Headshot of Suzanne Moore

Suzanne Moore

When was the first time you picked up a calligraphy pen?

A few years after getting a BFA at university – as a student of a Benedictine nun. I had admired my (older) brother’s calligraphy. He was studying at Carnegie Tech, which offered extraordinary lettering classes.

What is the best advice you ever received (lettering or otherwise)?

To ” . . . set goals for yourself—imagine something no one has done, make it your own, and excel at it.” (Stella Patri, San Francisco bookbinder, my FGME – “Fairy God Mother Extraordinaire.”)

Why do you letter? What keeps you coming back every day?

The patterns and the possibilities for abstraction and word-based image-making. There is never a dull moment – always more to explore, with materials, color, tools, various media.

What is your dream project?

I’ve been lucky to pursue some of my “dream projects”, through the generosity and trust of collectors who commission my work: Dylan song lyrics, 2 manuscripts and and edition of Zero: Cypher of Infinity, and manuscript books about Scheherazade. I’d like to return to return to some research on Sequoyah, and his extraordinary invention of the Cherokee writing system, and create a book about the origins of Sequoyah’s cursive written forms.

Images from Suzanne Moore’s Planets book

What research do you do when learning or starting something new? i.e. a new style or new project.

After i discover and new subject or book of poetry, I often spend years (at least a couple) reading and researching a subject, sparked by insights, and re-reading prose and poetry, to absorb everything I can about an author or a subject.

My books often have parallel or contrasting themes, so the range of what I read is broad. Each book I make takes me on a journey, and I am challenged and changed.

Name 3 non-lettering artists who inspire you.

Wassily Kandinsky, Mark Rothko, Joan Mitchell (one of the Ninth Street Women, one of “Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art”.

What do you aim to say with your work?

Since books allow – require – an intimacy with the “reader”, I want to present timeless ideas and concepts with unexpected contemporary imagery (prints, paintings) using lettering to transmit the verbal content and create imagery.

Why do you teach? What is your teaching ethos/style?

I teach to pass on some of what I have learned (often “the hard way”) over decades of work making books, with many design approaches and techniques. I like to think I open doors, offer students good direction, give them some needed tools for the journey, and invite, encourage and challenge them to create unique work.

What is your favorite pastime when not in your studio?

I love to garden, which has changed dramatically with a move from the Pacific NW to the Sonoran Desert.

What jobs have you done besides being an artist?

I’ve been a car hop in Pittsburgh, renovated historic homes, designed and installed exhibitions of rare books and manuscripts, (Stanford, Greene Library), and I was an art director for an extraordinary team of artists at American Greetings.

Q from a long book of Qs, to create imagery for a passage from Rilke about “living the questions and loving the questions.”

How do you combine all of your many eclectic interests into one cohesive body of work?

Making manuscript and edition books allows an artist to create a rich, unfolding story, the length and depth of which is only limited by the maker’s time and energy.

You were an apprentice of Thomas Ingmire. Having a mentor with such a strong individual style must have its pluses and minuses. How have you found your own voice and style?

The transition from student to professional is always a tricky thing, and before moving to San Francisco to study with Thomas, I was fortunate to have exceptional professors in the BFA program at university. Knowing and working with someone who works every day as an artist, and seeing some of Thomas’s work unfold, and talking candidly about our work was a privilege.

In preparation for his workshops, we prepared countless quills, made and tested gesso, and I matted dozens of small pieces of his art, which gave me experience, inspiration and insights about life as a “maker.” My voice was there – somewhere – before I studied lettering. My introduction to the rich and diverse community of calligraphers, fine printers and bookbinders in the Bay Area in the early 80s, and then to the world of books, at Stanford, and through my sweetheart (later husband, Don Glaister), then moving to the large community of working book makers in western Massachusetts all enriched my life and challenged me to conjure unique work.

Collaborations with artists, illustrators, printers, and bookbinders inspired exploration that continues. Curiosity and a vision of “what is beyond”, is part of my being, as a member of an energetic and inventive family of engineers and architects. I think of books as portable places. I combine images and text to create spaces offering respite, escape, illumination and inspiration, as well as being vehicles for posing questions for reflection.

. . . and I took Stella’s advice to heart. (see #2).

The journey continues to unfold, as I make work that I hope offers rich layers to consider, and the ultimate connection to the viewer – touch.