Mitch Lyons on Cylinders and Coloured Clay

Mitch Lyons coverMitch Lyons’ DVD, Handbuilding with Mitch Lyons, can be enjoyed on many levels, from his “broomstick” technique for making weird and wonderful cylinders and his use of textures and coloured slips and clays for decoration, to his efficient methods and workspace and even the way that the video was produced.

To make his cylinders, Lyons starts by pushing a ¼-inch dowel into a thick, even coil and then he enlarges the opening in the coil by rolling the dowel and the coil on the table. He then inserts larger and larger dowels and cardboard tubes into the coil and continues rolling so that the opening enlarges and the walls of the cylinder thin out, and Lyons adds texture and/or coloured clay or slip along the way.

Lyons introduces us to his unique work by using the shape of a small pumpkin to explain his fascination with the interface between shape, line and texture as a form grows and throughout the DVD, this interface can be seen in the relaxed but concentrated way he follows the form and texture of a piece, rather than forcing the piece to follow a pre-conceived plan.

His commentary, which was added after the video was filmed, adds to this spirit of exploration as it describes what is happening in a manner reminiscent (in a good way) of the play-by-play of a golf tournament:  no extra words or music, just one voice describing what’s going on.

In the first part of the DVD, Lyons makes cylinder after cylinder, each one with a different texture or shape, using a minimum of fuss and a maximum of creativity. In the second part of the DVD he makes coloured clays for inlays, coloured clay pastels, and coloured slips that are first applied to newsprint and then transferred to his cylinders.

Lyons works with his tools close at hand—a roll of newsprint hanging from the ceiling, a fettling knife in his back pocket, a small pasta roller (for making ultra-thin coloured slaps for decoration) on the end of his table, an ancient ping pong paddle (for gently securing and shaping the floors of the cylinders) close at hand, and a 5-inch roller hanging from a hook on his belt—and this organization gives the viewer further insight into the mind of this experienced potter.

This DVD is a pleasure to watch and is filled with ideas and techniques that could send the viewer off in creative directions all their own. Excerpts are available at but it’s worth it to buy the whole thing.

Published by, 2006
DVD / 1 hour / $39.95 US

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