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....

Saturday, April 17, 2010

3 days in Joshua Tree National Park

Three days in Joshua Tree National Park, among the cholla and ocotillo and yucca, and of course Joshua Trees…and the mighty natural fortresses, or castles, or just big rocks, depending on how you choose to look at them. The wildflowers were in bloom, miles of brittlebush daisy like yellow standing over blue phacelia, lupine and bluedicks. It seemed so normal until you realized all around was desert and there was no water so where did all the flowers come from? Donna painted two books of desert wildflowers and one of landscapes.


Friday we dropped down to the Salton Sea, dead fish on the shore, orange water, signs and displays everywhere saying how clean and safe and normal it was. We stayed a day at Slab City, a tract of empty land outside of Nyland, where RVers can stay forever (but most only spend the winter) for free. We followed the yellow brick road up Leonard Knight’s religious mountain, then drove into the city, fairly vacant since it is late in the season.  -Peter

We’ve just left Slab City, “the last free place in America.” (That’s what the sign says as you drive in.) You might have seen the place if you saw the movie, “Into the Wild,” where the main guy visits the family in the RV camped out in the desert, with tons of other RVs. This is what it is like: dusty, hot, scrubby brush. Campers trying to hide under minimum shade of low trees. Peter describes the people here as “living on the margins, kind of hard around the edges, people who by choice don’t want to live in the mainstream and a community is created by people who don’t have many options outside of this place.” Their skin is leathery brown and prematurely wrinkled, their days are filled with figuring out how to survive the summer heat, feed themselves, keep their water tanks full and dump their sewage. Entertainment is self-provided. They play music on a cast-off decorated stage on a cement slab on Friday and Saturday nights. We attended a punkish band set last night, where bass, guitar and flat yelling voices were miked through inadequately powered amps. The crowd was having a blast, dancing, drinking and voicing loudly any complaints about the sound system. We stayed long enough to know that the music was not going to get better, then walked back the ¼ mile to Paloma. Just inside, the music was faint enough to ignore and we fell asleep. This is not a place I am comfortable in. I am happy now to be back on the road, just now passing the Imperial Sand Dunes, the buff colored undulating hills blooming with purple sand verbena.  -Donna



Velma said...

just heard about your trip. wonderful! how long do you plan to be out and how far will you go? the east could use a visit! ( maine?) happy trails.

mary doughty said...

Sounds like a scene right out of Steinbeck, "The Grapes of Wrath"

Polly said...

Yay, the desert! Beautiful photos. I can't wait to see the paintings.