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OK, lets hear it for the gifts

More than 50 artists will show their work at a church in Tigard
by: Jaime Valdez Raku artist Roberta Babcock of Beaverton and some of the whimsical western figures she has created out of clay and iron for the upcoming Celebrate the Gifts Art Festival.

All around the Portland area, 54 artists - count 'em, 54 - are busy right now painting, sculpting, shaping, framing, fashioning and finishing up their best works of art in preparation for the second Celebrate the Gifts Art Festival planned for Oct. 1 and 2 at Calvin Presbyterian Church in Tigard.

The indoor, fine arts show and sale will showcase watercolors, oil and acrylic paintings, ceramics, jewelry, fabric arts and more, and it will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.

What's more, say organizers, artists will conduct hourlong demonstrations periodically throughout the festival weekend.

Calvin Presbyterian Church is located at 10445 S.W. Canterbury Lane, and it can be reached at 503-639-3273 or by visiting calvinpresbyterian.org.

Saturday evening also will feature a 'celebration concert' performed by Oregon Chamber Singers under the direction of Sandra Miller at 7 p.m. The program includes music from Broadway shows and choral arrangements of pop tunes.

After the concert, there will be an opportunity to meet the artists as they showcase their work. The exhibit areas will open again from 8 to 9 p.m. Saturday for an evening artist reception. Admission to the show, concert and reception is free.

Donations and a percentage of art sales at the event will benefit local mission projects. Those include the Good Neighbor Center, Union Gospel Mission, Affordable Housing, Step It Up Inc, Western Farm Workers, Habitat for Humanity, Jubilee Transition House, HopeSpring Housing and Tigard's St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry.

Hoping to double that

Last year's one-day event raised $4,500, according to artist and church member Dee Rommel, and this year organizers hope to double that.

Rommel, who does oil and watercolor painting as well as collages at her Tigard studio, explained that her church got the idea from the longstanding art show and sale held every year at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverton.

Making money for the good causes is one goal, she said. 'But also it's to celebrate art in its different forms.'

Beaverton artist Roberta Babcock, who works in clay and metal when she's not painting, found her way to this show by being involved in the Southminster show, near the intersection of Hall Boulevard and Denney Road. 'They got my name from being in that church show,' she said.

Not content to stick entirely with any one art medium, Babcock last week confessed, 'This week, all I'm doing is raku.'

The name raku generally is applied to pottery fired at a relatively low temperature and cooled rapidly, then placed in a closed container with combustible materials like straw or paper, which results in unpredictable colors. For Babcock, it means traveling to Salem, where she can do the firing outdoors.

'The reason I'm doing raku right now is because you really can get some wild, unexpected colors in the clay,' Babcock explained in the studio she operates in her Beaverton garage. 'You can't plan it. It's unexpected, and the gifts are really great.'

And the figures she produces are also a bit on the unexpected side. Although she's done more than her share of realistic human and animal figures, lately, she's been making a lot of whimsically distorted horses, cowboys and cowgirls.

'The shorter the better'

'I've been doing clay sculptures for six years,' said Babcock, explaining that after 'many years' of drawing and painting, she took a class at Portland Community College and then studied with an Arizona woman who specialized in working with iron and clay combined.

The result is fanciful figures with long slender legs containing metal rebar, she said. The firing produces some interesting (and unpredictable) crackling on the figures' surface.

The raku firing is 'much shorter,' she said. 'The shorter the better because of the steel in it.'

It's fired at 850 degrees. At that temperature, she added, 'I think you could cook a pizza pretty fast.'

Originally from Santa Rosa, Calif., Babcock came here with her husband Doug in 2005, when he took a job as a consultant for Nike. These days he works for Kaiser Permanente.

'My dad was a saddle maker, so I kind of grew up in a cowboy/western stetting,' she said of her affinity for the subject matter. She's been asked why there are no saddles on her horses, she said, adding, 'They're more about movement and the motion, rather than the hardware.'

Babcock also shows her work at Art on Broadway, 12570 S.W. Broadway, Beaverton.

Dee Rommel, in addition to getting ready for the Celebrate the Gifts show at her church, is scrambling to produce art for two other shows in the next few days, including one at Concordia College, where she'll show seven pieces. In her spare time, meanwhile, she practices on Wednesday nights for the church choir and again on Sunday nights for the Millennium Dance Band, in which she plays saxophone.

And, if that weren't all enough to keep her hopping, she's a principal organizer for the Oct. 1 and 2 show at Calvin Presbyterian.

It 'becomes like a treasure'

A descendant of a pioneer family and born in Portland, Rommel graduated in 1955 from Roosevelt High School.

'I've lived here all my life,' she said. 'And I've lived in Tigard about 45 years.'

All around her in her Tigard studio paintings are drying, including a series of oils showing flowers and tell-tale rock formations from the Steens Mountain area of Southeastern Oregon.

'A lot of the stuff I do is from the vacations I've gone on,' she confessed, explaining that she occasionally works in the field, but is just as likely to bring home photographs and work from those.

'It kind of becomes like a treasure,' she said. 'You appreciate it more as you go through the years.'

Pointing to canvases showing kids and one of a young woman, she admitted they were both of family members.

'I like to do figurative,' she said, adding that both of those would be at the Celebrate the Gifts show. 'I'm doing more landscapes right now, but I also like to do figures.'

A number of other local artists are scheduled to show their work at the Calvin Presbyterian show. For more details, visit calvinpresbyterian.org.