Trend-spotting: Combining clay and printmaking

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Printing on clay is not a new process. However, this technique’s recent spike in popularity could lead one to that conclusion. And printing on clay is popular for good reason. By combining these two fields, artists are pushing boundaries to create work that is innovative, engaging and eye-catching

Released in 2013 by Asheville’s own Lark Books, 500 Prints on Clay is a survey of this burgeoning field. The pieces included in the book explore the range of possibilities when combining clay and printmaking. There are artists who use screen-printing, image transfer, decals, monoprinting and more. There is work that is functional, decorative and sculptural. Some of the work uses printmaking to create a textural surface design, and some to develop imagery to communicate a concept. Western North Carolina is well represented within these pages. Here is a closer look at some featured local artists:

For Jason Bige Burnett, “Images and printmaking seem to come first.” Featured in the book with a piece entitled “Carnival Wall Tiles,” Burnett comments, “In my work I’m constantly trying alternative surface treatments that complement the screen-printed surface decorations but also something that can be graphic and independent without printed surfaces.” The featured piece is colorful and vivid with images of ferris wheels and carnival scenes. “I’m fond of the challenge that clay brings into the print processes,” said Burnett.

Rutherfordton artist Nancy Kubale offers a figurative piece entitled Wing. The clay sculpture uses printmaking on the figure, similar to the way tattoos add imagery to the human skin. As she strives to combine form, surface, and intention, Kubale says, “I have mostly used [printmaking] as added information to indicate the concept of the work, serving as a ‘window’.” Kubale uses the printed portion of the piece to tell the story of her youngest daughter leaving home. “The poem on the back compares the fragility of a small bird’s ability to fly to the amazing experience of raising a child from birth to see them become this independent being.”

Susan Feagin’s
Decorative Tea Set is created through a series of clay monoprints and then assembling pieces together into hand built forms. When discussing her process, Feagin commented, “There’s so much spontaneous information that happens when you print one thing, and then put another thing on top. Suddenly it engages, and there’s a new image.” Feagin became interested in printmaking nearly a decade ago. She was making clay pots with sgraffito carvings resulting in bold black and white markings. After the suggestion that her images looked like wood block prints, she began to learn printmaking which would eventually bring her to incorporate these techniques into her clay work.

Asheville artist Melissa Terrezza has two pieces featured in the book. Although both pieces are two dimensional, Terrezza said it was a conscious choice to develop her images on clay. “I choose to work with clay because it is a natural material, flexible, and reusable in one application. Rigid, archival, and fragile in its finished state.” Her work uses representational imagery to communicate a concept. For example, the piece Bang combined images of guns and images of bees to tell the devastating story of our honeybee population decline. “I love printmaking because of the immediate access to imagery, and I love clay because the medium is absolute Earth, a perfect combination.”

By Steph Guinan

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