Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

In just about an hour, the classroom of fifth-graders was overrun with monsters.

Well, being made of clay, these monsters didn't run - but they were on every desk, molded into any shape the students could create.

Some had one eye, some had four - nearly all had a mouthful of pointy teeth, horns, ears and claws.

Across the hall, in another fifth-grade classroom, a less terrifying art project - printmaking - was under way.

This week the students at South Baker Intermediate School were visited by two Portland artists - James DeRosso and Sheryl Murray.

They came at the request of Bekki Hurley, who saw DeRosso's work featured on OPB's Oregon Art Beat.

"I emailed him as soon as the show was over," Hurley said.

The artist-in-residence program was funded by the South Baker PTO and the money students raised selling cookie dough last fall.

DeRosso and Murray worked with every class, so each student made a monster and several prints.

DeRosso has been making monsters for about 20 years.

Why monsters?

"When I was your age, I got exposed to clay and really liked it," he told the fifth-graders.

He took art each year, and in high school was asked to be the kiln tech, which meant he loaded and unloaded the clay pieces in the kiln.

A kiln cooks the clay at 2,500 degrees, and DeRosso saw that sometimes the clay creations wouldn't survive that extreme heat. That was when he started making "kiln guardians" - small clay creatures he'd place on the kiln to protect the pieces inside.

"Pretty soon all my friends wanted the kiln guardians. That's how I started making monsters," he said. "Almost everything I make is a monster. If someone asks me to make a cookie jar, I'll make a monster cookie jar."

He's taken his artistic talents into schools for about 15 years.

For more information about DeRosso's work, visit his website: www.monster8all.com.

Making Prints

In another classroom, Murray was taking students through the process of printmaking.

First, she had them outline their hand onto a piece of scratch foam board. Then the students etched designs, doodling away until they were satisfied.

Next they rolled it with paint, then pressed a white piece of paper on top, applying pressure with a spoon.

After rubbing for a few minutes, the paper was peeled off to reveal their print - everything they'd etched into the board stayed white while the rest was either turquoise or orange. (They made two prints, one of each color.)

"It's really spurred their imagination," said Jorja Culley, who teaches fifth grade.

Although Murray is an illustrator, she incorporates printmaking into her work.

And seeing the finished product never gets old.

"Pulling that print is magic," she said.

To learn more about Murray's work, visit her website: www.sherylmurray.com.