Jen Renninger

Jen Renninger’s Collection of Boxes

A few from the collection

I was raised by people who collected things, and who taught me early on to look for the small details in objects — not only to appreciate what you find in something, but to use it as a jumping-off point for something else. My mother would often find some thing and tell me a story about it, giving an object a life, anchoring it in time and place and giving it a value that, to me at lease, went well beyond its surface.  

It happens something like this: I walk into a thrift store (or yard sale or shop) and my eyes wander around the shelves. I'm usually looking for things to use for collages (anything ephemeral) but more often than not, I find a box.

It might be the title that draws me in: The Automatic Spaghetti Fork!! —how could I not pick that up!?

Or it has a great graphic: The Striptease Soap Box  — featuring a lovely lady transforming from pin-up to skeleton in a few short scrubs. 

Sometimes, I'm pulled by a wonderful shape — as I was with the exquisite heart-shaped Brach's candy box filled to the brim with paper dolls and a full wardrobe.

Maybe it's just something elegant: a beautiful wooden specimen box, for example.

So I wander over to the box, examine the surface and then slowly peek at what's inside. This gets to the heart of why I collect boxes: for while I usually love the exterior, it is the infinite possibility of what a box might contain that keeps me collecting.

It's two stories in one: the outside tells one tale while the inside tells another.

My collection contains both boxes left just the way I found them (that Spaghetti Fork is perfection on its own) and boxes that I transform into something else. The specimen box became one of my portfolios, complete with a constellation of pin pricks hidden in the back behind my work. Sometimes I display a group of boxes in a row, set up to form unusual sentences with the titles of what they once held. And sometimes I'm lucky enough to find one that is a mystery — like the patterned tin that houses 23 hand-made Japanese paper dolls mounted on slim boards (I would love to know the true story behind those) or the cigar box full vintage photos of funny dogs, found in a tiny shop in New Orleans. But really it's the mystery of what a box might actually contain that grabs me more than anything, and explains why I'll probably never stop being a collector.

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Comments [8]
would be more fun to see her home/studio and see if she is a hoarder, i mean, collector, of other stuff besides boxes

Beautiful collection! I love to see ordinary things made extraordinary - and this is such a graceful point of view. Only kids and really cool people can find magic anywhere you look. Thanks for sharing!!

Thanks Jill! It was a real pleasure to take some time and shoot pictures of everything.

And Jake, I completely understand your curiosity! A few years ago a blogger did a post about my place: you can take a peek at the link below. I'm pretty sure I haven't made hoarder status yet : )

Jen Renninger

Those collections are very nice.. Thanks for sharing this.. Great work..
Reiki master weekend

From one collector to another....well done! I want a print of your grouping of yellow Boxes. (and Jessica has told me wonderful things about you).
Laura Tarrish

Thanks Laura! I feel the same way about your chair collection. The photos were wonderful. I especially loved how they seemed to grow in numbers and then disperse until they appeared just one at a time again.

Send me your address and I'll pop a print in the mail for you.


I believe I also have the olive green jewelry box in the center of the "Miscellaneous" collection.
Great collection.
Catherine Dimalla

What a great collection. I seem to have ended up with a collection of vintage paper bags, probably because they are easier to store. But I do love a box. A disheveled box, ideally. And boxes with contents are the best. Especially content that isn't original.

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