TRAVELING IN A TINY HOME THAT IS REALLY AN ARTISTS' BOOK ON WHEELS

Peter and Donna Thomas have been making fine press and artist's books for over 40 years. When they started, as craftspeople at Renaissance Faires, they fell in love with the graceful beauty of "gypsy wagon" caravans that other vendors had made to sleep in or use as booths for selling their wares. In 2009 Peter and Donna built their own tiny home on wheels, designed after a typical late 19th century Redding Wagon. This blog documents their trips around the country, taken to sell their artists' books, teach book arts workshops, and talk about making books as art; as well as to seek out and experience the beauty of the many different landscapes found across the USA.

Peter and Donna started their business in 1977 and made their first book in 1978, so from 2017-18 are traveling to celebrate 40 years of making books with shows in a dozen libraries across the country. See the schedule on the side bar to find if they are coming to a town near you....

Monday, June 18, 2018

Vardos and tiny homes we passed along the way.....

We are back in Santa Cruz for the summer. The truck and trailer are  happily sheltered in Murphy, North Carolina, waiting for our late September return, when we will visit libraries across the mid-west as we head our way home.

On the current book arts front the University of Utah's Marriott Library is hosting a show of our work as part of our 40 year celebration, titled "40 years of books to go." It can be seen on the level 1 Lobby Gallery from May 24th through September 1st, 2018. (https://newsletter.lib.utah.edu/current-exhibitions/). We will be giving a talk there on June 21st at 5:30.

 

We have never actually passed (or been passed by) another tiny home or vardo while driving (and we have pulled our  little tiny home on wheels over 60,000 miles now...) But we have found a few that were parked, and at the end of a trip we like to share photos of what we found:

 


 

Outside of Orlando in the Wekiva Springs campground we sited the first actual curved roof vardo we have encountered in the wild (meaning other than the ones we have seen at SCA events). It was owned and built by the camp host, (sorry we forget his name).

 
  

 

In a parking lot, overlooking the ocean, we found this pickup truck with a vardo-like camper.



At a show ground in St. Augustine we found this cotton candy looking wagon. It is currently being used by a food vendor.



In St. Petersburg we found this "tiny home" still on display in the central park, even though the tiny home show had been the week before. (We were not yet in town, so happy to see this one.) For those of you who do not know, the tiny home movement defines a tiny home being under 400 square feet. Our wagon, at 7.5 by 14.5 is about 110 square feet. What makes it different than a single wide trailer? Well for one it is a bit smaller (a single wide is usually not less than 600 sq. ft.) But really it is the materials used and the mind set behind its construction. The tiny house movement promotes financial prudence, eco-friendly choices, shared community experiences, and a shift in consumerism-driven mindsets.



Well, as we said at the start of the blog, our truck and wagon are happily ensconced under shelters in Murphy, NC in our friend Dave Peters yard, and by now are probably completely covered by kudzu. Dave wrote a great song about kudzu, and you can see it on youtube. Well I thought you could, but it doesn't seem to be there... Here is another one of his song though: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-oxyjQt0wo

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Indoor and Outdoor Libraries in Atlanta

Hiking in De Kalb county park with Julie Newton, a conservator at Emory College, we came upon an outdoor found art gallery. Trails lined with installations, one was a scrolling tree mounted artists'  books. We even found a Free Library.






The Free Library movement is awesome. A little box full of books, mounted on a pole with a roof over it. Books free for the taking. Such a friendly way to share something you love with neighbors, with anyone who passes by your house. When we spent the week in Atlanta both friends we stayed with had “Free Libraries” out in front of their houses. People stopped by on a regular basis, some even exchanging new books for old! Both said that they have regulars that have become friends, and regulars who they only recognize but have never spoken with. Both actually “curate” the libraries in their boxes so the selection will remain interesting. They remove books that have been in the box too long. They both are constantly on the lookout for new books to add, and every once in the while even go buy children’s books to have for one of their “regulars”.



As part of our 40-year celebration the libraries at both Emory and Savannah College of Art and Design had up shows with our books on display.




But then libraries are not limited to books. On our way to Brasstown, NC, at Blood Mountain, in Georgia near the southern end of the Appalachian Trail, we found one more library; a ‘library’ of shoes - hanging from the branches of a tree. Some worn out by hiking from the Canadian border, others hardly worn at all, only for a week or so since the start of the trail a bit south of there, obviously the wrong size or shape for the wearer. And like the little free libraries, these shoes are free for the taking if you can find your size and style, and if you can climb high enough.















Sunday, April 29, 2018

Hidden in Plain View

Walter Hamady, a pioneer book artist, who taught many of today’s practicing book artists (or their teachers) once said that the book was the Trojan Horse of Art. By that he meant that people who claimed they didn’t like or understand art would still look at an artists’ book and admire the cover, the presentation of the text, and the illustrations, and would look at it much longer than they ever would a painting. I claim that by the end of the twenty-first century the book arts will be the dominant art medium, that museums will be gathering dust while libraries will be the vibrant centers of aesthetic experience.

Donna in our booth at the book fair.

We felt a bit hidden in plain view at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. We were surrounded by what people really came to see: first editions, incunabula, children’s books, and paper ephemera. When people stopped in our booth they were either completely confused by what they were seeing or excited to find what they had often only heard about. Much like tiny homes, which most people have only seen on TV, many of the book fair’s patrons had heard of artists’ books but had never had the opportunity to see or hold them.



Awakening

One book that caught many a visitor’s eye and drew them into the booth was Donna’s one of a kind book titled, “Awakening.” It measures 9 ¼ inches by 12 3/8 inches by 5/8 inches, and was all hand painted on my handmade paper. It was recently purchased by University of Central Florida.



Parked in various driveways


Walking through Vilano Beach, near St. Augustine, Florida, we began to ponder the connection between advertising signs and artists’ books. They both combine structure and words. There is the common love of typography, and they combination of letterforms with imagery to convey meaning. Before there were artists’ books, perhaps using the medium of buildings and signs was the way people who are now drawn to the book arts found ways to express themselves as artists.



Buildings in Vilano Beach




Post Script

It is so easy to take photos now that I have an iPhone with me at all times. There are always photos that don't easily fit into a blog post. I still want to share. I guess these final photos are kind of like the postscript of a letter.


Alligators in the Everglades and on Naples beach.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Professor of Books, only in Florida.

The University of Central Florida in Orlando has a lot of students…around 60,000 enrolled students.  (They are #2 or 3 but then whose counting?) I don’t know if Florida can accommodate all of its qualified applicants, but UCF is clearly hosting a diverse population of students and the campus offers a vast array of opportunities for enrichment.



We visited the campus to see the show of our work in the library. 


We had a chance to meet about 1/1000th, or a tenth of one percent of the UCF student body when we gave a talk to a diverse group of students from the art department, showing our books and sharing our thoughts about the history and future of the artists’ book. I think we might have met the most creative percentage!



Giving tours of the wagon we had a very interesting conversation with Ryan Price, one of the graduating students from the printmaking department. I had admired his work in the graduates’ year-end show in the gallery, mostly large painted drawings, but there was one artists’ book. It was made by taking paintings made on both sides of an 18 by 24 inch sheet of art paper, folding them in half, and sewing the folios together to make up the text block. The inner fold showed the whole painting, but the next page spread was composed of two half-paintings.

What Ryan liked most about making his book was fitting the unmatched half pages together and then reworking them so they became a new art work. He liked how changing the sequence could change the story, and how the fragments of paintings took on whole new and different meanings when paired differently.

Ryans talk

I feel assured that future of the artists’ book is secure, with students like Ryan Price embracing the medium.


In nearby Rollins College, Rachel Simmons teaches a book arts class. During our visit we learned that between 1926-1951 Rollins even had a "Professor of Books!" It was Ke Francis a recently retired Professor of Books that got us to Orlando and UCF. The pictures that follow were taken at UCF: