At home with art

WL potter Theresa Smith joins 60 metro-area artists at this weekend's hometown Village of Willamette Arts Festival
by: Vern Uyetake, West Linn’s Theresa Smith creates slab pottery in her 12-by-16-foot home studio. Smith’s pottery will be available this weekend in West Linn at the seventh annual Village of Willamette Arts Festival in downtown Willamette.

Crows perch above rooftops, swoop through power lines and greet us as we pick up the morning paper. These black birds are a part of our daily surroundings.

They are also the inspiration behind the pottery that West Linn resident Theresa Smith spends hours a day working on in her home studio.

'I hear crow stories all the time - probably on a weekly basis,' said Smith. 'There are talking crows - one intimidates a dog, cat and the sound of cars.'

Since she began creating slab pottery dishes featuring depictions of the black birds, Smith says she has learned about crows interacting with humans. One man told her crows from his front yard follow him when he gets coffee in town; another family repaired a crow's wings and then the bird moved in.

And this weekend she'll probably learn a few more crow stories when her art is on display at the outdoor Village of Willamette Arts Festival in downtown Willamette.

Now in it's seventh year, the juried West Linn festival features more than 60 metro-area artists with work in a variety of mediums - such as painting, watercolor, jewelry, photography, pottery, fiber art, metal and more. The event runs Saturday and Sunday.

'(I'm looking forward to) extending the summer just a bit, meeting customers from other years, visiting with neighbor vendors, enjoying new restaurants, listening to new-to-me bands (and) seeing relatives who live nearby,' said Georgine Longfellow, a ceramics artist who is in charge of publicity with the Village of Willamette Arts Festival board.

Started by Ann Flemming and Roxanne Roberts as a way to bring the community and artists together, the festival has remained a staple end-of-summer event.

Smith says she is excited to share her newest pottery creations featuring crows because they are her favorite and most successful works.

'What I do is collect dishes (from) thrift stores, garage sales, Goodwill,' she says. 'I have a slab roller here and I roll out a slab of clay and press it into the original dish and it dries in the form.'

From there, Smith uses a series of drying, painting, scraping and firing techniques to complete each piece.

So much art to see

In addition to display items for home-use, the festival features art with many uses. A Southeast Portland jeweler will showcase her work in silver at her debut at the festival.

'I consider the human body a mobile museum and what you wear is your exhibit,' said Sande Corbett with Corbett Designs: Distinctive Jewelry. 'It's your art exhibit. The idea is to wear art and jewelry.'

Corbett's bracelets, pendants, rings and broaches are made with sterling and fine silver and combined with gemstones, beach glass, pebbles and found objects. Her inspiration stems from trips to Mexico as a child where she noticed women wearing unique jewelry.

People aren't the only ones to participate in the festival - dogs also can leave with something special to share.

'I usually draw pictures of dogs on the spot. People will bring their dog to the booth and I'll do a portrait of the dog in charcoal. It gives me practice,' said Thea Bendix, from Canemah Studios in Oregon City. '(My) booth is filled with animal art and landscape art.'

This year Bendix's animal-inspired booth will be filled with photography, paintings and charcoal drawings depicting pets.

Children also can get involved.

'Face painting will be available,' said Longfellow. '(And) tables will have crayons and markers to decorate the tablecloths.'

And what would a festival be without music and food?

This year, musicians The So Called Blues Band, 3D Trio, Tim Ellis and Jim Walker, Fulton and Fontaine, Retta Christie Trio, Evengate, the Ellen Whyte Trio and 11-year-old guitarist Natalia Malo - who is just back from recording and performing in Los Angeles - are set to perform.

Many local restaurants - nearby are Bellagios Pizza, Essence of China, Lil' Cooperstown Pub and Grill, McMenamins Pub and Brewery and the West Linn Saloon - will provide outdoor seating and selected menus during event hours. The United Methodist Church will serve sweet slices of homemade pie, with or without ice cream.

Booths filled with colors will paint the backdrop for the festival. And the community is invited to mingle among friends, family and a variety of artisans.

'Since I've lived in this town, you just about see everyone you know. It's lovely. There's a lot of community,' said Smith. 'I always like to see the whole festival, because there's always something (unique).'

The outdoor event takes place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Willamette Falls Drive, south of West Linn's 10th St. exit from I-205. Admission is free and festivities will take place between 12th and 14th streets on Willamette Falls Drive.

A portion of the festival's proceeds will be donated to local art programs and to provide scholarships, said Rhonda Forsberg, a West Linn photographer and president of the Village of Willamette Arts Festival Board.

'We value arts education for young people and feel it is a way to enrich our community,' said Forsberg.

Some artists say an open-air festival provides a relaxed environment to learn new techniques, add to art collections and gather with community.

'(This type of festival is) a little more accessible. A lot of people won't take the time to go to a museum,' said Corbett. 'This is an opportunity to talk to the artists who make the work and shake hands.'

For more information about the Village of Willamette Arts Festival or for a complete schedule, see the special section in this week's Tidings, or visit the festival's Web site at