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....

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Join the Ukulele & Book Arts Tiny Home Bandwagon

The first leg of our 2017-8 trip, celebrating 40 years of making books, is now behind us - and we are home binding up more books! So what else does a wandering book artist do when they are not wandering? You know, when we made our first "Wandering Book Artists" trip in 2010, most people who saw our wagon asked, "What is this?" But on our last trip it seemed like everyone was saying, "That's a tiny home, right? I'm getting ready to build one myself!" We seemed to be at the start of the current tiny home craze. Another trend we were at the forefront of is the current ukulele fad. We were co-founders of the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz in 2000. Watch out, as unintentional pioneers of movements, what's going to be next? Well maybe we will take up making tiny home ukulele book arts music videos!

Two Tiny Home/Ukulele Music Videos

You may have already seen the music video that our cohort in ukulele crime, Dave Peters, helped make while we were teaching at the John C. Campbell Folk School in September, 2017: Sleepwalking in a Tiny Home. If not, here is a link:

The Next Tiny Home Music Video

When we were in Rhode Island, staying with Dave and Sue Wasser, founders of the Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum, we showed them the Sleepwalking video. Sitting at the dinner table, and joking around, Dave and Sue suggested they would like to enter into a little friendly competition with the "other Dave" and that we should make our own video - also based on the tiny home and ukulele theme - that would get even more hits.

Since we were leaving the next day we had to get right to work, so right then and there, at the dinner table, we wrote and recorded the song on my iPhone, and then filmed it the next day. The weekend over, Dave's work got in the way, and editing wasn't completed December 31, 2017, so it is hot off the press, or what ever they say in the film industry. Here is a link: It is called, "Xs and Os in a Tiny Home" - based on Ex's and Oh's by Elle King. (But be forewarned you will have to watch a commercial before you can see Elle's version. But if you watch you will find it also features a tiny home on wheels...a vintage house trailer.

Some YouTube Trivia

1. For a view to count you must watch at least 30 seconds
2. Only the first 100 views from any one computer count.
3. Make your vote by watching twice.....or 100 times..... and give a THUMBS UP to the one you like the most. No one uses those thumbs on our videos, so we will know they are your votes.
4. Here is the base line: at the time we filmed "Xs and Os" the "Sleepwalking" video had about 600 views.

Pictures of our Tiny Home on Wheels

Then to a related subject: we were looking back thru our files from the trip and found a collection of photos of our wagon taken by students in a photography class at the John C. Campbell Folk School. They gave us copies to share with our readers and so here they are:

We will be back at the Folk School in May, teaching Beginning Ukulele, plus a Jug Band Class! Will you sign up and come have fun with us? There are lots of amazing classes at the Folk School and you will not regret making the trek to North Carolina.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Mid-west weather says "Californians, time to head home."

Donna just spent hours making a fantastic final post. I went to edit it, and in the blink of an eye, and a misplaced keystroke, I deleted it. It was unrecoverable. The only time I felt worse was on the trip, some time around week 9 or 10, when the temperature dropped, ice started appearing, and Donna and I looked at each other, both of us thinking..."I want to be home...."

But we still had lots to do, and of course, had a great time doing it.

We found very interesting work going on in Karen Baldner's book arts classes at the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis.

And the Herron's art library always has artists' books on display for the students to study. Here are a few that inspired us.

We ended the trip visiting the University of Kentucky, where we got a clear sign it was time for us to be heading home..... As we walked to the King Library:

And this is what it looked like later in the day:

Here is our class at the King Library Press at the University of Kentucky. We had participants of all ages, who helped one another, created cool books and generally had a good time!

Peter and director of the press Paul Holbrook pull a print on the historic hand press:

The University of Kentucky hosted one of our "40 year" shows:

Finally, we packed up the truck and trailer and left it in Dave Peter's back yard. Dave co-teaches Peter's Introduction to Ukulele classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina.

Dave has a fine sense of humor! It was his wizardry that created the "Sleepwalking in a Tiny Home" video we made earlier on the trip:

We are at home now in Santa Cruz, busy filling orders of books we sold on the trip.We have books yet to bind and the winter is a fine time to be inside in the studio. See our books on our website here.

The book, Piute Creek is currently a favorite!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Collegiate Gothic

You may have noticed in past blogs that we commented on visiting a sizable number of really ornate libraries with buildings that looked like castles or churches, and you may also have noticed our wondering about why and wherefore. Well Cara List, the rare book librarian at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, finally explained it to us. The style is called Collegiate Gothic, and it was an attempt by young universities in the USA to create "a scholastic atmosphere" and gain credibility by emulating the libraries of the more venerable and esteemed universities in England, like the ones at Cambridge or Oxford.

Of course there are may non-gothic university libraries. For example the next library we visited after Northwestern was Chicago University. Leave it to the campus where the A bomb got its start with the first controlled nuclear chain reaction to build a library that looks like a space ship.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Horn Books

We are home now, and working on a final blog post. But, before we do that there are few things we want to post about. One is the Horn Book collection at the Philadelphia Free Library.Hornbooks were the first form of children's books. The first known mention of the hornbook was in 1442 and they remained in use in the classroom through the nineteenth century. The simplest and most common hornbook was made of wood and shaped like a paddle. Often rope was threaded through a hole at the end of the handle so it could be worn around the neck or attached to the belt. A lesson, like the alphabet, a syllabary, or a a religious verse was written out on a piece of parchment (and later on paper). That was laid on the wood and covered with a transparent flattened cow's horn that was fastened to the wood paddle. The horn protected the lesson sheet and gives the hornbook its name. The PFL has over 100 examples of vintage horn books in manyshapes and sizes. You can also see the first image in our earlier post:

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hamilton Wayzgoose: Type Lovers Unite!

If you love wood type and letterpress printing... especially the bold and exciting work being done these days in the showcard poster/broadside world, you need to go to Two Rivers, Wisconsin for the Hamilton Wood Type Museum Wayzgoose

We arrived Thursday for the three-plus day affair and took a selfie at their wood type wall:

On Thursday we printed a folder to hold the broadsides the students printed on Friday in our workshop titled letterpress printing with wood type. By the way Hamilton IS the "coolest place in town..." at least in Two Rivers, WI anyways.

The participants in our workshops were challenged to make images of bugs or beasts using wood type. The wood type museum is a paradise for wood type lovers. We taught 2 classes, each for 3 hours, with 15 people in each, working in teams of 3 on 5 different presses. We had them make 40 copies, so that each participant would get one of each print that was made. Most of the folks got at least 30 "perfect" copies and most had time to do 3 different color runs.

Here are the classes and the work: You are really going to have to zoom in to see what they made!

Next year... Can't wait!