Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Clay Monoprinting in the Wilderness

The Craft School Experience:  Having a total immersion art-making marathon with nationally recognized teachers, in the middle of nowhere.  The best kind of summer camp for adults!  

Peters Valley School of Craft is in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a breathtakingly beautiful reserve that is relatively close to Philadelphia.  

I went there to spend the long Labor Day weekend making clay monoprints with Mitch Lyons, shown above with Autumn, our Fellow and a recent MFA graduate.   Mitch is the iconic pioneer of clay monoprinting who originated, explored, and developed it. He continues to explore all the time; clay monoprinting continues to develop. All of us who do it learned it from him or from someone who learned it from him. I get a kick out of how he wears his pony roller, the tool that hand presses the print, in a holster on his tool belt. 

He gave several wonderful demonstrations, that opened the door to appreciating the unending possibilities. Here he is using the kind of clay decal that is more often used on pottery. 

He is about to print on black sandpaper. 

The effect of using the leaf is haunting.

He is a big fan of using pastel chalk, which is largely made from clay.  He distributes it by scraping it through a strainer.

We made our own pastels by drying any leftover colored slip.  This made for a fascinating range of colors, far more various than commercially purchased pastels.

Our studio was on the second floor of this house:

We hung our prints to dry from a clothesline on the balcony.

By Monday morning we were all glad it was warm and sunny, after a couple of days of cold and rain.  Can you tell that clay monoprinting makes me happy?

Here is my slab after I pulled that print:

I pretty much stopped taping the edges.  Printing the whole area gives a kind of frame around it that I like.  It looks better too if unframed, and hanging with the wooden strip system I am using for the Pendle Hill show.  

The slabs are works of art in themselves.  This one is from a different series, making use of my mother's landscape design stencils.

We were nine participants and I learned from everyone. There was great synergy. Each person's work was so different and unique.  My new friend Elizabeth has been coming to Peters Valley for 20-something years - a real veteran.  You can see the back of her other snake print through the window.

The floor in the hallway of our studio was beautifully weathered.  We hoped our prints would look as good!

Our final critique / share:

By then we were all eager to hit the road, hoping to avoid the worst of Labor Day traffic.  It wasn't bad though, not like the shore traffic.

It will be a while before I get a chance to hand finish all the work I did, and I'll share it when I do. (First I have to prepare the Pendle Hill pieces for hanging.)  I brought home a batch of extra slip in a covered container, the magical stuff we add pigment to and paint with.  I'm tempted to use this container like a sourdough starter: just add a little bit to every batch I mix up, so a little bit of Peters Valley will infuse all my colors.