Posted by: groundsforsculpture | September 8, 2010

Clay Monoprints at Grounds For Sculpture

by Cassandra Demski, Curator of Education

Grounds For Sculpture was busy with aspiring artists on Friday, August 27th, when artist Mitch Lyons presented an intimate lecture about his innovative artistic process.

Lyons is a local clay artist who began as a potter, earning a MFA in ceramics from Tyler School of Art at Temple University. While in art school, Lyons also studied printmaking. After a few years as an artist, Lyons began to experiment with the medium of clay using his background knowledge of printmaking.

Mitch Lyons - early years

He started to create what he called “clay prints”. To make these, Lyons would design a pattern on a flat piece of clay and apply paper to the top of it. Each time the paper was pressed onto the clay, the design was printed onto the paper. Lyons explained that this could be repeated up to 20 times for each clay design, although he rarely printed more than 6 editions of each print. After he had created the desired number of prints, he fired the clay tablet to create a ceramic work. These prints were all identical, just as a woodcarving or traditional block print would be.

Always wishing to innovate his artwork, Lyons began to experiment with the printmaking process. He rolled out a 6 by 6 foot slab of clay in his studio and began to apply natural paint pigments to the clay. He mixed the pigments with clay and water to create slip, clay with a high water content that is applied with a brush. When he placed paper on top of this slab to create a print, the first print would absorb a high amount of the water from the slip. This meant that the next print would look very different depending on how thick the slip had been applied to the slab. A new art form was born: the “clay monoprint.”

Monoprint by Mitch Lyons

Lyons explained that he experimented with many types of paper when making these monoprints, from art paper to sand paper. He believes the best material for these prints is a type of industrial paper made by DuPont, which is similar to the material used in Swiffer-brand cloths.

The boom in the corporate art market during the 1980s and 1990s contributed to Lyons’ success. He notes that, even after 30 years, he has never had a complaint of a monoprint cracking or flaking from the paper. Many companies ordered his work because a completed print could easily be rolled up and transported to a company in a tube.

The slides Lyons showed during his presentation, and the images on this blog, cannot do justice to the beauty of his monoprints. The colors in the works are so vivid that they seem almost to jump from the paper. The texture of the paper creates a sheen or shimmer effect on the pigments that adds depth to the work. Patrons at the lecture were rewarded by seeing examples of his actual monoprints at the conclusion of the talk.

Patrons viewing Mitch Lyons' monoprints

This was a great introduction for the Clay Monoprint Intensive Workshop that took place on both Saturday and Sunday the 28th and 29th of August. Workshop, students each created their own clay slab which they then layered with multicolored natural slip. They printed monoprints from the slabs and continued to layer the pigments to create new outcomes with each printing. Lyons also shared footage from his DVD and hints on how to perfect this technique to the students.

Mitch Lyons believes that, apart from his own students, he is the only person to create clay monoprints and has been using this technique since 1968.


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