Ken Botnick

I'm a printer/publisher of limited editions, a publication designer, and a professor.

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I began working with books in the late 1970s in Madison, Wisconsin, and though I was not a student of Walter Hamady’s at the University of Wisconsin, Walter was a great influence on my decision to pursue making paper and books by hand. It was in Madison that I met Steve Miller, who had been a student of Walter’s, and I learned papermaking and letterpress printing from Steve.

In Madison I made paper with Steve for some of the first Red Ozier Press editions. In 1978 I moved to Conway, Massachusetts to study landscape design at the Conway School of Landscape Design, and when the one year program finished I moved to New York City to pursue professional work in landscape architecture. Miller moved to New York once I had secured a loft for the press, and soon we were making paper and books in our loft, first on Warren Street, then later on West 25th Street. Red Ozier published in New York for almost 10 years and when we closed our doors in 1988 our archive was purchased for the permanent collection of the New York Public Library.

In 1988 I moved to New Haven to work at Yale University Press as production editor for art books, working directly with editor Judy Metro. I worked at Yale Press until 1993 and designed and oversaw production on several museum catalogues and monographs. During that time I also designed books for Princeton Architectural Press, and continued printing limited editions from my old barn studio in Connecticut. I was fortunate enough to teach for three years in the Yale School of Design as lecturer in typography.

In 1993 I moved to Penland, North Carolina, to serve as Executive Director of the Penland School of Crafts, one of the oldest independent craft programs in the country. During this time we built a new glass studio and accessible housing, improved the water system, and instituted adventurous new programs for the local schools in Mitchell, County.

In 1997 I took the position of Associate Professor at Washington University in Saint Louis. My appointment coincided with the development of the Kranzberg Book Studio. I am the first director of the studio. Today the studio is a 2500 sq ft studio with 4 Vandercook presses and two Takach etching presses, a photopolymer platemaker, and well over one hundred cases of type including a wonderful collection of wood type obtained from Barnard Rubber Stamp company in Saint Louis.

Since moving to Saint Louis I have published books under the imprint emdash, and some of the primary projects are represented on this website under the projects section. While the books I have made have been wide-ranging in subject matter, India has been a strong influence and theme over the last ten years. My first travel to India happened in 2003 to teach a workshop in typography at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. I returned the following year to teach another workshop and then in December 2005 through May of 2006 I was a Fulbright Fellow at NID and several other institutions around India. I have traveled to India at least once a year since the Fulbright and in 2009 and 2010 I directed the Village India Program for Washington University in the village of Kalleda, Andhra Pradesh. One of my India books, Kamini, was selected in 2008 by the AIGA for its annual “50books/50 covers” exhibit and catalogue.

My work is found in collections around the world, including The Library of Congress, The Getty Center for Humanities, The Bodleian Library, The Newberry Library, the Yale Arts of the Book Collection, and other notable collections (a complete listing can be obtained from my CV).

Download CV

Selected Projects

While my new site is under construction, please use the links below to view selected projects below at my archived site.

Writing / Research

In 2003, I began making research trips to India, primarily to the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, where I had a Fulbright Fellowship in 2005–06. India proved to be an invaluable laboratory to study the nature of artisanship, design thinking, and the lessons of innovation and sustainability that could be learned from the Indian craftsman. The artisan as designer is a major stream in my on-going research.

During the same period I have been investigating the nature of visual perception and how (and why) our physical and cognitive functions affect how we create both two-dimensional and three-dimensional artifacts.

Several years ago on a walk through the village of Parvathagiri, Andhra Pradesh, the two parallel lines of study in Indian artisanship and visual perception collided in the work of a local sign painter. Without the study in visual perception I would not have seen the radical innovation of the three-dimensionality of the letterforms I was seeing around me in India, and the perceptual leaps the sign-painters were asking of their viewers. This has led me to ask additional questions about the role of pattern and color in culture that I am investigating for upcoming work. The two documents, which you are free to download here, will give you some indication of the nature of this body of research.

Subtle Technology: The Design Innovation of Indian Artisanship
Published in Design Issues from MIT Press, Autumn 2011, Vol. 27, No. 4

Vision and the Visual—IIT-B
Lecture given on March 2, 2012

YouTube videos
Rush Hour in Kalleda
Temple Muggulu