Sawdust Shifts to Year-Round Use

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Laguna Beach’s art colony vibe, instilled in visitor’s as they stroll the city’s summer art festivals, galleries and artist studios, need not dissipate when summer ends.

In fact, thanks to a collaboration between the Sawdust Festival and the Laguna Beach Visitors and Conference Bureau, those visitors can rekindle their summer of inspiration year-round by becoming Laguna artists for a couple of hours at new Sawdust Studio Art Classes, set to begin on Oct. 15. Fees are $95 a person.

By agreeing to host arts classes Fridays and Saturdays all year round, the arts venue was able to partner with the visitors’ bureau in encouraging its hotel members to devise weekend packages enticing to visitors wistful for another Sawdust encounter.

“We have been trying for some time to create an interactive art experience for visitors who might want an experiential vacation, something more than just trying out restaurants or enjoying the beach, something that would make visitors to extend their stay or even just come in for just a weekend,” said Judith A. Bijlani, executive director of the visitors’ bureau.

So far interested participants include the Surf and Sand Resort, the Inn at Laguna Beach, La Casa del Camino and others.  However, Bijlani, cautions that other pending agreements with hotels are in early stages and not yet ready to be announced.

The planned array of classes featuring 11 artists working primarily in ceramics and metal will give participants and their friends a sense of fulfillment as well as insight into making a quality work of art. “The program goes hand in hand with the Sawdust’s education mission since it increases art appreciation,” she said.

While the program is directed at visitors, all are welcome, said glass blower Gavin Heath, a Sawdust board member and education committee liaison. “It’s an opportunity for visitors and locals to interact with the Sawdust and the artists and become acquainted with a studio environment. It’s not just about the product but the experience,” he said.

The classes will be held every Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Each class costs $95 and consists of a two-hour workshop during which a professional art instructor will guide students through a specialized art process to design a unique art piece to wear or to share.

The fall line-up of workshops in the mediums of jewelry, pottery, ceramics and tiles includes instruction in creating pendants, sushi plate sets, water castings, teapots, tidepool bracelets, tiles, wind chimes, and brooches.

The Sawdust Studio Art Class instructors are Linda Ames, Klai Brown, Sherry Bullard, Debi Burton, Erin Elowe, David Farris, Thalia Isen, Robert Jones, Nadine Nordstrom, Kelly Nye and Walter Reiss.

Ceramicist Reiss still grapples with the challenge of designing a project that can be formed, fired, glazed and fired again in a mere two hours. “We may have to begin a project and then mail it to participants after the final firing,” suggested Reiss, who creates non-functional, whimsical teapots and plans to teach his students how to make one of their very own.

Metalsmith Ames has created “tide pool bracelets,” intricate wire compositions that her students will be able to recreate using sterling silver wire and stones of their choosing. “It’s a chance for my students to create something beautiful that they can wear and also meet some of the local art community,” she said.

Jewelry designer David Farris will teach how to make earrings and pendants from copper and silver. A relative newcomer to teaching, he said that it’s been a challenge to come up with a piece of jewelry that can be finished in two hours. “There are limits to what’s possible, but I have already done practice projects with my wife and friends,” he said.

Glass blower John Barber had advocated for year-round art classes after the month-long “Spring into Art” workshops proved popular beginning in 2003. In the meantime, his own studio has hosted private tours for out of town visitors in alliance with the visitors’ bureau. “They have always been very helpful in bringing together artists and visitors,” he said.

For information check www.sawdustartfestival.org  or call 949-494-3030.

Once the Sawdust and the visitors’ bureau partner with participating hotels, concierges will be able to register visitors for classes

A tidepool bracelet created by Sawdust artist Linda Ames.

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