Festival brings out the smiles and the sunshine
The gorgeous weekend weather set the tone for the 45th Festival of the Arts in Lake Oswego.
And the quality of the event stepped right in line and left organizers positively beaming about how things went.
'I think the energy was great, people had smiles on their faces all weekend,' said Tris Denton, who co-chaired the festival along with Karen Crist.
'The weather was perfect,' said Denton, whose mother, Dee Denton, started the first festival. 'The music was outstanding. The quality of the art, across the board, I thought was fantastic.'
According to Andrew Edwards, Lakewood Center director, attendance at this year's festival was between 21,000 and 22,000 people, based on the number of surveys volunteers gathered throughout the event.
'We were pleased with how the community embraced Robert Barron's work,' said Edwards of the Australian wood-fire potter who was a special guest of the main exhibit, Painting with Fire: Wood Fired Ceramics. 'His presentations and discussions were well attended.'
Denton was pleased with the public's response to the festival: 'It's a really fun time,' adding, 'there's a lot of electricity in the air.'
She noted that '500-plus volunteers' ensured the success of the festival. 'We had lots of new volunteers - that was great.'
Edwards also was grateful for the efforts of the volunteers and sponsors who make the event possible.
'We really appreciate our new sponsors and of course, the city of Lake Oswego and Wells Fargo Bank for their leadership in making this event happen each year,' he said.
'There's so much commitment, so much passion, it's really cool,' said Denton, who also was appreciative of the efforts by the city.
She felt the special wood fire ceramic exhibit went over very well and was pleased with how attendees embraced the use of the festival's shuttle service.
'The festival's fun, but it's also educational,' Denton said. 'It's a great gift to the community.'
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For Australian artist Robert Barron, artistic skills are like mother, like son.
Barron proved his abilities with his artwork in this past weekend's Festival of the Arts featured exhibit, Painting with Fire: Wood Fired Ceramics.
When Barron grew up, his mother worked with wood-fired ceramics and some of her skills rubbed off, he said. Through the past 30 years, Barron has fine-tuned the process of wood firing and came to the show with some amazing pieces fired in Australia and then shipped to Lake Oswego in a carefully padded crate.
Wood-fired ceramics is a technique of firing pottery items in a kiln. The size of the kiln can vary, but while firing pottery, the kiln must be watched and checked on about every 10 minutes, Natalie Warrens curator of the main exhibit said. The fire can burn from four to 10 days in the kiln.
Artists combine their efforts and time to take turns watching the fire, keeping the flame level consistent.
The temperature in the kiln can reach more than 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit.
'The process and purpose of wood-fired ceramics is to allow the wood, the heat and the flame to create the surface,' Warrens said.
Barron, on the other hand, has tweaked the process to gain a new technique.
His development of the technique of tipping over the pots in the fire to actually touch the bed of coals creates a look like no other process out there. Striations from the fire hug the pots' circumference and the dark, black-hardened ash from the wood contrasts with the light orange color of the clay. The minerals in the wood create different colors on the pieces when burned and are the source for color on the pottery, Warrens said.
'I love the results you can get,' Barron said. 'It's a dynamic process, constantly changing.'
Barron can now mark Lake Oswego off of the list of many places in the world he has traveled. Korea, one of the most influential destinations on his list, taught him an array of new information about the different kilns and how they play a role in the results of the pottery.
'Wood-fired ceramics are a very international thing,' Barron said.
He enjoyed his stay in Lake Oswego and wanted to spread his knowledge of this technique to other artists.
'It's good coming here, we can learn from each other,' Barron said. 'It's great to share ideas.'
The show as a whole has been the culmination of hard work and many artists coming together.
Warrens focused this year's exhibit on this technique for firing pottery because it's something she wanted more people to know about.
'I want the public to gain a greater understanding of wood-fired ceramics and gain a greater knowledge of the process,' she said.
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Volodymyr Pavlyk, a new Portland resident, exhibited in 'The Artist's Vision' juried show inside the Lakewood Center for his first festival appearance.
Pavlyk, a painter who was born in Ukraine, moved to Portland from Chicago, where he had an interior design business.
The move has been a time for him to find himself in his personal art again. So far he loves the Portland area for the natural inspiration of the outdoors. It's also been the most productive year he's ever had - 15 paintings.
'(Portland) is a natural magnet for art,' he said. '(The festival) is a great opportunity to go and meet people.'
Pavlyk used a unique technique for his two watercolors.
The first was called 'Garden of Memories' and is his mind's picture of his grandmother's farm. 'It's several years of heaven when I was a little boy,' he said.
The second is a bridge in France that the Germans attempted to bomb during World War II and a contemporary place of gathering for homeless people.
'I tried to go deep into the piece of architecture and history at the same time,' he said.
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Oregon potter Sandy Segna said many people attending the festival were firing their imaginations - especially when it came to understanding how the wood-firing process worked.
'A lot of people have been asking about the process,' she said on Saturday. 'They want to know how the pots are fired, how the kilns work and why each of the pots look different.'
Once pottery is created - bowls, cups, sculptures - from high-temperature stoneware, it is carefully stacked within the kiln along the bottom and on shelves. Space surrounds the objects on all sides.
'Every pot has to be wadded using a mixture of clay, sod and organic material that burns out,' Segna said.
During a firing, heat and flame wind around the pots for days. A damper pulls the flame upward to the chimney, located in the back of the kiln which looks like a brick igloo. Each item is placed on a small amount of wadding so they don't get stuck together, or stuck to the shelf they sit upon.
'You get such fabulous, unexpected results,' Segna said of the group activity of loading and monitoring a kiln during a firing.
'You're working with people the whole time,' she said. 'People have potlucks and load and unload the kilns together.'
Segna's husband, Ted Ernst, also spoke with visitors at the exhibit about his love for this process.
'It's truly a collaboration between you, the kiln and the clay,' Ernst said. 'And different clay bodies give off different looks.'
Porcelain clay produces a more rosy color because it contains less iron than other varieties. When firing a kiln he typically uses fir, maple and alder trees as fuel.
'It's really interesting,' said Annika Leybold, a Lake Oswego resident, admiring the work. 'I like the colors and color differences. And the texture.'
Her mom, Sandy Leybold, said they attended the exhibit, 'to understand how this (process) works.'
She continued, 'Some of (the pottery) looks like porcelain and some looks like it's from Ancient Greece.'
While people admired pottery within the Lakewood Center for the Arts on Saturday, a party was to be had at George Rogers Park with music and many from near and far dancing to the performers' efforts.
'It's my first time here and I'm truly impressed,' said Chris Nordquist from Dundee. 'The weather could not have been better and I love Pepe and the Bottle Blondes.'
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The artist's reception on Friday night was teeming with inspiration as artists from all different exhibits met each other, awarded each other and encouraged each other to continue creating despite common obstacles.
Robert Hess, professor emeritus of Willamette University and a judge of the festival, reflected on the words of the writer Henry James: 'We work in the dark - we do what we can - we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.'
In his own words he further prodded the local art community, by using the example of Vicent Van Gogh whose career was not marked by lots of sales or exhibits. The bottom line for an artist, he said, should be simply to create good art.
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And with the closing of the festival, Andrew Edwards and the Lakewood Center staff and volunteers turn to the next event on the horizon: Monday's Lakewood Center for the Arts Annual Meeting and OTAS Awards Party. See related story on page A9.
The OTAS Awards Party starts at 6:30 p.m. at the center. Admission is free, but reservations are requested. Call the Box Office to RSVP, 503-635-3901.
Lake Oswego Review reporters Barb Randall, Joelle Cheek, Rebecca Mayer, Nicole DeCosta and Martin Forbes teamed up on this story.