As a child, Courtney Finch dreamed of being an artist.
She ran the grounds of the Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach while her stepfather built artist booths. She went there every year. At 16, she bought her first toe ring there.
On Friday July 2, Finch, who now makes sterling silver jewelry, shadow box art and unique home decor, opened his own booth for the first time at the popular festival held alongside sawdust covered trails under huge eucalyptus groves in Laguna Canyon. .
âI have been in art all my life,â she said. âFour years ago, I discovered this craft and learned on my own how to bend and bend metal. It was just love at the first flame.
Finch is one of 168 artists participating in the festival’s 55th year. Last year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a version of the festival was held from September to early December, but only on weekends and with a limit on the number of artists allowed to appear at the same time. – 100 artists rotating on 48 spots.
Along with the return of the traditional artist village this summer, there are also three stages where festival-goers can listen to live music and witness a variety of entertainment. There will also be daily art demonstrations, pop-up classes and plenty of dining options, organizers said.
âI kind of got chills down my spine when I heard the announcement of our return,â said Isaac Anderson, a mixed-use plaster-on-panel artist who spent three weeks building his stand. âWe didn’t know what was going to happen.
Anderson said his work was inspired by “many years of travel and textures of the world.”
âI’m trying to see something, but not pushing too hard,â he said of his job. âYou want to be guided by surprises and mistakes, just like in your own life. At first sometimes I don’t like it, but in the end there is something that comes out of it that gives a sense of hope.
Right in front of him on Friday was Cindy Stalmaker, known for her water-marbled silks. A long-time festival artist, she too was happy to find the show in full. A bonus will be not having to dismantle her stand every weekend as she did during the temporary days of last year.
COVID-19 has enabled her to find a new art form where she electrifies materials and transforms objects such as seashells, bay leaves, lotus pods and eucalyptus seeds into pendants and earrings tanned.
âI take organic and inorganic pieces and coat them with conductive copper paint, then I hang the pieces in a solution that has passed through electricity,â she said. “The current flows through the electrolytic solution and because you have copper bars the copper breaks free and settles on the parts with the conductive copper paint.”
Another booth filled with admiring visitors on Friday was Durden Art, which the artist’s wife Dana Malas described as “clever pop art that tells a new story.”
As an example, she cited a play called âChange,â which honored women who changed the world. Her husband, artist Michael Phillips, was inspired by a painting by Norman Rockwell. The secret words written at the bottom say, “Fight for the things you care about, do it in a way that others will follow.” “
Among the images in the play, Ruby Bridges is wearing red boxing gloves. Bridges was the first black girl to enter an elementary school in the South in 1960.
Among the 1,800 people who walked through the doors of the Sawdust Festival on opening day was Wayne Selway, formerly of Huntington Beach but now living in Arizona. He and his group, including 16-year-old grandson James Tyner, were second in the line.
âThis is my first time coming here,â he said. “That’s good. All the diversity. It’s so much more than just paintings.
âIt’s really different,â Tyner added. “From pottery to jewelry to glass making, there are a lot of things you don’t think about when you think of art.”
Back at Finch’s booth, known as Earth & Agate, buyers were sorting through the new finds.
âIt’s so exciting to be back,â said Julia Ramirez, of Whittier, who said she has visited the festival every year since 1977.
She follows Finch on Instagram and was delighted to meet her at the festival. And, she quickly grabbed a variscite and sterling silver ring.
âIt spoke to me,â she said. âIt was not a thoughtful purchase. It was an impulse, but I’m not sorry. I totally love him.
She also purchased must-have items from other artist stalls, including a vase, pasta bowl and necklace by artist Bob Johnson.
âI think I’m done now,â she said. “I’m going to wear and use all of these things.”
If you are going to:
Where: Sawdust Art Festival, 935 Laguna Canyon Road
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
More information: sawdustartfestival.org.