Kathan Brown was born in New York City, grew up in Florida, earned a B.A. (with an English major) from Antioch College in Ohio, attended the London Central School of Arts and Crafts (two years), and later received an M.F.A. and an honorary doctorate from the California College of the Arts. She also holds an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Art Institute.
Kathan Brown, with her then-husband Jeryl Parker, founded Crown Point Press in 1962 in Richmond, California. In 1964 the couple parted and Kathan moved the press to the basement of her home in Berkeley. In 1964 she published a handmade book of her own etchings, and in 1965 followed it with three more books of etchings by artists she invited to work with her: Richard Diebenkorn, Beth Van Hoesen, and Wayne Thiebaud. She also held etching workshops open to all, and worked as a typist when funds were low. Between 1966 and 1974 she taught etching at the San Francisco Art Institute, eventually becoming head of the printmaking department.
In 1971 New York print publisher Bob Feldman of Parasol Press sent artist Sol LeWitt to Crown Point for a project, and Crown Point moved later that year to a loft space in Oakland. In the 1970s, in addition to continuing to produce prints for Parasol, Crown Point Press published three books of Kathan’s own etchings, and four by San Francisco artists: Bruce Conner (two volumes), James Melchert, and Tom Marioni.
Kathan Brown and Tom Marioni met in 1974 and married in 1983. Between 1975 and 1981 they created five issues of VISION, an unconventional art journal published by Crown Point Press and edited by Marioni. VISION’s most unconventional issue is Number 4, 1980, Word of Mouth, a set of phonograph records of short talks presented by artists who traveled under Crown Point’s auspices to an island in the Pacific Ocean for a conference.
Kathan’s love of travel also influenced two programs the press instigated in the 1980s in which Crown Point artists traveled first to Japan, then to China, to work with traditional woodcut craftsmen in those countries. Aside from those projects, the press has always worked exclusively with the slow and antiquated process of etching.
Kathan Brown’s writing includes several of her own books and also web materials and newsletters for the press. She has edited the Magical Secrets series of instructional books published by Crown Point, and has created video elements for those books and for the Crown Point websites. She has been shooting video in the Crown Point studio since the late 1970s.
In 1977, the year the Crown Point price list begins, Kathan re-started Crown Point’s own print publishing program after having worked mainly for Parasol Press for six years. As in the press’s earliest days, she began with Richard Diebenkorn. In January, 1978, John Cage made his first etchings at Crown Point Press. Those two very different, inventive artists returned almost yearly to work at Crown Point. They set the tone for its etching publications over the following years.
In 1986 Kathan moved Crown Point Press from Oakland to San Francisco and renovated an industrial loft space, but in fifteen seconds on October 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake devastated those quarters. A year later the press purchased the building it now occupies in San Francisco’s South of Market district. Crown Point Press has its gallery, bookstore, and workshop on the top floor, with the entrance at 20 Hawthorne Street, around the corner from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (Click here for a more detailed version of Kathan Brown’s biography.)