Sawdust Festival opens with flying monkeys, handmade wine glasses and bamboo surfboards – Orange County Registry

Alexander Evans – aka Dr. Neon – lives to elicit emotions from his artwork.

Wearing a green robe with funky sunglasses, he was doing just that as dozens gathered around his wild-looking booth during a preview night of the 56th annual Sawdust Art Festival, which opens Friday, June 24, in the summer.

He has posted a huge flying monkey made of steel and bronze high above his booth as a “provocative” piece this year.

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

While a giant monkey costs around $7,000, Evans has smaller versions available for between $75 and $95, as well as flying pigs, cows, dragons, and bats. Besides his metal art, Evans offers jewelry, neon art, handmade knives, and magic wands – a hit among kids.

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

In the summer, Artists Village lives under a grove of giant eucalyptus trees that provide shade for cool shoppers as they stroll its sawdust paths in Laguna Canyon. Its organizers expect to attract at least 200,000 people at that time.

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 art events that draw visitors to the beach town each summer, along with the Laguna Art-A-Fair and Arts Festival.

Special events planned during the summer festival include a Sip and Talk and Walk tour, during which the artists will give tips on things not to miss at the festival. Tours will take place at 3 PM and 7 PM every Wednesday.

On August 7, there will be Bizarre Bazaar, a fashion show, and on August 14 the Artists Fund Benevolence Fund auction, participants can bid on original Sawdust works in silent and live auctions.

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

Just around the corner from the high school gallery is Alex Fritz, an artist who directs his creations towards the ‘Wino community’.

Fritz specializes in hand blown wine glasses and bottle caps. He said his designs, which include sea turtles, jellyfish, and octopus, were inspired by his ocean-oriented lifestyle in Laguna Beach and occasionally by his 4-year-old daughter Xenia.

“She loves to ride around in her ice cream cart, so she makes ice cream-inspired designs,” he said, pointing to a piece he could mistakenly think of as Neapolitan ice cream.

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

“Here, you can express yourself in any way,” Fritz said. “People accept you for who you are and not criticize you.”

In the same vein, Fritz said he is open to his clients’ ideas. One year, a woman owned a necklace that combined several pieces of colored glass, and she ordered a dozen wine glasses made from the same collection.

“It was fun to make that set,” he said.

Once again, an old client asked him if he could make a piece that contained a loved one’s ashes.

“I resisted at first because I wasn’t sure how to deal with people’s remains,” he said. “But once I did, it was very rewarding.”

Among the six new artists at the Sawdust Festival this season is Richard Goodman. It’s nothing new and new – he first showed his work in 2004, but he took a break from his art to pursue his day job creating custom bamboo kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

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