Sawdust Festival opens with flying monkeys, handcrafted wine glasses and bamboo surfboards – Orange County Register

Alexander Evans – aka Dr. Neon – lives to evoke emotions in his works.

Dressed in a green cape with funky sunglasses, he was doing just that as dozens of people gathered around his wild-looking booth at a preview party for the 56th annual Sawdust Art Festival, which opens Friday, June 24 for its summer run.

It displayed a massive steel and bronze flying monkey above its booth as a “provocative” piece this year.

“As you get older, what’s scarier than flying monkeys?” Evans asked, picking up a large hourglass of sand with no sand on top. “Well, the hourglass is scarier.”

While the giant ape costs around $7,000, Evans offers smaller versions between $75 and $95, as well as flying pigs, cows, dragons, and bats. In addition to her metal art, Evans offers jewelry, neon art, craft knives and magic wands – a huge hit with the kids.

Evans is one of 160 artists exhibiting unique creations at this year’s Sawdust Festival, open to buyers for the next eight weeks.

The summer artists’ village lives under a grove of giant eucalyptus trees offering shade to refresh shoppers as they wander its sawdust-covered paths of Laguna Canyon. Its organizers expect to attract at least 200,000 people during this period.

The Sawdust Festival, which also includes art classes, live music, and special events, showcases artwork made in Laguna Beach. It’s one of three popular arts events that draw visitors each summer to the beach town, along with Laguna Art-A-Fair and the Festival of Arts.

  • People line up outside the entrance for the preview party for the 56th annual Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Guests attend the 56th Annual Sawdust Convention Preview Party...

    Guests attend the preview party for the 56th Annual Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Attendees at the preview party for the 56th annual Sawdust...

    Attendees of the preview party for the 56th annual Sawdust Art Festival dance to a live band in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A woman has her picture taken during the opening night...

    A woman has her photo taken at the preview party for the 56th Annual Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Visitors browse the art booths during the preview night of...

    Visitors browse the art booths during the preview night for the 56th Annual Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Alex and Nicole Fritz welcome visitors to the Alex Fritz...

    Alex and Nicole Fritz greet visitors to the Alex Fritz Glass booth during the preview party for the 56th Annual Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Alex Fritz glass wine corks on display at the...

    Alex Fritz Glass wine corks on display during the preview party for the 56th Annual Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Alex Fritz of Alex Fritz Glass holds one of the...

    Alex Fritz of Alex Fritz Glass holds one of his glass creations during the preview party for the 56th Annual Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Attendees dine in the food court during the preview night...

    Attendees dine in the food court during the preview night for the 56th Annual Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Dr Neon, center, helps visitors to his stand during...

    Dr. Neon, center, helps visitors to his booth during the preview night for the 56th Annual Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG )

  • Richard Goodman, who makes bamboo cabinets, sits in his booth...

    Richard Goodman, who makes bamboo cabinetry, sits in his booth during the preview party for the 56th Annual Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/ SCNG)

  • Guests attend the 56th Annual Sawdust Convention Preview Party...

    Guests attend the preview party for the 56th Annual Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Items from Lupe's Ceramic Garden Art exhibited during...

    Items of Lupe’s Ceramic Garden Art on display during the preview party for the 56th Annual Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Artist Gregory Lincoln talks to visitors to his booth during...

    Artist Gregory Lincoln speaks to visitors to his booth during the preview party for the 56th annual Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG )

  • Alex Evans, better known as Dr Neon, imitates his...

    Alex Evans, better known as Dr. Neon, mimics his flying monkey creation, above, at the preview party for the 56th annual Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Special events planned during the summer festival include a Sip, Talk and Walk tour, during which artists will give tips on what not to miss at the festival. Visitation will be at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. every Wednesday.

On August 7, there will be the Bizarre Bazaar, a fashion show, and the Artists’ Benevolent Fund Art Auction will take place on August 14, where attendees can bid on original works by Sawdust. at silent and live auctions.

Among the many booths, an art gallery showcases the upcoming talents of 28 Laguna Beach High School artists.

Just around the corner from the high school exhibit is Alex Fritz, an artist who directs his designs toward the “wino community.”

Fritz specializes in mouth-blown wine glasses and bottle stoppers. He said his designs, which include sea turtles, jellyfish and octopuses, are inspired by his ocean-focused lifestyle in Laguna Beach and sometimes his 4-year-old daughter, Zinnia.

“She likes to push her ice cream cart, so I made some ice cream-inspired designs,” he said, pointing out a piece that could be mistaken for swirled Neapolitan ice cream.

But, it’s the freedom of Laguna Beach, he says, that drives his creativity.

“Here you can express yourself in any way,” Fritz said. “People accept you as you are and don’t criticize you.”

Along the same lines, Fritz said he is open to ideas from his clients. One year a woman had a necklace that combined several pieces of colored glass, and she ordered a dozen wine glasses made with the same combination.

“It was fun doing this set,” he said.

Another time, a longtime client asked him if he could make a piece incorporating the ashes of a loved one.

“I resisted at first because I wasn’t sure how to handle people’s leftovers,” he said. “But, once I did, it was so rewarding.”

Among the six new artists at the Sawdust Festival this season is Richard Goodman. He’s not new, new – he first exhibited in 2004, but took a break from his art to pursue his day job creating bespoke bamboo kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

Goodman said he takes pride in the custom, quality work and now brings it to the Sawdust Festival. In addition to cabinets, it also features bamboo skateboards and bamboo surfboards.

“I dream of beautiful things and I build them,” he said.

Back at Evans’ booth, another flying monkey helped market his wares. An 11-year-old boy in a custom-made monkey costume popped out of random spots in the Artist Village to hand out cards for Evan’s booth, this year themed “Wicked Witch.”

“Art is fiction,” said Evans, 69, a festival icon who set up its first booth in 1980. “I do something outrageous every year, and I do something fun because the world is so serious.

“You don’t need art, but it should be something to amuse your brain.”

If you are going to

What: Sawdust Art Festival

When: Runs daily until August 28; From 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday to Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday.

Cost: General admission $10

Information: SawdustArtFestival.org

Sarah C. Figueiredo