The Intricate, Handmade Holiday Cards of Brooklyn Artist Thor Rinden

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Thor Rinden had a thing for making cards. He made them for his wife, Jane Rinden, on pretty much every Valentine’s day throughout their long marriage. He would make invitations for dinner parties and produce a special card each holiday season.

These were not Hallmark knockoffs filled with clichéd greetings. Each card was beautifully handmade, with intricate detail in the design and illustration, and filled with witty wordplay.

Their creation isn’t a total surprise. Rinden, whose documentation of the renovation of an 1870 brownstone in Carroll Gardens that he owned with his wife we recently covered, was both an artist and a poet (although he claimed “poem” was too lofty a word for what he penned). Born in Marshalltown, Iowa, in 1937, where his father owned a clothing store, Rinden attended the University of Iowa — where he had his first profound experiences looking at art, he said in a 2006 interview, through paintings by Jackson Pollack and Max Beckmann — before making his way to the East Coast for military service. Soon enough, he would meet Jane and end up in New York.

Aside from his painting, which continued throughout his life, he worked in the garment district, a friend told Brownstoner, and as a teacher in Bushwick. The skills he picked up at these jobs, as well as during the renovation of the home he shared with his wife, can be seen in the creation of the cards: the painstaking craftsmanship, the imaginative mind and the warmth of human connection.

Thor died in 2009 and Jane in August. During a recent visit to Thor’s studio on the top floor of their home, we browsed through a lifetime’s worth of cards. Below is a selection.

[Cards via the estate of Jane Rinden]

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