39. I think it's a "Eastern European (ROMA GYPSY) thing,
    First it was the ladies (and I use that term extremely loosely!!!) with suspiciously sleepy infants,, collecting money on the London tubes
    Followed by youngsters again on the underground playing the same irritatingly annoying" tune" on the arcorrdian
    Then there's the gang of youngsters with various ways of taking your cash from you
    Or there's the fake cripple,which was when i witnessed a modern day miracle......... All day the unsuspecting on high street kensington were taking pity on the Roma "cripple"by giving him whatever they could
    After a good few hours of this all of a sudden I saw his legs undergo a transformation and I saw him run, yes RUN for the 328 bus!!! Amazing eh??!
    To be honest there's so many more scams that they've introduced here, too many to list,
    What's worse though is the way the children are also involved in it,
    Is it a "Roma" thing? Or a family thing? I'm really not sure
    But I don't think it's right,
    But right or wrong that's not really the point is it?
    It's happening and I suppose how we deal with it, is up to us
    But its really really reallllyyyyy PISSING ME OFF!!!

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  40. Seen a man today at the Angel in London .. The dog already sculptured, I was at the bus stop waiting for my bus I watched the man for 10 minutes applying sand to the dogs tail adding water from a plastic bottle, paid no attention to no other area of the sculpture, plus today was almost gale force winds yet not a grain of sand blew away from that dog :) don't be fooled folks it's a scam.

    Great blog by the way.

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