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, April 20, 2010

Jerome Gypsy Wagon Vortex


Have you heard of the “vortexes” around Sedona, Arizona? We vaguely remembered that pilgrimages are made there and other places like Mt. Shasta, California to benefit from the energies there. But we found a different kind of vortex. It’s the “gypsy wagon vortex” and it occurs in Jerome, Arizona. It happened like this:

After spending the night in Prescott National Forest on the side of a dirt road at 6000 ft., we drove on to Jerome. Now I had heard of this little town, we think a friend of ours at some time lived here or lives here now, but we can’t remember who that friend is. Anyway, the streets are very narrow and winding, so taking the caravan through town was slow and tricky. Peter measured our whole rig the day before, because a highway sign posted that no vehicles over 40 ft. were allowed through. We are 39 ft. long. OK.

Jerome was a mining city, built on the side of a mountain, kind of like where I grew up on Manor Hill in Fairfax, California, only without the downtown flat part. Only on the hill. The town boomed and housed mining families until the mid last century. Mines closed, it became a ghost town, then hippies/artists moved in and now it’s a wonderfully funky cute tourist/artist town. That’s enough history.

We found a place to pull over to have a look around and like other times we have stopped, a curious crowd develop to look at the caravan. Only this crowd was special. First it was Cranston, who has lived on the road for 25 years in a motor home who knows someone who is building a caravan in Sedona. Then comes Dave, who happens to be riding by on his motorcycle and has 2 gypsy wagons in his yard about 45 minutes away. Then a woman from Germany stops and admires the wagon and says she lived in a gypsy wagon in her home town for awhile. Then Nancy and Mike drive up. Someone in town saw us drive through and told them they had to find us. They own Hillside house B and B in Jerome with an authentic bow top vardo parked in the front yard!

This all happened in the span of about 20 minutes. Peter and I were talking to different people as they arrived, so we didn’t know the extent of the vortex until everyone left!  We jumped in the back of Mike’s pickup and went up the hill to see their wagon.

Instead of staying in Sedona like we had tentatively planned, (the Sedona story is this: I was shocked to find one of nature’s best canyons in Arizona sprawled with mini mansions and fast food joints. I am so thankful that folks had the vision to preserve Yosemite and other national parks) we parked Paloma in Jerome, drove the truck to Sedona and visited Red Rocks State Park and Slide Rock State Park up in the Oak Creek Canyon.

We talked to Theresa at Crystal Magic in Sedona about the wagon she is building, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see it cause she worked late that night. She did tell us about another wagon in town, so we drove to it and took photos. (alert: Peter has a book in mind: “Gypsy Wagons around the Country”, so he is taking lots of wagon pictures….)


We had dinner at Quince with Mike, Nancy and a bunch of their friends from Jerome plus an author Jana Bommer who loves researching Arizona history and just published an historical novel. We then spent the night at Mike and Nancy’s in Jerome and had a great visit.

I don’t know if we just happen to meet the niceist folks around, or if gypsy wagon people are the niceist. On our way to Tempe we stopped at Dave and Nan’s and loved talking to them and seeing their wagons. This is all gypsy wagon magic at its best!



Chet Phillips said...

Hi Peter and Donna!

Very envious of your travels and talents. This is such wonderful documentation with great images. I've posted you on my blog to spread the word about what you're doing.

Barbara Cowlin said...

I'm excited about taking your class in Tucson next week! It's fun following your adventures. Thought you might be interested in my husband and my project Jerome is on US Route 89, and that's what our project is all about.

I hope that as you're making your way south, you'll go over the mountain (following 89) and end up in Yarnell. It's an amazing little place. You can find information about it on our website.

Tanya Cothran said...

Quince restaurant! Quince must be the new next hot fruit! Cool looking caravans, too.

Peter and Donna Thomas said...

what did I tell you, Tanya!!!
and Barbara, we will check out your website and see you soon!