We have been making artist's books for over 30 years together. Long ago as craftspeople at Renaissance faires we fell in love with the "gypsy wagons" that vendors built to sleep in and sell their wares from. This gypsy wagon is taking us around the country to sell our books, teach book arts workshops, talk about books and see the beauty in the USA.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Wandering Folly (or two)

“Folly” is a British word they use to describe a “crazy” house and it is an American word for a crazy thing to do. Both follies apply to us.  Our trip as wandering book artists may seem a fools’ errand to many: trying to spread the word about the artists’ book by travelling around the country in a gypsy wagon. To some our wagon home seems the most outrageous of RVs in any campground.

When we made our first blog post we were in Nevada and now we are in Nebraska. We have found a few other follies along the road. The first was “Thunder Mountain,” a rambling set of structures built just off Interstate 80 in Imlay, Nevada.  It was built in the 50s and 60s by Frank Van Zant, also known as Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder, who described his roadside art park variously as a museum, a monument to the American Indian, a retreat for pilgrims aspiring to the “pure and radiant heart.” It is filled with crumbling cement statues, wobbly architectural towers and weeds growing up through stone huts.

The second sort of folly, perhaps more interesting to the book lovers that read this blog was the Gilgul Sculpture Garden Park in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was built between 1947 and 1963 by LDS businessman Thomas Battersby Child, Jr. and is the only designated "visionary art environment" in the state of Utah. The park is filled with symbolic statuary associated with the Morman Religion. There are sculptures and over 70 stones engraved with scriptures, poems and literary texts.

Then there was our own campsite-finding folly in Fossil Butte, Wyoming. The guidebook said to just follow the gravel road a mile and there will be a campsite in an old gravel quarry. We found the quarry, but only after going by the “No Trespassing” signs, and by the height of the weeds in the road it was clear no one else had attempted to stay there for years.

This is only a partial folly, or no folly at all. It is the wall mural made by Karen Kunc at her new “Constellation Studio” in Lincoln, Nebraska. Kunc has converted an old mercantile building into a studio space where visiting visual artists can come to work with her. One outside wall is painted with a mammoth version of her typically etching press-sized artwork.

We are continuing our way across the country and will end this week in Chicago on Friday afternoon at the Newberry Library.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rock and Roll Stars? NO, Book Artists on Tour!

Wandering Book Artists: 2014 Day One

The road has called to us again and we left today on our third Wandering Book Artists cross-country road trip. Our schedule, who made it? We are going to be like a rock and roll band on  tour: this week its Reno, Provo, Salt Lake City, Logan and Cheyenne. Next week its Lincoln, Grinnell, Peoria, Normal, Urbana and Chicago. The week after that its Kalamazoo, Lansing, Ann Arbor, Cleveland and Rochester. Then we are on to New England... We will be showing our artist’s books at libraries, talking to book arts classes, teaching paper making and bookbinding and generally spreading word of creative joy like wandering book artists traveling in a colorful gypsy wagon should do.

You’d think that after already making two cross-country trips as Wandering Book Artists we would know what we were doing. We told a few friends that we were pulling the gypsy wagon out of the driveway at 10 am and leaving at 11. When they arrived after their morning surfing session, at about 11:30, we were still there After their morning surfing session, our friends Wendy Treat, Jay Bowyer and John Miles came by to send us off. With their encouragement we pulled out of our steep driveway. These three musicians, along with Ron Clegg, Gary Cunningham, Celina Gutierrez and Howard Wright, helped Peter on a last minute project to record his “book arts folk songs.” There are some great songs on it, like, “Book Arts Gals,” based on “Buffalo Gals,” and “Makin’ Paper,” based on “Makin’ Whoopie.” You get the idea!

The CD cover was letterpress printed using old wood type and hand made by Peter.
The CD will be available on our web site pretty soon.
Celina, Howard, Peter, Gary
The only excitements for the day’s drive were a VW camper’s wheel catching fire in front of us on the highway, and a sagebrush hillside smoking from a wildfire earlier in the day a few miles away from where camped in a beautiful sage and pine forest near Truckee.

Boca Reservoir Campground
Waking early, we drove to the U of Nevada, set out our books using the gypsy wagon as a gallery.

Donnelyn Curtis, the special collections librarian, saved us a trip hauling the books into the library by coming out to the wagon to look at the books. After that we were off, heading across the desert for Salt Lake City.

You can expect to hear from us once a week or so as we make our way across the country. Let us know if you would like us to stop in your town!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Home in California!

We spent the last week wandering around Southern California. We started the week with a visit to our old sixteenth century stomping grounds, the “original” Renaissance Pleasure Faire, in Irwindale, and found a cousin of our wagon parked there.

Cute restored vintage wagon at the Renaissance fair

We kept ourselves busy running around town. We gave a talk at the Flintridge Bookstore where Peter (La Canada HS class of ’72) spoke to a crowd that was mostly high school classmates. Early that morning we parked the gypsy wagon down the street from the bookstore and drove the truck to give a talk and papermaking demonstration at Occidental College. When we got back, the owner of the house we had parked in front of came out to talk to us. We thought she was going to complain, but she said, “My friends have been calling all day asking where I got the beautiful wagon and if I am going to give up my job and start traveling. Can you leave it here a few more days?

Great outdoor papermaking area at Occdental College

LA is the land of freeways and they are always crowded. There are so many people and cars that finding parking for two vehicles is a big deal. We even had to parallel park the truck and wagon when we went to see the Watts Towers. We still can’t figure out how we got it in those two tiny spaces…

If you haven’t guessed, we are now back home in Santa Cruz with tons of work awaiting us. Most pressing is to bind the books we sold while on the trip. But before we finish off this blog post, we want to share some statistics we have compiled for this trip. To recap, for those of you who have just begun to read the blog, we left Santa Cruz in September 2012 and drove across the country, arriving in Florida in early December. We left the truck and wagon in storage and flew home for Christmas and a winter break in California. In mid-February 2013 we flew back to Florida and then drove back to Santa Cruz, arriving home on the last day of April.

25 States
On our eastward trip we passed through the middle of the country (mostly on Interstate 80) and we returned through the southern states so we covered lots of ground. Note: on our 2010 – 11 wandering book artists’ trip we went through 15 states we didn’t visit this time, so our total is now at 40. Sounds like we might have to take one more trip to get the easy 48…

13,000 Miles
That sounds like a lot of driving, but we were gone for over five months. Luckily Peter is fine with doing most of the driving. I really should calculate how many stitches I have knitted. What I remember completing is: 3 sweaters, 5 pairs of fingerless gloves, 6 hats and 3 crocheted flower garlands!

150 Days
That is an average of about 90 miles per day. We usually drove less than 3 hours between appointments and there were days when we didn’t drive anywhere. It was great to have a day off now and again to work in our “office” somewhere beautiful.

50 Libraries
We visited 50 special collection departments to show our books and 10 public libraries to do office work or download audio books.

45 Talks, Workshops and Open Caravans
These were given to library patrons, university art classes and community book arts groups. Peter may even have one or two “groupies” for the “Book Arts Folk Songs,” which he sings at every event. He can bring a smile to even the most reserved audience member…. “I really need to make a CD,” says Peter. It is still fun for me to hear the talks even though I have heard over 100 now. I love how he changes what he says to meet the needs of each group. The open caravan tours are a real blast. I love hearing, “You’ve changed my life” and “You MADE this? I want to do that!”

Gypsy wagon tours, "Take me with you!"

Class presentation number 99.....still fun for us!

30 Campsites
We tried to find a place of natural beauty to camp, hike and generally regroup in between our public engagements. We stayed in 2 National Parks and 5 National Forests, 16 State Parks and 7 random campgrounds. Vedawoo, Zion and Big Bend were highlights this trip. I just can’t get enough of red rocks, and natural hot springs are divine.

The last campsite: Mariposa, CA

43 Driveways
We parked in loading docks, winery lots, campus parking lots, but the most fun was always the driveways of new and old friends! We played music, shared meals (gumbo, won ton soup, sauerkraut and polish sausage, and more….), took hikes in favorite local places, played with a monkey in one house, got massages, made books, and swapped stories. Thank you to all our hosts.

1 Final Story
This sort of encounter is typical of what happened all the time...
I was filling up the truck, feeling pleased that I had gone a few blocks off the freeway and found a station that sold diesel for $3.90 per gallon rather $4.35 at a station right off the highway. 20 gallons is an average tank full, so it doesn’t represent that much money, but it does give a lot of satisfaction… I was up on the hood trying to scrape a giant smashed bug off the window, when I heard some one saying, “That is awesome, what is it? Can you live in it?” I looked up to see this 20-something year old guy with pierced lips, acne, something sticking thru his nose, multi-colored hair, the works. “Do you want to see inside?” I asked. (Part of the responsibility of owning such a beautiful and intriguing vehicle is the obligation to show it to anyone who shows real interest.) “Whoa, that would be sick!” So I showed him inside. He asked, “Did you build it?” I showed him the book we made with the construction pictures. He got more and more excited about it. I said that we were out on the road encouraging other people to build their own gypsy wagons. He asked, “Where do you get the wood? Home Depot?” I said we milled the wood from sugar pine trees near Yosemite, but any lumber yard would have wood. Then he asked, “How did you put in the electricity?” I said just like wiring is done in any home and I showed him the propane tank and fuse box. He said, “Where to you buy all that?” Then the gas tank was full and I had to finish up washing the windows, so he wandered off. When I was telling Donna about him, she said, “I bet he grew up around malls, where everything you can buy is already made, and so he's never made anything in his life.” I wonder if she was right…

Chinese houses blooming in the Sierra Nevada foothills in California

Autumn 2014
Although we plan to stay home for awhile, it looks like this will not be the final wandering book artists’ road trip. Peter is scheduled teach a ukulele class at the John C Campbell Folk School in North Carolina in October 2014, and there are rumors of a visit to a University in New York City floating around…. Let us know if you would like us to visit you then!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Southwest Natural Beauty Alerts/ Wanderers take time to paint the red rocks

We just spent more than a week in the deserts of the southwest. Donna made lots of new watercolor paintings, Peter played some ukulele, and both of us hiked up and down and through the vermillion cliffs.

Secluded camp site near Ghost Ranch, NM

Painting from the caravan to escape the wind near Ship Rock

Rock fin wall and wagon back with new towel rack

I love it when the trail just drops into a slot like this! Hovenweep

The spectacular ruins at Hovenweep, at sunset

Zion National Park, like Yosemite's walls, only red! Oh, and they are sandstone!

See that knife-edge? That is the trail to Angel's Landing in Zion NP

Chain link adds to the fun on the "trail" to the top

Paintbrush in the red sandstone

Looking back into the narrows of Zion Canyon

butterfly on the sage

Spring has come to Red Rock Canyon, near Las Vegas

Calico Cliffs walk in Red Rock Canyon

Posing with the red rocks outside of Las Vegas

Walking to a secret canyon in the white cliffs, shh, private property!!

Well, we are nearing the end of our second wandering book artists' road trip. The next post will probably be the last and it will certainly come from California!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Do we have a printing press with us in the Gypsy Wagon?

People have been asking us if we have a printing press with us in the Gypsy Wagon, and how do we get so much work done in such a little space? Then we have to ruin their romantic vision by telling them the truth, that we actually don't live in the gypsy wagon full time, that we have a studio in Santa Cruz, CA where we do our printing, papermaking and bookbinding. But actually we do have a sort of printing press with us. It is called a Cuttlebug, a sort of mini etching press made for "crafters".

Santa Fe, NM is a town of Art and Artists. Donna's Great Aunt Mil lived in Santa Fe in the 1930s and one of her friends was an artist named Gustave Baumann. When we knew Aunt Mil she still had a few of his prints hanging in the living room of her house. Donna always admired those prints, so when we were in Santa Fe we visited the Palace of the Governors, where there is a historic print shop that has a display of Baumann's printing shop. It has Baumann's handpress, his pigments and equipment for making ink (now we want to make our own ink too), and examples of his prints. Curator Tom Leech took time to show us additional prints from their archives. Looking at examples of Baumann's reduction woodcuts, in the various states and colors, Donna was inspired to try making a print that looked like one of Baughman's. After leaving Santa Fe, while camping near Navajo Dam, in the Dine-tah (the Navajo's traditional homeland) we pulled out the little press and printed a three color reduction cut print of the surrounding landscape.

Donna is getting ready to cut the rubber stamp block

Donna pulling the first print with yellow ink

Peter's view of Donna working while he is laying in bed eating bon bons....

Inking up for the second color

The image after pulling the second color

Drying the cuts out of the wind

Placing the block for the third color

Removing the block after printing the third color

The finished print. It is about 4 by 6 inches.

So there you have it. Now we can say that the Wandering Book Artists DO work while on the road.