Sawdust Art Festival Booth Build

The 2017 Sawdust Art Festival here in Laguna Beach is in full swing, and this month I want to give you a glimpse into how it all comes together.

Outside of Laguna Beach, I have often received puzzled looks when telling people that I sell my jewelry at “The Sawdust.” Having been immersed in the show as an exhibitor for 11 years, and having been a visitor for many years prior to that, I tend to forget that the name does, in fact, seem a bit odd. Its origin dates back to the 1960s, when a small group of artists set themselves up on a dirt lot in town. Sawdust was spread to help keep the dust down, and when the local media called it the Sawdust Festival, the name stuck.

It is truly inspiring to me to see how far the show has come, now located on 3 acres of land along Laguna Canyon Road, with permanent structures for glass blowing demonstrations, hands-on pottery throwing at the ceramics center, entertainment, and food and drink. And — most importantly — the artists demonstrating and selling their work. And yes, there is still sawdust on the ground (well, these days it’s wood chips).

This was taken back in 2009: yours truly, trying my hand on the pottery wheel.

Part of what makes the Sawdust unique is the fact that each year we, the exhibitors, create our own artists’ village in a shady eucalyptus grove. No pop-up tents allowed! Our booths are not among the permanent structures, and every year each artist must design & build their own booth (some exhibitors build themselves — personally, I hire someone to do it for me).

The whole process starts with a lottery. In February, applicants receive lottery numbers, and our number determines the order in which we will later pick our spaces. You have to be a Laguna Beach resident to apply to the show, but after 10 years of continuous participation you have the right to exhibit even if you no longer live in town.

View of the grounds on Booth Pick Day

Early in May we gather on the grounds for Booth Pick Day. By this time, the spaces will have been marked with chalk outlines. As each exhibitor chooses their spot, it is noted on a giant map so that the rest of us can keep track of what is still available, anxiously waiting and desperately hoping that no one with a lower lottery number picks the space we want! Some years everyone gets a space, and some years there is not enough room for all who apply. And some years, like this one, we have extra space and are able to invite guest artists from outside of Laguna Beach to participate.

The day after Booth Pick Day construction starts, and we have about 6 weeks to get all the booths built.

Same view, only two days later!


Here’s my spot for this year, #221, on Booth Pick Day — the pie-shaped one in the foreground.


And here is it during framing.


After my builder does the framing, drywall and electrics for my main power supply and lights, I come in and do the rest: mudding, painting, hanging signs & posters, bringing in the jewelry cases and creating my mini-workshop in my booth.


And now I am open for business! Come see me at the Sawdust Art Festival, booth #221.


As always, you can shop online at

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