Interview Notes: Diana Fayt

Diana recently moved to Nevada City, California, located in the foothills of the Sierras, after living in San Francisco for 30 years. Although she seems like she’s been in this old mining town for some time, when I show up for our first interview her studio still hold traces of her move with unpacked boxes, tools and other implements of her craft not yet in their proper place. She is a long time friend of my sister’s, but I have only met her once or twice in the past and know her mainly through her work, which is abundant in my sister’s house.

We set up for the interview in her very comfortable bedroom/sitting room. Diana’s dog Louie initially settles in on her lap, but then we both decide we should use the bathroom before we hit record and when we settle in for the second time Louie curls up on my lap. All of the training I have received thus far regarding interviewing has instilled in me the urge to contain the interview space as much as possible. Phones turned off, windows closed, and animals put out of the room. I will find this to be truly difficult to enforce time and again and Diana’s interview is the first of many where animals that will make a guest appearance. Louie is simply so sweet that I couldn’t deny him. Through most of the interview Louie sat silent and content curled on my lap. About halfway through he decided it’s time to change laps - he reaches up to give me kisses on my face and then jumps to Diana.

Diana is generous with the stories of her life and it becomes apparent from the start of her interview that sharing her story is important to her. I will find this to be true for many of my narrators again and again as I interview artists over the following three months. As she unfolds her story it is apparent to me why sharing her life is important. She had an unusual childhood growing up a child of Hungarian immigrants and for a number of reasons entered adulthood painfully and at a very early age. Her work reflects her experiences of finding her way in the world largely on her own and through many difficulties.

I learned a great deal regarding her experiences as the child of parents who were immigrants from a communist country. I spent a lot of my undergraduate years as a history major learning about the Cold War, but felt my education was lacking as I listened to Diana share her and her parents’ experiences. I also learned a funny piece of trivia regarding Elvis Presley. Diana’s father was in the army when he first came to the US and it was during the same time the Elvis was in the army. Her father spent a lot of time driving Elvis around, although he apparently had little understanding of who Elvis was or his significance in American culture given his isolation in Hungary. Elvis later became strong supporter for Hungarian issues - most notably the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. Elvis famously made a plea on the Ed Sullivan Show for people to send money to charities that supported Hungary. She couldn’t say that this was a direct result of Elvis’ experiences with her father, but I can’t help but imagine that their meeting was significant!

While I enjoyed all of our interview, I especially enjoying hearing her talk about her time in Hungary after she finished high school. She stayed there for a year while living with an aunt and cousin. Although Hungary in the 1980s was considered one of the more liberal Eastern Bloc countries, it was still under communist rule and was a stark contrast to her life in Santa Cruz, California where she had been living with her father.

I am very fascinated with Diana’s work and I love the playful, ethereal nature of it. She seeks to communicate a narrative in her work and she succeeds by tapping traditional scrimshaw techniques and incorporating elements and symbols of nature. We spent most of the first interview discussing her childhood and education. During the next interview I can’t wait to talk more about her creative process.