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What is Clay Monotype?

Updated: Jan 28, 2023

Clay monotype originally pioneered by Mitch Lyons, is a little-known approach to printmaking that involves using Remay (a material specifically designed to hold onto dirt with electrostatic energy) to pick up a thick layer of pigmented clay. Clay monotype is a versatile medium that uses a playful process to yield prints with a complex, layered, organic feel.

To learn more about Mitch Lyons and the origins of clay monotype and to shop prints made by Mitch Lyons, visit his website here. If you’re wondering how to get started with clay monotype or how to create a clay print, you’re in the right place!

To create a clay monotype, I start with a wooden plate deep enough to hold a piece of wet clay. To learn the specifics of how to build a plate, visit my post about building a plate here.

The clay inside the plate must be moist to pull a print. I use a groggy clay body. Honestly it doesn’t really matter what clay type you use: low fire, mid or high fire is great as long as it has a mid to high grog content.

Once the plate is filled with clay, let it dry long enough for it to still be damp but the edges start pulling away from the frame. Paint three layers of kaolin without pigment on top, letting the kaolin lose its shine between layers before adding the next. This process takes time.

Once your third layer of kaolin is dry enough to have lost its shine, you’re ready to prepare your first print.

To create the design on my plate, I use kaolin pigmented with universal tints. Beyond painting a design using pigmented kaolin, there are a number of techniques I use to give my prints texture and depth.

When I’m finished designing the plate I line the edge of the frame (slightly overlapping onto the plate) using drywall tape so that I have a crisp edge print. Mist the drywall tape before laying it onto the print edges. I pull the print onto Remay. Remay is sold in a large roll, similar to butcher paper, so before pulling the print I cut a piece to fit. We buy Remay from Tate Engineering. I spray a fine mist of water across the Remay and lay the misted Remay over the plate and firmly roll the Remay against the plate using a brayer at first, and then the back of a spoon to ensure that the design evenly adheres to the full piece of Remay. Be sure to work the edges and the center of the plate. These spots are the most commonly missed. As I transfer, I repeatedly lift one side of the Remay (Hold the other side down firmly so as to not lose your register.) to examine the quality of the print and identify areas that need more pressure to transfer.

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