Arts, Crafts, Sawdust

Anna Nguyen/Staff Photographer

A backdrop of Eucalyptus trees and waterfalls set a serene stage for the summer Sawdust Art & Craft Festival in Laguna Beach. Nestled under the hills of Laguna’s canyon and inside a cozy, handcrafted village, the festival invites the public to view and celebrate the work of local artists.

The intention of the Sawdust Festival is to entertain and educate. The festival works to promote and support local Laguna Beach artists and make the community richer, stronger, and more culturally aware.

There is nothing else quite like entering this festival. The floor stands out first Ń a thick layer of sawdust and woodchips fill the pathways. Walking further reveals a labyrinth of wooden arts and crafts booths, all handcrafted by the artists to highlight their work.

The range of work displayed at the Sawdust Festival is one of the most unique of any art show. With the variety of art showcased at the festival, you would be hard-pressed not to find something that interests you and your family. Not only can you gaze at beautiful pottery, paintings and jewelry in the booths, studio art classes can be taken or watched throughout the day. Younger children can participate in watercolor painting or simple jewelry classes, too.

The Sawdust Festival also frequently schedules veteran artists to perform demonstrations for visitors. One of the featured demonstrations, glassblowing, is a wild experience that can be viewed from outside a large cage in the center of the festival.

Some of the major forms of fine arts and crafts that are on display include ceramics, art glass, watercolor and oil painting, jewelry, mixed media, sculpture, illustration, clothing, accessories, photography, print and furniture. Within each of these categories, countless artists have taken their own distinctive spin on a field of art or combined different fields together.

One of the first artist booths that come into view when you walk into the festival is a display of silver and gold hair clips that are not your ordinary accessory. They resemble tiaras with delicate metal details and have gemstones embedded in the centers. This artist took a bland accessory and made it into fine jewelry.

One particular type of art that screams Laguna Beach is beach and surf art. From sunny paintings of coastlines and waves to sculptures of swimmers, much of this art conveys a sense of time and place. They make the surroundings feel like a very close-knit community.

Here, there is a type of art for every person. The satisfaction comes from not just finding the art you like, but instead having the opportunity to speak to and discuss the art with its creator. The artists at the Sawdust Festival love sharing their passion and knowledge about their trade with the public. It is one of those rare times when you can find out how something was made and how much work went into its creation.

Just when you think you have seen all of the festival, it continues on another floor. Upstairs, more artists and sawdust are scattered around. One of the fun things about going upstairs is the ability to look out over most of the festival and take it all in.

No two booths are the same. One artist built tall walls on the outside to hang enormous glass sculptures while another artist kept all of her crafts on the inside of her booth. Looking out, the juxtaposition of these different types of art and artists adds harmony and energy to the festival.

Every year, the artists display new and different work. Although some vendors feature fashionable work, many artists remain traditional and timeless by creating paintings or taking photographs of landscapes, animals and people.

The festival is compact and densely packed. Taking a break and having lunch is easy, with refreshments supplied by three local restaurants and a saloon. Live music plays while you sit and eat. The musicians are very friendly and often play popular old tunes.

The Sawdust Art Festival is a nonprofit organization. Many visitors attend the festival without ever knowing about a charity they created called “The Artists Benevolence Fund,” which was set up to financially assist artists living in Laguna Beach who faced a “catastrophic event, making them unable to work.” Many of the artists exhibiting in the festival have donated art for the charity’s auction, which will be held in August.

If you have to leave, know that attending and exploring the Sawdust Festival is effortless with a stamp on the hand. Parking meters only accept quarters though, so remember to bring many! Most vendors at the festival only accept cash and a few take credit cards, but there is an ATM inside in case you forget. The summer Sawdust Art & Craft Festival runs daily until Aug. 28.