The clay monoprint workshop with Mitch Lyons at Peters Valley School of Craft over Labor Day weekend 2017 was my idea of happy. I miss Mitch so much, yet at the same time I feel his presence and his encouragement. He always said "let me know how it goes," regarding any experiment, no matter how crazy, and enjoyed seeing his many students find their own unique paths.
The quote on the front of the brochure at Mitch's Celebration of Life says it all.
His death on March 5, 2018 was a deeply sad loss for so many people. I felt lost and unable to make any new clay monoprints until after his Celebration of Life on April 28th at the Delaware Contemporary.
It helped to go out to his studio, visit with his wife Meredith, and look through all his flat files to select a clay monoprint for over our mantelpiece. I also picked a small one which hangs unframed next to the door in my studio, so I see it many times a day:
It is the only one I found where he wrote in the margin, here noting the date of a tung oil experiment.
I'm slowly growing into what I need to do, now that I can't just rely on Mitch. I used to order 20 sheets of Reemay at a time from him. (Reemay is the non-woven industrial substrate that acts as the 'paper'). Now I have my own industrial roll of Reemay, 40" wide and 30 yards long. A friend will come over soon and take 15 yards of it.
When one of my wooden slabs, the printing matrix, was warped or had gotten mildewy from the need to keep the clay moist when not in use on a daily basis, I just purchased another one from Mitch. With Mitch gone I considered building my own slabs. The directions are quite clear in his book:
For me, it would be like changing the oil in my car myself. I decided to ask my new handyman to do it, and xeroxed the pages with the specifications from Mitch's book for him. He realized that the plastic lining of the wooden board was meant as a moisture-barrier between the clay and the wood, and suggested azek, a synthetic polymer that is impervious to moisture. The universe sent me a new handyman who is himself an artist. I am grateful for these synchronicities, and I now have azek slabs! I filled this one with stoneware clay:
It felt strange to put the clay down directly on the azek, rather than on a plastic liner. I'll have to get used to this.
A scraping stick is then used to level the slab. To store it until I am ready to make some clay monoprints, I cover it with damp rayon in a plastic box. (It's important to use a synthetic fabric rather than cotton. I was told this, but used cotton at first and found out its truth the hard way..)
Under-the-bed storage boxes are a good size for this, with the advantage that they can be stacked and have wheels.
It's all an experiment. I'll let you know how it goes, Mitch.