In a recent Facebook Live, Ali interviewed book artist Ellen Knudson. They spoke about how Ellen got involved in book arts, what she works on now, how the pandemic has impacted her career, and her new publication.
How It Started
Before discovering book arts, Ellen got started in graphic design. She saw letterpress printing for the first time in college and knew she would one day do it as a career. A few years later, that dream became a reality.
Ellen took letterpress printing and book arts classes at Columbia College in Chicago. For a long time she made books using her own techniques, so formal training helped her refine her skills and make her books more structurally sound.
Ellen’s Book Arts Career
Ellen publishes her books under her imprint Crooked Letter Press. These days, Ellen almost exclusively makes editions rather than single books. Editions require extensive planning before the production even starts, so she enjoys the freedom that making single books can provide.
Ellen centers her books around issues she’s frustrated about at the time, whether that’s politically driven or something more personal. You can see samples of some of her books in the video or on the Crooked Letter Press website.
In addition to her bookmaking, Ellen has established herself in the academic world. She has taught book arts and graphic design at a variety of universities, and her work has been part of many collections. Ellen currently teaches book arts at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
She enjoys the way teaching complements her bookmaking career—it allows her to experiment with techniques she might not otherwise have tried.
The Impact of the Pandemic
Like many other artists, Ellen struggled with finding the motivation to be creative during the early stages of the pandemic. She managed to finish a book but faced challenges throughout the process.
Ellen also taught classes online, which was a big change from her usual in-person classes.
The pandemic has impacted the livelihoods of many artists, Ellen included. It’s difficult to sustain a career when the places you would typically display or sell your work aren’t open.
To combat some of the uncertainty she’s been dealing with, Ellen has spent time over the last couple of years taking workshops from people in other disciplines and trying her hand at pattern making for fabric.
Publishing Illustrated Bookmaking
Ellen recently published Illustrated Bookmaking, which is a beautiful collection of her diagrams of book structures. The publication, born from Ellen’s years of teaching book arts, is meant to assist other book arts teachers in their instruction.
The publication can be purchased on Ellen’s website.