Clayton Lewis

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Clayton Lewis
1915 — 1995

Amer­ican artist, Clayton Lewis, is primarily known for his work as an enve­lope artist and jewelry designer. Yet he was also a distin­guished painter, sculptor, archi­tect, and furni­ture designer. His work has been shown in one-man and group shows throughout North America and France, and can be found in the perma­nent collec­tions of the Museum of Modern Art, San Fran­cisco; Metro­pol­itan Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Art Museum; Cali­fornia Histor­ical Society, San Fran­cisco; French Postal Museum, Paris; among others. In addi­tion, there are indi­vid­uals throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan who have collected his work.

Clayton Lewis began his profes­sional life as a furni­ture designer in the late 1940’s with his firm, Clay­wood Designs, which won distin­guished awards and led to coverage in maga­zines such as Progres­sive Archi­tec­ture and Inte­riors. After a rare bone decease put him in the hospital, and with a young family to support, in 1950, he was hired as general manager of the Herman Miller Furni­ture Company’s Venice, Cali­fornia office. There he helped imple­ment designs by Charles and Ray Eames, Isamu Noguchi, and George Nelson.

After a successful tenure at Herman Miller, increasing produc­tion tenfold, he left his posi­tion and moved his family to Northern Cali­fornia, in 1953, to open up his own art studio. After various shows and the subse­quent breakup of his marriage in 1962, he moved first to Nevada City in 1963, and then to the Point Reyes Penin­sula in 1964, where he designed a large collec­tion of distin­guished and unique sculp­ture jewelry with Judy Perlman. After they disbanded their part­ner­ship of Perlman-Lewis in 1973, he continued working on his own as a sculptor, painter, and water colorist.

The following years produced some of his most signif­i­cant work. Between 1980 and 1985, he produced over 1000 pieces of enve­lope art, mostly sent to his mother in the final years of her life. These compo­si­tions are highly orig­inal in that they reflect his spon­ta­neous and intu­itive vision of life. The envelopes have been shown in one-man and group shows in San Fran­cisco, Pasadena, and Paris, among other loca­tions.

In addi­tion to being an artist, Clayton Lewis was a true renais­sance man. For the last 31 years of his life he lived in a group of Coastal Miwok Indian cottages at Laird’s Landing, on Tomales Bay, fifty miles north of San Fran­cisco. There he built a spacious sculpting and painting studio with a substan­tial foundry to work in. In order to help sustain himself, he worked as a carpenter, fish­erman, and boat builder, as well as an artist. He was also a respected town elder, enter­taining story teller, and counter-culture philoso­pher.

Clayton Scott Lewis was born in Snoqualmie, Wash­ington on March 15, 1915, and died on September 15, 1995, at his home at Laird’s Landing, Point Reyes National Seashore, Cali­fornia. He was raised in Snoqualmie before moving to Seattle in 1936 to study at the Cornish School for the Arts (later Cornish Insti­tute). Between 1937 and 1940 he lived in San Fran­cisco, where he studied at the Cali­fornia School of Fine Arts (later the San Fran­cisco Art Insti­tute).

Clayton Lewis website