VACI lecturer Lyons presents on clay printing process

Mitch Lyons’ longtime love affair with clay began back in his days as an undergraduate when he saw someone throwing clay on a potting wheel.

“Around 1965, I fell in love with clay,” he said.

Lyons will discuss his techniques and career at 1 p.m. Sunday in the Hall of Christ.

Originally a printmaker, Lyons went to graduate school for ceramics, and invented the process of clay printing in the late 1960s. Lyons pioneered the art of clay printing while attempting to discover a process that would enable him to combine his two favorite mediums of clay and printmaking.

“Basically, I married my interest in printmaking with clay,” he said.

Once the clay is rolled out onto a slab, a paper that has a positive charge is rolled over the clay, which has a negative charge, he said.

“It’s an unusual relationship between high tech and low tech,” he said when discussing the difference between the paper and the clay.

Clay printing also uses the same slab of clay repeatedly, Lyons said.

“My slab is almost 34 years old. It’s like taking an old canvas you don’t like and repainting it and starting over,” he said.

Lyons has been teaching and giving workshops on clay printing for more than 40 years and said he doesn’t know why the process hasn’t caught on more. Despite the ease of the process, clay printers remain a small group.

At a demonstration in Florida, he met Blossom McBrier. McBrier, a Chautauquan ceramist, is sponsoring Lyons’ workshop at 10 a.m. Saturday at the School of Art.

McBrier said the workshop should be helpful to anyone looking to augment their knowledge of working with clay and said his technique is a modern adaptation on the “world’s oldest art form.”

Lyons will discuss his work as both a potter and clay printer during his lecture, and plans to display images of his work from 1970 to the mid-1990s.

Lyons said years ago he tried to support himself with his clay potting, but it was his clay printing that has provided him with a living.

“Making the pots now is more a therapy for me,” he said.

Lyons said his clay printing and pot making are related.

“They feed each other. There’s not much difference in my mind between clay printing and making pots,” he said.

Lyons recently finished a book he wrote on the art of clay printing, a process he called “100 times harder” than making the clay prints themselves.

The challenge, he said, was in describing clay printing and putting his images into words. He had to answer an important question while writing.

“How do you make sense out of clay printing, which is a very illogical process and make it sound like it’s logical?” Lyons said.

Almost 50 years after discovering clay and potting, he still finds his work fresh and exciting.

“I’m still excited by it, the different ways of adding marks to the slab,” he said. “It’s not isolated. If you’re interested in life and the way the world works, you’re interested in your work.”