Oral Histories

Interview of Kitty Maryatt

Book artist and owner of Two Hands Press.
Topic:
Books and Fine Printing
Interviewer:
Collings, Jane
Interviewee:
Maryatt, Kitty
Persons Present:
Maryatt and Collings.
Place Conducted:
Sessions one, two, three, and five: Maryatt’s studio in Playa Vista, California; Session four: Scripps College Press in Claremont, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Jane Collings, interviewer and principal editor, Center for Oral History Research; B.A., Communications, Antioch College; M.A., Communications, University of Iowa; Ph.D., Critical Studies, UCLA.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Maryatt was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a few corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
Length:
7.25 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Audio:
Early life; Grows up in a large family in Pasadena; Husband’s upbringing in rural Michigan; The family business in Pasadena; Mother’s musical background; Early interests and activities; Family’s musical abilities; Siblings’ occupations; Parents’ interests and talents; The strong influence of Maryatt’s grandparents on her direction as a young girl; Grandparents’ wide-ranging creative pursuits; Grandmother’s high level of education; Attends Scripps College; Religious background; The robust education in critical thinking at Scripps; Makes a book as a class project in junior high school; Declares a math major with the object of becoming a math teacher; Introduced to medieval manuscripts and letter forms while at Scripps College; Teaches high school math; Annual trips to Europe to see art; Begins a study of calligraphy; Maryatt’s enjoyment of her career as a math teacher; An interest in weaving; Plans to retire from Scripps College at the 75th anniversary of the founding of the press; Concerns for the future of the press; Takes bookmaking classes at the Woman’s Building with Nancy Garuba and Frances Butler; Discovers the book form; Forms the group Women of Letters; Issues addressed at Women of Letters group meetings; Creative and technical issues that the Women of Letters group faced; The impact of the work going on at the Woman’s Building; Negotiating the influence of the fine press movement; The new kind of production autonomy engendered by letterpress technology; Acquires a letterpress; Word on how to use letterpress travels by word of mouth through the community; A first commercial job for Maryatt’s Two Hands Press; The Women of Letters group declines to allow male membership; Forms Men of Letters; Origin of name “Women of Letters”; Founding members of Women of Letters; Differences between Women of Letters and Men of Letters meetings.
A visit to San Francisco by Donald Jackson engenders public awareness of calligraphy; The founding of the Society for Calligraphy; Lloyd Reynolds; The constitution and bylaws for the Society for Calligraphy; A first exhibit at the Pacific Design Center; The Society journal, The Calligraph; Begins to teach calligraphy at Cerritos College and UCLA Extension; The many applications of calligraphy training; A lucrative job making calligraphic signs for Bullock’s Wilshire; Maryatt’s studio and business in Westwood; The Society for Calligraphy promotes calligraphy as an art form; Maryatt’s beginning experiments with abstraction in a piece called Dances; Begins writing own text for calligraphic projects; Interest grows in calligraphy on the national level; The ongoing awareness of calligraphy even as interest shrinks since its highpoint; Trends in the calligraphic art world; Studies in Europe at the Klingspor Museum; An appreciation of Japanese calligraphic letter forms in the West; Donald Jackson’s work on calligraphy and printing history; The Society for Calligaphy brings practitioners from Europe to teach; Early computers; The impact of digital technology on the practice of calligraphy; The impact of Xerox technologies; The Artworks artists’ books store; Democratic multiples; Dreaming Aloud by Betsy Davids; The revolutionary possibility that an individual can now make every aspect of a book; Maryatt’s enjoyment of teaching students the elements of book making; The concentrated work of Maryatt and contemporaries to become fully conversant with the styles and standards in calligraphy and printing in order to do the work well and make interpretive advances; Maryatt’s Dances piece; The importance of making intelligent and skillful choices when interpreting production standards in book production; Begins MFA at UCLA in 1980; The advanced state of calligraphic arts in Europe; Studies with John Neuhart; Studies at Ascona; Maryatt’s artistic discoveries in calligraphic forms and book binding; A thesis project on book forms; Takes a breadth of courses while an MFA student; Asks the question, “What is a book?” while producing innovative work; Maryatt’s consideration of the question of when and whether to utilize one’s high level of technical skill in executing work.
Organizes a 3-day Wayzgoose at UCLA Extension (UNEX); Book arts resources in LA at the time; Maryatt’s efforts to start a book arts concentration at UNEX; Interest in learning the language of art while an MFA student; Maryatt’s early interest in the technique of making a book evolves into an interest in developing a voice; How to direct a group of students in developing a collaborative artists’ book; Maryatt’s interest in book structure; Negotiating the boundaries of innovation in the context of making a book; Produces a series of personal books; The notion of social change as an effective touchstone for students’ collaborative work; Maryatt’s observation of students changing relationship to the book since the mid-eighties; The recent phenomenon that students are interested in working with their hands in response to their more common daily digital interaction; The high production standards required at the Scripps book arts program; The emerging sculptural forms of artists books since the eighties; The emergence of several book arts MFA programs; The emergence of non-academic book arts training; The role of the College Book Artist Association in the field; While the cost of letterpress equipment has skyrocketed, the available resources for bookmaking have multiplied; Professional societies that support the book arts and printing; The role of the journal Abracadabra in furthering contemporary book art; Forms a local chapter of the American Printing History Association (APHA) that brings together printing and book arts; Illuminating APHA archives visits; An interest in printing history before Gutenberg as well as other aspects of the history of the book; APHA local chapter studio visits and discussion on topics such as typefaces; Maryatt’s “house” typeface, Prospera; Maryatt’s delight in having a venue in APHA to discuss the intricacies of the craft; High level of scholarly engagement among APHA members; The founding of the Guild of Book Workers; The Rounce & Coffin Club and its annual exhibit; The Zamorano Club, a Los Angeles book collectors club; Maryatt’s interest in all aspects of books and printing; Maryatt’s historical research of La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France ; Leads her students in a deep and far-reaching investigation of the origins of an early Gutenberg font; The focus of the fine press movement in publishing new work beautifully; The demise of type foundries and the scarcity of fine paper; Choices of type and material as practiced in context of the fine press movement; A line between fine press books and artists’ books begins to blur; The wide ranging type of artists books on the scene today, including sculptural forms; The broadening public awareness of book arts; The physicality of some artists books appeals to students in the context of the digital age; The notion of “silence” as a focus at Scripps engenders a book making exercise focusing on the apprehension of silence through the senses; A class book on “play” and an upcoming project on the topic of automobiles; McManus & Morgan, Paper Source and Hiromi Paper, Inc., LA fine paper suppliers; The making of handmade paper in LA; Twinrocker Handmade Paper, a handmade paper commercial mill; Colin Brown, an accomplished former student, helps Maryatt make paper for student books and for her own work.
The founding of the Scripps College Press; Dorothy Drake; Drake’s vision of an experimental typography laboratory; Frederic Goudy’s work with the press; The 16 point typeface Goudy designed for the press; The work from 1941 until 1947 under the tutelage of Ward Ritchie; Mary Trainer, a student of Ritchie’s, teaches classes; The development of the Ella Strong Denison Library at Scripps; Support for the press from the Dawson family; Joseph Foster starts to teach the printing class in 1947, purchasing a Chandler & Price press and several American Type Founders fonts for the students; The emphasis on the non-commercial use of the press; Maryatt’s introduction to printing and calligraphy while a student at Scripps; A published book of Foster’s students work; Press is revived after brief suspension upon Foster’s retirement; Christine Bertelson hired to run the printing program; Program emphasis changes to students producing their own books; Maryatt is hired with the mandate to develop attention for the press on campus and initiates program of collaborative books that can be sold to fund the program; Rules of Thumb, the first book on the theme of examining printing rules; The collaborative nature of the books produced provides a multifaceted learning opportunity for students; Maryatt’s interest in integrating the work of the press with the intellectual life on the campus, with a particular focus on the Humanities Institute; A book on the idea of “silence” in conjunction with a campus-wide investigation of the topic; More on outreach to the campus; The presence of the press within the book arts community; The Color Book; Los Angeles Women Letterpress Printers; The cultivation of the standing order business; Maryatt’s skill as a printer and bookbinder benefits the program in that students are able to produce a whole book under her tutelage; The diverse sources of inspiration for books; The press’ book Mutatis Mutandis, wins a prize; The importance of solid research for the books; The challenges inherent in making a collaborative book; The Scripps College Old Style typeface; The press attracts a donor to help support the work of the press; The digitization of the Scripps College Old Style typeface.
Themes within Maryatt’s work with the Scripps College Press ; Word; Unbuttoned Silence; Boustrophedon; The challenges in introducing students to the idea of the artists’ book; Los Angeles Women Letterpress Printers; Dorothy Drake; The history of the Scripps College Press; More on themes addressed by the press, including discussions of Deep Rooted; Mani-Fold Tales; On the Impact of Expectations; Square, Squared; Speaking in Tongues; KØTØBÅ NØ PÅRTY; Flight Patterns; Maryatt’s personal book practice; Livre des Livre; Maryatt’s recent work, Figure of Speech; Duchampian Gap; An interest in conceptualizing book forms; Making Figure of Speech; Maryatt’s interest in travel, with a special focus on France; The historical importance of La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France ; The artistic decisions and techniques involved in the production of La prose du Transsibérien; Maryatt’s research into La prose du Transsibérien.