10.13.21
Anezka Minarikova | Books

Clara Istlerová, Her Work and Life

Clara

EDITOR'S NOTE: The book Clara / Clara Istlerová, Her Work and Life is the very first publication presenting the life and work of Clara Istlerová (1944), an outstanding Czech typographer, illustrator, and graphic designer, who created some of the most impressive and intriguing works of the Czech typography both in the past century and today. The monograph is supplemented with a list of Istlerová’s main works in the area of book and graphic design, and a biographic summary, offering the first basis for research work on the artist.

Clara

Clara

Our lives are at once ordinary and mythical. We live and die, age beautifully or full of wrinkles. We wake in the morning, buy yellow cheese, and hope we have enough money to pay for it. At the same instant we have these magnificent hearts that pump through all the sorrow and all winters we are alive on the earth. We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded.
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Clara is a story of a typographer, mother, daughter, and above all, a woman who managed to become successful in the field of typography—which, in the Czech Republic, remains even now the domain of men. Hers is a story that found form against the backdrop of a series of critical historical events, from the bombing of Prague at the end of the Second World War, to the events of 1968, to the Velvet Revolution.

It is also a story about a love for books, letters...and men. This is a story that I had the honor of listening to and then capturing as a book.

Clara

Clara

It took several years to bear witness to the stories and gather the material that would, in fact, one day become a book. During those years, I sat at a wooden table inside Clara Istlerová's living room, where our conversations took place, and where I ate lots of delicious cookies and drank many cups of Nescafé with milk and sugar. But before the discussions even began, I had to make contact with Clara.

At the time, I was studying at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. I reached out to people who knew Clara, in an effort to acquire her contact information, beginning with her telephone number. Many people discouraged me from trying even to talk to her: Don't expect anything to happen, they warned. Clara Istlerová doesn't care about publicity, and quite possibly, may not even want a book written about her.

Clara

Clara

Somehow, this encouraged me even more to search for Clara, and in the end, I succeeded: I located her email address, and I wrote her a note describing my interest and my intentions. She suggested meeting in the afternoon. (Clara is not a morning person.) And so, off I went to visit her. I remember so clearly the anxiety I felt while sitting on the tram passing through Ořechovka towards Petřiny, where she lives.

Soon, I found her home, rang the bell, and waited at the door. In one hand, I held a flower for her; in the other, my printed questions. Like a first date, I was nervous, and countless thoughts were running through my head: What if we don't understand each other? What if she rejects me? But my worries faded away the moment after Clara, smiling, opened the door and invited me inside.

Clara

Clara

Since that initial meeting, our conversations have continued to flow naturally. Two years on, our conversations are now finding new form as a book, our voices relocating to the page, as our conversations flow easily between life and work, work and life.

The main part of the book is an interview between Clara and me. In addition to that, the book contains one chapter—On Selected Work—in which Clara comments on the background and the process of creating selected publications. There is a text by the theorist Jan Rous examining her work from a historical-theoretical point of view, and an afterword by the graphic designer Zuzana Lednická, who was an advisor for my undergraduate thesis. During the book's evolution, I played several roles from interviewer  transcriber and finally, to book designer. (I am grateful for the guidance of Jaroslav Tvrdoň, a superb editor).

Clara

Clara

This book, Clara, is that thesis, published by AAAD in 2020, is a small and rather intimate book—not, perhaps, your typical monograph—but a focused chance to introduce Clary Istlerová to the general public. Having played so many supporting roles in the evolution of this book, I am mostly grateful for the richness of the experience. After so many hours talking, looking, listening, and learning,  today I can call Clara Istlerová my friend.

Clara

Clara

Clara



Posted in: Books



Comments [0]



Jobs | October 18