Interview with Mitch Lyons-
Clay Printing Artist

Mitch Lyons is a ceramic artist with a long history of pottery making. He is best known for being a pioneer of the process of printing on clay. Many thanks to Mitch for sharing his perspectives, advice, and knowledge is this interview. I hope you all enjoy it.

Steve -You are well known for clay printing. What about the clay printing process excites you the most?

Mitch - Everything about printing with colored clay excites me. After 42 years of printing with clay I still get excited when I return to my studio. Making marks into a wet slab; mixing colored clays; finding new tools and textures to apply to the slab; inventing new ways to add colored clay; looking for new tools, using ceramic techniques to add to the slab, i.e. slip trailing, stenciling, and inlaying color.

Everything about the process excites me. "An unaimed arrow always hits it's mark".

Steve - How did you first become interested in working with clay?

Mitch - In 1960 I was a 3rd year printmaking student at The University of Arts [PCA] in Philadelphia. Somehow I found myself wondering down in the basement where the ceramic department was and for the first time in my life saw someone throwing on the potters wheel; and you know the rest of the story--- I bagged my classes that day and witness magic. At that moment I decided that clay was going to be my way to help connect the dots. So I went on to graduate school in ceramics, and it was there [1968] that I first got the idea of combining my two loves, printmaking and clay.

Steve - What is the first clay piece you remember creating?

Mitch - While struggling with learning how to throw, I began to handbuild, so the first piece was a slab bird bath that had "corn on the cob" texture, I gave to my brother as a gift for his new house, but he never used it. Not sure why.

Steve - What is it about your chosen medium that challenges you?

Mitch - After working this way for 42 years, and having a great time inventing new ways to add to this allusive medium, I wonder if I can keep it up. The challenge for me is to keep the excitement elevated to the level that I first felt when it was new. The challenge is to "walk into the studio as if it were the first time". I remember years ago when Kellogg's came out with this add "Taste Kellogg's again for the first time". That is my challenge.

Steve- What advice would you offer to a beginner who is just learning to work with clay?

Mitch- Learn all you can about clay, materials, glazes, firing, etc, etc, etc. Love the process. Not many know how. It is very difficult. The process is where the magic comes from. That is where the fires keep burning. That is where you will find your soul. It will take many years of slowly gaining wisdom through the process, not the product. Trust the process and the product will take care of itself.

Steve - Can you share with us a tip or technique that you wish you had learned earlier in your career?

Mitch - Each time I went to NCECA, as a student, I came back with my tail between my legs. I was so influenced by what I saw that my confidence was shaken to a point that I reexamined my work and went off in a totally new direction, only to return once my soul was restored. I learned a lot, but the work was not me. We are influenced by so much, we lose our way. Finding and keeping on the path is difficult because of so many distractions.

Steve - In what direction do you see yourself taking your work in the future?

Mitch - Right now I am experimenting with different papers to print with. I have had good results printing on sandpaper, pastel paper, tar paper, wall paper, etc. I also returned to making pots after 15 years of hiatus, and I am enjoying that very much. I see no difference between making pots and making prints. I know after so many years that I have a over abundance of making objects.

To see the beautiful finished products that come from Mitch Lyon's fascinating process visit his website at

Thanks for reading and happy potting,


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