Clay printer Lyons invites public to his studio

Courtesy photo Mitch Lyons is sending out this invitation to his open house.
Courtesy photo This is Mitch Lyons' first clay print.

NEW LONDON -- A popular local artist who has a unique method of creating his work will open his studio to the public for a week starting Nov. 30.

Mitch Lyons, who says he invented the technique of making clay prints, invites art lovers -- and even those who aren’t sure whether they are or not -- to stop by and see his pieces and watch how he designs and produces them.

Lyons, 75, works in the studio behind his house at 2009 Newark Road (Route 896) in New London. He’s been there for 30 years and decided it was time to let people see part of his large collection of artwork.

He announced through posters and postcards to friends that he will open his doors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day from Nov. 30 to Dec. 8.

Those who stop by will see not only his abstract prints mounted along the wall, but also clay pots and statues that he made mostly with what he calls “broomstick” method. That is, they are not thrown on a potter’s wheel, but rather rolled out and formed by his hands.

His printing process is unique. He describes it as a melding of clay sculpting and painting, the two art forms in which he majored during the 1960s at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts (undergraduate) and Taylor Art Institute (graduate).

He starts with a large slab of clay, which, like sourdough, goes on and on -- evolving.

He applies layers and layers of colored clay with the texture of pancake batter to the slab, and then he places paper on top and rolls the clay design onto it.

Her first started experimenting with it in 1968 and said that, according to his research, no one has ever produced art like this before.

“Oh, maybe back 4,000 years when the first cave men threw a slab of clay against the cave wall…….” he said.

It took years for him to get the technique down the way he wanted. He had to find the right kind of paper, one that would work well with the clay. And he had to determine how best to create the texture of the clay to form what for all intents and purposes is a painting,

Through the years he has come up with a myriad of designs and has even assembled a collection of stencils that add their own interest to his prints.

What he finds interesting and close to his heart is that his slab of clay, the one he runs paper on to make his prints, is ever evolving. He never throws the old one away. Instead, he just piles on more layers.

Thirty-three years ago the slab was about a quarter inch deep; now it is more than three inches.

When he was asked why he never starts a new slab, he replied, “That would be like ripping pages out of your diary.”

Lyons said he never really knows where a print is going to end up when he gets started. “I like to discover the work, If I knew where it was going, I wouldn’t do it,” he said.

Likewise, he said he really can’t define when a print is done. He just knows.

Lyons is well known among Chester County artists and is part of the county studio tour on Mother’s Day.

Early in his career he was part of an artist’s colony in Chadds Ford, hanging out at Hank’s and rubbing elbows with the likes of the Wyeths.

He has also taught art at the Chester County Art Association and in Arizona, and has made a video about his technique.

He credit’s the Art Association with promoting his work and making it “take off.”

Lyons says he loves his work and has no intention of retiring.

The studio is about a half mile south of the intersection of Route 896 and Avondale-New London Road. There is a flag out in front that says, “OPEN.”

Admission is free, and for the duration of the open house, all the pieces are 30 percent off.

About the Author

Chris Barber

Chris Barber is the editor of the Avon Grove Sun. She was previously southern bureau chief of the Daily Local News and editor of the Kennett Paper, earning honors in writing and photography. Reach the author at agsun@kennettpaper.com .