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Festival gets under way this weekend

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What does it mean to paint with fire?

What makes pottery fired in a wood kiln so unique?

Why do artists still practice this 1,500-year-old firing method when contemporary firing processes, such as natural gas, propane and electricity seem so much easier?

Find out this weekend when more than 100 artists share their wood-fired ceramic art pieces at the 45th annual Festival of the Arts celebration in Lake Oswego, taking place at the Lakewood Center for the Arts - 368 S. State St. - and George Rogers Park across the street. The festival runs Friday through Sunday.

The Painting with Fire: Wood Fired Ceramics exhibit will be the largest showing of wood-fired ceramic art ever assembled in Oregon.

The method of wood firing utilizes wood as fuel within a kiln of brick chambers built on a slight upwards slope. On the inside, the heat and flame winds around the ceramic pottery - pots, bowls, vases - for days as a damper pulls the flame upward to the chimney.

This 'river of flames,' as Natalie Warrens, the exhibits curator said, creates the unpredictable colors, patterns and textures on the pots' surfaces. Eight to 12 people are needed to monitor the kiln every few minutes for between 30 to 100 hours. And temperatures can reach more than 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit, which is essential for the firing to be successful.

Warrens said the process takes earth minerals and allows them to crystallize through temperatures as hot as lava.

On Friday from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Robert Barron of Australia and local wood fire artists will share their expertise in the Mainstage Theatre at the Lakewood Center. At 11 a.m. on Saturday, Hiroshi Ogawa -followed by Natalie Warrens at 1 p.m. - will lead a tour of the exhibition.

The festival promises to offer art in some form for everyone.

Friday kicks off with Kids Day in the afternoon, when hundreds of children will gather in the park for music and theatrical entertainment. The Missoula Children's Theatre will perform 'The Amazing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe' on stage at dinnertime.

Also available to view this weekend is The Chronicle Invitational Art Exhibit, which will combine 40 noted regional artists to express their own ideas and visions of Lake Oswego in different media. A Fine Arts Craft Faire of 110 booths with fine arts crafts, musical entertainment, a variety of foods and art available for purchase will take place at the park. The Open Show - located in the Wells Fargo Pavilion tent behind the Lakewood Center - will house more than 1,000 pieces of art crafted by 600 artists.

The Juried Art Show is the only exhibit where the artists submit slides of their work in advance to be chosen to participate. And this year, 94 artists submitted more than 260 slides and 32 artists were chosen.

For more information, visit www.lakewood-center.org or visit the Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings office at 400 Second St. and pick up the official Festival of the Arts program guide.