Roberta Lavadour's "Hip and Handmade" art class at the Pendleton Center for the Arts has a small but passionate following.

Since the class started in November, Lavadour and her class have crocheted rugs out of Pendleton Wool scraps and created pop-up books, among many other things. For one project they made thaumatropes, which are discs or cards that have a picture on each side. When the cards are twirled, the two pictures seem to merge into one.

"Roberta always has good ideas, and I can share them with my kids," Rachael Owen said. "My kids love to craft."

The class is an hour long, and students take home templates and supplies so they can make the projects at home. But it's not just the art that brings the small group of women together. They also share ideas and enjoy hanging out in the art center, a naturally soothing experience.

A few of her students find Lavadour's class so satisfying they are willing to drive long distances to get to it. Heidi Postlewait is a writer who lives in Walla Walla, and Karen Brown teaches middle School in Boardman.

"It gives me space to breathe," Brown said of the class.

The craft of the day Saturday was small business-card sized art boxes made from cereal cardboard. Lavadour's demo piece was decorated with a vintage advertisement cutout of a woman and overlaid with pattern tissue. Typically, Lavadour's art incorporates found, recycled or natural materials - she is known by her students as a master scavenger.

A few of the gems Lavadour has found while scouting in thrift sores and yard sales are a case of "priceless" double-sided tape and a stack of plain medical file folders, perfect for making simple small book covers. For her homemade paper, Lavadour often uses plant material found near her home on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

"Everyone in town knows me as the Art Center girl, but I have a whole other life as an artist," she said.

Lavadour shares a studio with her husband, James, a painter who is well known for his intense abstract landscapes that echo Eastern Oregon and the Blue Mountains. Mainly, she creates art books, things that can be a little hard to describe to someone who has never seen one.

"It's an art piece that includes some sort of book element - the turning of pages, narrative or sculpture," she said. "You're using those concepts to make an art piece that sometimes looks like a book, and sometimes doesn't look anything like a book."

An art book that one of Lavadour's friends made for her is a flag book - a homemade book whose pages are cut horizontally into flags - illustrated with soft pastels and black line drawings.

As you turn the pages, you find abstract pictures and words that are spaced like a poem: A quick note from me to you.

When you pull the two covers of the book apart, a new message appears: Happy Holidays.

The book can also be placed so its pages form the shape of a lotus.

Next Thursday, Oregon Public Broadcasting will feature Lavadour and her art on Oregon Art Beat, a show about Oregon artists. The experience of being filmed while making an art book, she said, was easy.

"They make you feel very relaxed and comfortable," she said. "I actually went bowling with the crew and the producer."


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