Clay Huffman

Clay Huffman

Clay Huffman (1957–2001) was a multi-medium artist, most well known for his vibrant, multi colored serigraphs of local roadside architecture.[1]

A native born Washingtonian, having grown up in Wheaton, MD and graduated from Wheaton High School, Clay Huffman experienced early artistic success as a ceramist. By the age of seventeen, and spurred by a desire to expand his creative repertoire, Clay became a student and artist-in-residence at the original Torpedo Factory Art Center [1] (his workspace was where they had once stored documents from the Nuremberg Trials).[2] During this same period, he attended the Montgomery College School of Architecture [2], an experience which would dramatically affect his future artistic direction and technique. Turning his newly acquired drafting skills towards silkscreen printing, Clay spent the next three years studying the art from nationally recognized masters of the craft, Marcel [3] and Anne Laddon [4].

The union of his experience, talent, and unique subject matter provided Clay with a series of national awards and honors beginning throughout the United States including the Athenaeum [5] 13th Annual Juried Show, the North Carolina Sixth Printing and Drawing Exhibition, and the 27th Hunterdon National Print Exhibition [6]. Some highlights of this period came in 1993, when one of his silkscreens was selected for display at the prestigious Coconut Grove Arts Festival [7]. Clay's reputation has since reached international levels with his work now displayed in corporate offices, private collections, and art institutions around the world. Most recently, four of Clay's major works were purchased for the American Embassy in Beijing, China. Clay also sent three major works to the US Embassy in Nairobi. Clay's silkscreen prints have earned unanimous praise from respected art critics and collectors across the country.

Continuing his artistic development amidst the creative environment of the Torpedo Factory Art Center [8], Clay drew his serigraph inspirations from a variety of sources ranging from the instantly recognizable icons of fast-food franchises to fast-disappearing islands of small business and local gossip. With a penchant for elevating the seemingly mundane to the monumental, Clay often focused—literally and figuratively—on "those places we pass each day and take little notice of".

Prior to commencement of any silkscreen project, the artist may make several photo trips to a prospective location in an attempt to capture the essence and mood of a place from various perspectives and times of day. A unique personal relationship develops between artist and cityscape, and it is this subjective insight that Clay so successfully translated and conveyed through his work.

The actual process of creating a silkscreen includes many steps. Since Clay's work was generally of actual places and things (with the occasional exception of some imaginative additions such as a Cinderellaesque figure running to catch the last train in his print titled "Metropolitan Curfew"), his first step was taking photographic images of the subject at different times to catch it with different shadows, lighting and character. From the selected photographic image and the artists feeling to inspire the final print, a line drawing was created. From the line drawing, Clay had to decide what color went where and cut out individual stencils for each area and color choice. Each stencil was then applied to a silkscreen and one by one, ink forced through the screen onto the paper, eventually creating the finished piece. This individual silkscreen process was used for every color on every print.

Unlike images created using a printing press (which uses pressure applied to copper plates to create an impression which can deteriorate in quality from the first print to the last), a silkscreen has no deterioration of the screen during printing. This consistency in print quality throughout the edition means that lower numbered prints should not be more desirable than higher numbered prints, except when determined by the artist.

Clay Huffman kept the first 10 prints of each of his silkscreens, he called it his "pension plan". As the prints sold, the first ten would become increasingly valuable. He sold one of his ten originals of a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop for $750. The original price was $150. Another silkscreen artist with a similar, yet almost opposite, business plan is Zachary Kent of Kent Designs [9]. Kent currently specializes in rock art (collectible pieces commemorating an event, concert or show)[10]. After creating a new piece, Kent auctions the first handful (usually numbers 1-5) on Ebay [11], starting with the higher number and selling through to number one in the edition before offering the rest for sale.

Not content with merely being a serigraph historian, Clay set in motion a developmental process combining his life's work and experience including his study of ceramics, architecture, stained glass, neon fabrication and design. His fascination with three-dimensional imaging can be seen in his whimsical and possibly prophetic piece, "Man's Best Friend in 2084".

This piece, nicknamed "Robot" with an image of the same, was printed in four versions; black, gold, silver & copper.  It was completed in September 1984 and printed on 26"x34" paper.

Imbued with a sense of humor, a touch of nostalgia, and an eye to the future, Clay's work was noted overall by a fastidious attention to detail and masterful technique. Each edition (rarely exceeding 200 impressions) would take Clay up to three months to complete.

One of his missions as an artist, he maintained, was preservation of disappearing styles of architecture and the giving of new life to bright and colorful signs that increasingly tend to be limited and dulled by modern building regulations and code restrictions. The buildings and objects shown in his silkscreens, he said, were "beautiful at one point. Now they're places we don't even notice. Once they knock them down, we miss them".[3]

Clay Huffman died on January 15, 2001 at his home in Alexandria, VA, of complications related to AIDS and kidney failure.[4] He had known that he was HIV positive for about 15 years before his death but maintained an ambitious work schedule. He was an organizer of the annual Torpedo Factory Mardi-Gras fund raising ball and had an interest in model railroad trains. After his death, remaining pieces of his work are handled by the Executor of his Estate, mentor and friend, Marcel [12] who still has a studio at the Torpedo Factory Arts Center in Alexandria, VA. After his death, a small, one week memorial exhibition and sale was held at the Torpedo Factory's Target Gallery.[5]

Clay Huffman's work has been compared to that of fellow Washingtonian, Joseph Craig English [13]. One of Clay's most recognizable pieces "Pigmentation on Powhatan" (nicknamed "Dixie II" or "Dixie Pig"), can be seen at [14].His work "Last Call" can be seen at Sunforged Studios [15]. Unfortunately, online representations of his pieces are rare although his popularity with collectors has grown in recent years.[6] Washington Glass School director and co-founder Tim Tate has two Huffman serigraphs and an embellished piece created as an homage to Clay in his dream home chronicled in a 2007 article of the Washington Post.


01474 Equalizer N/A Unknown Unknown Unknown
Sweet Break N/A Unknown Unknown Unknown
Intermission Candy Machine 33 17" x 20.5" 10/79
Progress Around Johnson's Johnson's Full 40 20" x 26" 07/81
For Ice See Clerk In Store Ice Box 26 14" x 18" 09/81
If You Can't Find It Ask Front Door 22 14" x 18" 08/81
For Local Calls Deposit 20c Telephone Unknown 14" x 18" 11/81
Johnson's Store All A Glo Johnson's Neon 26 14" x 32" 01/82
Demolition Man Demo Man 45 26" x 32" 08/82
Escaping Steam Steam 14 12.5" x 17.25" 09/82
It Will Be Ready At Five Garage 26 26" x 32" 09/83
Two Burgers Fries And Coffee Little Tavern Unknown 26" x 32" 05/84
Man's Best Friend in 2084 Robot Black 14 26" x 34" 09/84
Man's Best Friend in 2084 Robot Gold 14 26" x 34" 09/84
Man's Best Friend in 2084 Robot Silver 14 26" x 34" 09/84
Man's Best Friend in 2084 Robot Copper 14 26" x 34" 09/84
National Facelift Liberty 14 14" x 32" 12/84
Hot Doughnuts Now Krispy Kreme Unknown 26" x 32" 03/85
We'll Have Oil In Your Tank... Fannon Oil Unknown 26" x 32" 04/85
One Cheeseburger Sub-To Go Little Tavern Unknown 26" x 32" Unknown
Puzzling Name For An Art Center Torpedo Factory Unknown 14" x 17" Unknown
On A Universal Tour Halley 36 14" x 32" 12/85
Club LT All A Glow Club LT 30 20" x 26" 03/86
Metropolitan Curfew Metro 32 14" x 32" 06/86
Patriotic Emblem Small McD 12 18" x 24" 10/86
Corporate Infant McD 32 18" x 24" 10/86
Radio Daze Radio 25 11" x 14" 04/87
Video Fix Bob's TV 30 11" x 14" 07/87
Lock-Smith Wig 35 11" x 14" 08/87
G.C. & Co. Murphy's 12 11" x 14" 09/87
Suppression Of The Masses Corset 65 26" x 32" 05/88
Spirited Glow Central 20 18" x 24" 06/88
High Voltage Speedee Speedee 32 26" x 32" 08/88
Goodbye Luminous Market Santullos 32 16" x 34" 01/89
Bug Busters Bug 15 11" x 14" 03/89
Last Call Whitlow's 30 20" x 26" 05/89
Pastry Palace Brenners 30 20" x 26" 08/89
Tubular Swine Dixie 60 26" x 32" 01/90
Royal View Roller Rink 48 26" x 32" 09/90
Aspiring Market Giant 45 14" x 32" 12/90
Sails Hobie 8 14" x 17" 01/91
Too Late Key Lime 17 11" x 14" 02/91
Burning Bright Tonight Shorty's 30 20" x 26" 03/91
Coin Slot Bank 60 16" x 34" 08/91
Celebration Fireworks 31 26" x 32" 12/91
2000 Park Collins Park 17 9" x 11" 02/92
1000 Collins Fairmont 17 9" x 11" 02/92
720 Ocean Beacon 17 9" x 11" 02/92
1220 Collins Webster 17 9" x 11" 02/92
1420 Ocean Dr. Crescent 17 12" x 18" 02/92
Miami Set All 4 Miami 17 10.5" x 25.5" 02/92
Flemish Bond (Alex. House) Brick 10 11" x 14" 07/92
Subterranean Jewels Grand Central Unknown 27" x 33" Unknown


  1. ^ ADSW: 1990 Art Deco Ball
  2. ^ The Washington Post, Date: January 17, 1990, Section: Food, Author: Carole Sugarman
  3. ^ The Washington Post, Date: January 25, 2001, Section: Metro, Author: Bart Barnes
  4. ^ Alexandria Silk-Screen Artist Clay Huffman Dies
  5. ^ The Washington Post, Date: March 16th, 2001, Section: Weekend, Author: Michael O'Sullivan
  6. ^ The Washington Post, Date: September 23rd, 2007, Section: Fall Home and Design, Author: Christina Breda Antoniades

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