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Sawdust Festival attendees find something for everyone

Ceramics exhibitor Robert Jones prepares to wrap a sold handmade pot during the 2022 Sawdust Festival preview night.
Longtime ceramics exhibitor Robert Jones prepares to wrap a sold handmade pot during the 2022 Sawdust Festival preview night on June 21.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Just as the Sawdust Art Festival was preparing to open its doors Wednesday, dozens of people were lined up to explore the grounds on the sixth day of its summer season.

The communal center of creativity in Laguna Beach is once again welcoming the public back to enjoy the arts and entertainment in what one young visitor has called “the enchanted forest.”

That is the name Jasmine Darr’s 5-year-old daughter Bella has given to the festival grounds. Darr said she has come to the festival every day since it opened Friday.

Guest Lisa Wienenga admires a glass goblet made by exhibitor John Barber during the 2022 Sawdust Festival preview night.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“I’ve been coming here for years and years, and when everything shut down [for the pandemic], it just really put things in perspective as far as how blessed we are,” Darr said. “Just the wealth of art and inspiration of the Sawdust is something that we kind of took for granted, so when it opened back up, we were just like, ‘We’re going every day to support,’ and we have our own local artists that we love that we get pieces from every year.

“My kids, I think that it’s important to teach them early on to pour into the arts and support the art, so they have their own art collections already in their room.”

At the Sawdust Festival, patrons are given access to 162 Laguna Beach artists and their artwork, art education classes and entertainment.

Longtime exhibitor and musician Douglas Miller plays his violin during the 2022 Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Erin Alvarez beamed as she watched her daughters — Camila, 8, and Chloe, 4 — gain exposure to art as they tried their hand at ceramics with a pottery wheel. The children made something to take home, and their mom got the pictures to preserve the memory.

“They love to come because they can sit outdoors in an environment like this,” Alvarez said of her kids’ enthusiasm to get out of the house. “It’s a beautiful day, and they get to do crafts.”

A picturesque day left nothing but blue skies above the grounds, tucked into Laguna Canyon, which acted as a beautiful backdrop for those playing music for attendees at the performance stage.

Fine artist Suzanne Graham welcomes guests to her booth during the 2022 Sawdust Festival preview night in Laguna Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Kenny Hale, a graduate of Edison High School and a Huntington Beach resident, had the collective ear of the assembled crowd when he played popular tunes such as John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”

For several years, Hale has made a point of bringing his voice and his acoustic guitar to the Sawdust Festival. Hale said he befriended a Sawdust artist in John Eagle, a painter. He visited the grounds, liked the atmosphere, and then he followed through on Eagle’s suggestion to perform at the festival.

“I’ve always come to the Sawdust Festival because I like to support the artists and what they do,” Hale said, adding he has been playing at the festival for eight years. “I made a lot of great friends here, and it’s just a really great feeling to play music here. I have fun, and that’s really the job. The job is making people happy.”

Andrew Corradini of the band Great North Special plays with bandmate Russell Long, right, as they entertain the crowd.
Andrew Corradini of the band Great North Special plays with bandmate Russell Long, right, as they entertain the crowd during the 2022 Sawdust Festival preview night.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Practiced hands displayed work using a variety of media, including ceramics, glass, metalwork, painting, photography and sculpture.

From the music stage, some were drawn to the booth of Douglas Miller, who had used woodwork to produce his depiction of a metropolitan cityscape.

A closer look at the booth, and the individual, shows the dedication Miller has paid to his craft for decades. Miller joked that his life was like that of a tree. At the age of 75, he said he has collected 53 Sawdust rings, one for each year he has exhibited in the festival.

Guests surround the booth of artist Krishnan Iyer during the 2022 Sawdust Festival preview night in Laguna Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The booth is full of paintings, each numbered to keep track of the thousands he has produced. Many of the paintings are produced using his own photography as a reference. A heavy dose of the pictures come from trips to Wyoming and Utah.

“Everything here is straight out of the paint and onto the canvas,” Miller said. “I paint a painting every day. Mostly, I paint at night in my studio. I’ve painted every day for the past 27 years, and I haven’t missed a day. I haven’t missed a day painting, beginning a new painting. That’s what I have to do.”

The 56th annual Sawdust Festival, which will run through Aug. 28, is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and has extended hours from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $5 for children between the ages of 6 to 12.

Alex Fritz and wife Nicole proudly stand behind his gecko glass sculptures during the 2022 Sawdust Festival preview night.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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