Nov 2, 2009
Claire Van Vliet is the owner of the Janus Press founded in 1955 located, since 1966, in Newark, Vermont. Janus Press has to date produced approximately 100 publications — books, pamphlets, and broadsides- , many of them designed, illustrated, type-set, printed (sometimes on paper made by the artist), and bound by Van Vliet herself in a well-equipped studio, printshop, bindery of her own design.
Born in Ottawa, Canada, she has lived in the United States since 1947. After graduating with an MFA degree from Claremont Graduate School (1954), Van Vliet traveled in Europe, apprenticing herself for a time as a hand typesetter. During these travels she taught herself etching while working as a craft instructor at the United States European Headquarters in Germany. For the remainder of the ’50s and early 1960s she taught printmaking, typography and drawing at the Philadelphia Museum School (now The University of the Arts) and worked as a type compositor for John Anderson, first at The Lanston Monotype Company in Philadelphia, and then at his own Pickering Press in New Jersey. In 1965 to ‘66 she was hired by the Art Department of the University of Wisconsin, Madison as a Visiting Lecturer in Printmaking.
Primarily a publisher of first edition poetry (including the work of Seamus Heaney), Van Vliet pioneered the use of colored paper pulps for book illustration, and more recently has developed a variety of distinctive non-adhesive book structures. Museums that collect Van Vliet’s work include The National Gallery in Washington, DC; the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute. In addition to her many honors, in 1993 the University of the Arts in Philadelphia named Van Vliet an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts. We met in her studio to talk about artist books and a long, outstanding career.