Last week, Tuesday was the party every Laguna Beach resident wants to be invited to – the preview evening preceding the Friday (June 24th) opening of the Sawdust Art Festival. This is a great time for the locals to get out; get a first look at the year’s newest art; and bump into friends from all parts of town before the Great Tourist Horde keeps us apart these next 8 weeks of summer.

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Friends, there’s just nothing like Laguna Beach’s Sawdust Festival anywhere in the world. Begun by a rogue element of Laguna Beach resident artists 45 years ago, the Sawdust has grown up to house more than 200 artists from every make and model of art media you can imagine. For 2011, the Sawdust Festival event runs June 24th – August 28th from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and you’ve just got to get there.

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Laguna Beach’s Sawdust Art Festival is every type and kind of art imaginable – jewelry, ceramics, glass sculpture, photography of every possible thing you can photograph, raku pottery, oil paintings, acrylics paintings, watercolors, watercolor tie dye on fabric, fabric purses, wire art, pen-and-ink drawing, brass sculpture, wood carvings and … when they can’t figure what else to call it … “mixed media” is in the bag, too.

The Sawdust isn’t necessarily “juried” by those usual art jury standards – in fact, it’s why the rogue element began this thing. So, you’re going to see artists of world renown sitting next to artists who are babes in the woods in the festival world. But as the artists chat together and chat amicably with anyone stopping in their booths, you’ll find that everyone is on the same playing field here.

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Folks like Michael Ezzel, Walter Reiss, John Eagle and Kirk Milette have practically been here since the Sawdust began (imagine 30+ years of day-in and day-out booth sitting at Laguna’s Sawdust Festival. Thats commitment!). Others, like booth mates Dedre Bickler-Sines and Paulette Auster have just pased single and double-digit years at the Festival. Raku favorite Mike Brennan is still on record for being the youngest artist ever invited to the Sawdust nearly two decades ago, while another young artist I met Tuesday night – Art “Z” – received his first invitation this year.

I think what I love most about the Sawdust is getting to know such a wide variety of personalities and “back stories” in these amazing artists. (And it’s not just the artists! During our locals’ preview night, two of my great friends, Kaj and Mary, got her wedding ring officially underway at Kirk Milette’s booth.)

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These resident Laguna Beach artists are live and in color, and what a bunch of great colors you’ll see coming at you. At the same time, you actually have decent food and drink here at the Sawdust; live music; all sorts of kids’ workshops; and additional art classes you can participate in throughout the Sawdust season.

Sawdust Art Festival tickets are darned inexpensive, given what you have coming. You can purchase any time online at the website,

For the summer 2011 season, it’s $7.75 for adults, $6.25 for folks 65 and older, and $3.25 for kids, ages 6-12. Anyone under that age is free. Military families are admitted free with ID, and Laguna Beach residents get in free every Thursday  evening and all day on Fridays.

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Get some art in your blood. This is a perfect event to take those visiting relatives to! And, it’s a great event to treat yourself and anyone else in your life to the gift of handmade, professional artisan masterpieces from the Art Colony village itself, Laguna Beach.

This coming weekend, the world famous Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters kicks off its own preview party, with opening night set for Thursday, July 7th. More on that in a coming post!

© 2011, Diane Armitage,

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