Jim Rosenau - Book Sculptor
On 10 January 2002, Jim Rosenau created his first book sculpture. He remembers the day very clearly as he wrote about it in his journal. It was just the latest stop on a remarkable career where books have always been close by.
"I was raised in a house with 5,000 books," said Jim, who calls his book sculpture business ‘This Into That’. "My father was a publisher and books were his religion."
Jim initially spent 13 years as a carpenter as he wanted to create things that were "real and tangible" but then sought another career after finding that he was learning nothing new in his daily woodworking.
He then turned to writing and editing, and even comedy writing. The book art was triggered by an essay called ‘Books as Furniture’ by Nicholson Baker in the New Yorker magazine.
"The title of the article was meant only as a metaphor but I took it literally and started to think about it. I initially thought it was evil because I was the sort of person who felt guilty if I didn’t finish reading a book. We would never write in a book. Growing up, we felt bad if a book was left face down while open at a page.
"I never did anything with the furniture idea but then years later I created one bookshelf and people loved it. I felt that bookshelves made from books got peoples’ attention and it was a platform to show off not only books but whatever sits on the shelf, as well."
Since January 2002, Jim has produced more than 1,000 items of book furniture, mostly bookshelves made from books. He accepts commissions from a wide variety of people who are often using them as gifts for bibliophiles, but he also sells ‘stock’ from his gallery and at art shows. When creating a commission, he attempts to discover as much as possible about the person receiving it in order to produce a suitable piece of art.
The Harry Potter bookshelf is one of a few pieces that Jim has created from new books.
"I usually use books that booksellers have given up on," said Jim, who visits recycling centers and accepts discards from library sales in order to source his raw materials. He literally judges books by their covers, but even more so by their spines. "If I look at 1000 books, I will probably only keep 10. I am interested in the color, fabric and fonts used on the cover. I like books with open-ended titles that can form part of a larger item. For instance, Never A Dull Moment is a book about bringing up Christian teens in the 1950s and no-one wants it, but it’s perfect for me as I can use the book in so many ways. I’m combining books, art and humor in a way that uses my skills to the fullest."
An example would be Who Done It? A three-book sculpture featuring Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty, All The King’s Men and Anatomy of a Murder along with an egg whisk piercing the support bracket.
Jim uses recycled wooden frames to attach the books and give strength to each structure. "It’s a bit like taxidermy in that I remove some of the inside of the book so the frame can fit in," he said. "Encyclopedias are wonderful. No-one wants them and they are a joke in the book trade, but they are often beautiful and super durable.
"Everything I do is unique. I can’t even copy my own work. It usually takes about three days to construct a bookshelf, but there are some that I’ve been working on for years because I’m waiting to find the books. I want to make sense visually, not just verbally."
For more information about Jim and his work go to www.thisintothat.com
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