Katherine Ruffin

Katherine Ruffin
Director of the Book Studies Program, Lecturer in Art

Installation view, Q20: Wellesley Faculty Artists, Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA.

Artist’s Statement

My studio practice is informed by my study of printing history and my reading practice. These two limited edition letterpress projects, printed from hand-set wood and metal type, reflect my interest in philosophical themes and my interpretation of text through and across time.

The New Game of 13 Virtues was printed in response to a late eighteenth century board game that moves players through the “seven ages of man.” The New Game of Human Life, published by John Wallis and Elizabeth Newbery in London in 1790, was recently acquired by Special Collections. The traditional roll-and-move race game was printed via engraving and then hand colored. I became intrigued with the various goals of these board games — immortality, happiness, wealth — and their relationship to morality and self-improvement. I adapted Benjamin Franklin’s plan for self-improvement, which is based on focusing on 13 virtues in turn, and to transform it into a board game. Franklin describes this plan, which he developed in 1726, at the age of 20, in his Autobiography. I excerpted text from Franklin’s plan to create the text for The New Game of 13 Virtues.

The series of seven broadsides are my response to The Seven Lamps of Architecture, which was published by John Ruskin, the British author, artist, and social critic, in 1849. In this text, Ruskin formulates his ideas about the importance of Gothic architecture, but — perhaps more importantly — he articulates ideas about the nature of art and life that informed the Arts and Crafts movement. As I read the text 170 years after its initial publication, I choose to highlight passages that resonated with my understanding of the Arts and Crafts movement and its legacy that seemed worth considering at this moment in time.

2015 PHD, Library and Information Science, Simmons University
1996 MFA, Book Arts, University of Alabama
1994 BA, Philosophy with Honors, Bryn Mawr College


Katherine Ruffin, New Game of 13 Virtues, 2017, Letterpress printing from hand-set type, Courtesy of the artist. John Wallis and Elizabeth Newbery, The New Game of Human Life, 1790, Hand-colored engraving, Courtesy of Special Collections, Clapp Library, Wellesley College.

Katherine Ruffin, Life, 2019, Letterpress printing from hand-set type, Courtesy of the artist.

Katherine Ruffin, Memory, 2019, Letterpress printing from hand-set type, Courtesy of the artist.