Erica Spitzer Rasmussen

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Erica Spitzer Rasmussen is an artist who creates handmade paper garments and small editions of hand-bound books. She received her BFA and MFA at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), which included coursework in Mexico and Greece. Her current work explores issues of identity and family stories. Rasmussen is a recipient of the 2018 Minnesota Book Artist Award and various grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board (1999, 2015, 2018). Other professional highlights include a papermaking residency in Vienna, Austria (2010), a solo exhibition in Mexico City, Mexico (2012) and bookbinding residencies in Venice, Italy (2016, 2018). Her work has been featured in such magazines as FiberArts, Surface Design Journal, American Craft and Hand Papermaking. Rasmussen teaches studio arts as a full professor at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her artwork is exhibited internationally, and it resides in such collections as the Fuller Craft Museum (Brockton, MA), the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Minneapolis, MN), Minnesota Center for Book Arts (Minneapolis, MN), the Minnesota History Center (St. Paul, MN), Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum (Hollywood, CA), Stanford University Libraries (Stanford, CA), the Library of Congress (Washington D.C.), and the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense (Milan, Italy).


As a general rule, I’m a maker of sculptural books. I first began making wearable books to emulate Flemish ruffs. These books were initially technical challenges. Since that time, I’ve continued making wearable books as metaphors for limitations or restraints, like dogs bound by their collars. The text is often short and autobiographical.

Occasionally, a particular project calls for a form other than a round structure. This is the case in Irons in the Fire, where the book assumes the shape of a clothing iron or in Seeds of Knowledge, where the books are pod-like. In these situations the shape of the books were informed by the content.

The telling of family stories is immensely important to me. Inspiration for The Love Affair came to me when I inherited the love-letters exchanged between my grandparents in the 1930s. After cutting the letters apart and interspersing them, I bound them with a Coptic stitch. My intent was to retain the couple’s privacy by cutting the pages small enough so that significant content couldn’t be read by others. I created the book in form of an infinity symbol to suggest that the couple might continue their communion from life into death. The book is housed in a wooden box crafted by my grandfather.

Sometimes a traditional shape and binding technique is appropriate for the content. For example, shortly after my mother’s death, I published her memoir. This book, entitled Family Secrets is saucy coming-of-age story set in rural Washington State in the mid-20th century. The book is illustrated with the photos from my mother’s youth. Since she was raised on a ranch, it seemed most fitting to fashion a rectangular book that appears to be covered in raw-hide.

Whatever the inspiration, my work begins with handmade paper and ends with a well-crafted and unique object that I hope will be cherished by others for generations.


This too Shall Pass, mixed media with handmade paper (cotton fibers, latex paint, ink, gelatin, library tape, gold plated wire and rubber stamped text), 15 ½”w x 2”h x 15 ½”d, 2019, edition of one, $1,800.

This too Shall Pass, detail

Inside, Outside, Upside, Down, mixed media with handmade paper (cotton fibers, cattails, cardstock, gelatin sizing, gold plated wire and rubber stamped text), 14½“ w x 2”h 14½”d x, 2017, edition of one, $1,800.

Irons in the Fire, mixed media with handmade paper (cotton, Thai mulberry, PVA, mica, titanium dioxide, iron oxide, ink), drum binding, 2½”w x 9 ½”h x ¾”d, 2015, edition of three, $1,200.

Seeds of Knowledge, mixed media with handmade paper(cotton, abaca, stainless steel, ink), large pod: 11”w x 7” h x 7”d, medium pod: 8½”w x 5”h x 5”d,2014, edition of one, $1,600.

The Love Affair, the artist’s maternal grandparents’ 1930s love letters, telegrams, newspaper clippings, wax linen thread, velvet and grandfather’s handmade wooden box, 18”w x 12”h x 18”d, edition of one, 2017, NFS.

The Love Affair, detail

Family Secrets, mixed media with handmade paper (cotton, abaca, gelatin, walnut stain, Rives Heavywieght, waxed linen thread, book tape and polyvinyl acetate), inkjet printed, laser-cut and perfect-bound, 5 5/8”w x 8 ¾”h x 5/8”d, 2016, edition of ten, 44 pages, $600.

Family Secrets, detail

Tomatic Object, mixed media with handmade paper (cotton, acrylics, nickel plated steel), linocut printed, punched and strung, 3 ½”w x 3 ½” d x 2 ¼”h, 2012, edition of one, $450.

Photo credits: Petronella Ytsma

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