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When he’s not repairing books, local retiree turns them into works of art

Tucsonan Marty Getraer has entered these examples of folded book art in a local Judaica contest.

Tucsonan Marty Getraer taught himself bookbinding years ago when he lived in Baldwin, New York, repairing more than 600 prayer books for his synagogue in gratitude to the daily minyan where he said Kaddish for his father. He revived the hobby a decade ago after moving to Tucson, where Congregation Young Israel and others have made use of his services.

Now retired from a career in sales, he has more time to devote to being “Moishe the Bookbinder,” a nickname he’s embraced as his business name. Getraer also is using books to create art, including decorative book folding and bookcases made from books.

Book folding, he says, “is something that I knew existed for a while. I didn’t develop it.
“There are patterns you can buy on the internet,” he explains. “Some of them you’re folding the pages back only, to create a design, and there are thousands of designs, and other ones you need to do some cuts and some folds” to create a design that is “even more eye-popping. I’ve been learning little tricks, how I can take a simple pattern and make it a little bit more elaborate.”

He’s entered a couple of his Jewish-themed book folds into a juried Hanukkah show at Leaping Lizard Gallery; the exhibit runs Nov. 20-Dec. 18.

Other themes run the gamut from teddy bears to Star Wars.

Getraer also has made some of these intricate works of art as gifts. For a niece’s recent wedding, he made one with the words “Mr. & Mrs.”


Some of Marty Getraer’s bookshelf creations are encyclopedia-themed.

His bookshelves made from books often have a theme, such as Funk & Wagnall’s dictionaries, a Jewish history series, or current novels. The last, he says, “is very colorful, very eye-catching. I’m looking at maybe getting those out to bookstores.”

He buys books at thrift stores and also gets some unsaleable volumes from the Brandeis Book Depot or Bookmans Entertainment Exchange — no one is buying encyclopedia sets anymore, he notes.
“I don’t want these bookshelves to be expensive,” he says. “Just like my bookbinding, I want it to be affordable.”

“I got a set of Émile Zola books that were beautiful. A light tan, in great condition,” he recalls. The resulting bookshelf ended up going to the principal of the school where Getraer’s wife works; coincidentally, the principal had done her dissertation on Zola.

For bookfolding, he says, the criteria is that the book is tall enough for the design and has enough pages, but he has to be careful with designs where the text will show. “Some of the subject matter and language of these books is inappropriate,” he says. To make the book less important to the design, he covers extra pages at the beginning and end with paper or fabric.

As for the actual reading of books, “I repair a lot more books than I read but I generally have a read in progress,” Getraer says.

Contact Getraer at moishethebookbinder@gmail.com or (520) 468-8141.