Sawdust Festival

Bette McIntire stands with one of her most popular pieces entitled "fresh night coffee." (Don Leach / / August 19, 2013)

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Read this story carefully; part of it could make its way into Bette McIntire's next work of art.

For the past seven years, the Laguna Beach artist has worked predominantly with pages of the Los Angeles Times. The language is "rich" and the font is eye-catching, McIntire said.

As soon as the paper lands on her driveway, she begins on the front page and meanders through news and sports, leaving the Calendar section — her favorite — for last. Words that pop out during her daily perusal go into a notebook.

As her ideas swirl, the writer-turned-artist offers positive missives through the "found poems" she constructs with words literally ripped from headlines. Photographs, stories and captions are also fair game.

McIntire's collages, which become part of her "Daily News" series, are then adorned with hand-drawn pictures, paints, stamps and scraps of junk mail.

"My philosophy is that you wake up with the ingredients of your day and how you put it together is kind of the day and life you will have," said McIntire, an avid reader.

McIntire, an exhibitor at the Sawdust Art Festival, prices her work between $15 for a "Moment," smaller versions of the "Daily News," and $325 for a large wood-mounted collage.

Her poems corresponding to each day of the calendar year have been compiled into one long poem, printed in a self-bound book — the exterior of which resembles newspapers that, during her childhood, were delivered wrapped in brown paper.

"I never meant to do every day of the year — I just became obsessive," McIntire said, adding that she was emboldened by the presence of words in her art.

Visitors flock to her booth as much for her press-themed pieces as her "Drawing Lines on Life" series, in which fragments of original verses skirt around sketchings of women, flowers and birds. Summer sales have been steady and on par with last year, but demand for her work has blossomed since she started at the festival in 2006.

The self-taught artist also admits that although she didn't intend to encourage recycling and reusing items, it is a happy byproduct that she wholeheartedly supports.

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'Found object'

Shamus Koch's story is much the same.

Economics — not environmental awareness — guided him into his "found object" sculpture. The 63-year-old scavanges old farms, scrapyards and town dumps, oases where $10 provides him access to gears, chains, saws, mashed car bumpers, pitch forks and wrenches.

Spark plug fireflies are among his top-selling products, he said.

"I didn't ride on anybody's bandwagon or do it because it was popular," he said about his style, which he started 17 years ago, before catchphrases like repurposed and green art were hip. "I love what I'm able to create using junk."

Koch, pronounded "cook," was living in Newald, Wis., when he first heard about the Sawdust Festival in the early 1970s. With the image of a "sophisticated" artists' colony burned into his mind, he made Laguna Beach his home in 1983.

"When I first started, the public was not ready for it," he said. "They'd look at my work and go, 'You call this art?'"

Along with his evolution as an artist and welder, Koch credits Martha Stewart's suggestion to use "rusty sculptures" as garden art for elevating him from merely breaking even to becoming a Sawdust "destination."