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, June 26, 2010

Eight Libraries in 5 days – OH MY!

We left Santa Cruz Monday June 21 for Salt Lake City, where about a month ago we had left off our trip to return home and make more books, and had left our Gypsy Wagon parked under a shady walnut tree next to our friend Willy Littig's tomato plantation. Boy, I wish I was going to be here in August! so many tomatoes!!

We first stopped by Stanford University’s Green Library to show our books to the librarian there. Roberto Trujillo is one of the main forces behind the Codex Book Festival, the world’s premier showcase for fine press artists books, which will next be held in February 2011. We encourage everyone to mark their calendars and plan to be there.

We then stopped at UC Davis Shields Library and met with John Sherlock, who paused for a moment to pose with Donna by a student book art sculpture in front of the library. Donna and John are bonding with the face buried in a book..


After sleeping the night at Sierra Hot Springs (hot soak too!) we drove to Reno and met with Donnie Curtis at the University of Nevada. In Special Collections the books are open shelved and we spent a bit of time enjoying looking at the collection. We then toured the new library, visiting the casino-like tech area in what is not officially called a library, but a “Knowledge Center”.

Our bookstore friend Ken Sanders from Salt Lake (where you can order our latest commercially published book: "Muir Ramble Route: Walking from SF to Yosemite in the Footsteps of John Muir", in case you have missed that news....) hooked us up with some like-minded artists from our next stop north, Logan. Here you can see Bob Bissland with his fantastic colorful posters. 

He and his wife Laura Fisher live in an artist-created house up the canyon with a clear stream running close beside it. We loved the night in the forest. The pic below is their "shrine room", decorated with African and South American art.

Peter couldn't resist the cowboy oil sign. Notice that the cowboy is a bee, the symbol for Utah's busy Mormans.

I will now list the 8 libraries, all with dedicated librarians working to keep all of us reminded of the vital need to have BOOKS, not just information or technology present and preserved! 
Stanford, UC Davis, U of Nevada Reno, U of Utah Salt Lake, Weber State U Ogden, Utah State U Logan, Idaho State U Pocatello, and finally the Public Library of Pocatello, where we hosted a herd of very interested and active youngsters through the gypsy wagon and the display of miniature books. Peter hung outside with the librarian, Katherine, playing on his ukulele book....


Velma said...

hurrah for books! see you in canton in august!

rochesterarts said...

Before going to Treadwell, you should make a stop in Rochester NY. See us at the Genesee Center for the Arts & Education in our Printing & Book Arts Center, 713 Monroe Ave. Also stop by Cary Library at RIT and the Visual Studies Workshop when you are here!

Kathryn said...

Dear Wandering Book Artists,
Oh, it was so nice to spend time with you! Thank you for visiting our lovely little Pocatello. Do you remember my library elf? Well, this morning when I came to work, I found a note on my desk and a new drawing in my little book. I'll copy and paste it here for you to see:

"Hello Kids,
Woah, the most amazing thing happened last week. You know how my cousin Salice is staying with us? Well, HER cousins, on her dad’s side, so I’m not really related to them, came to visit. They just stayed for the weekend, but the cool thing was that they live in a gypsy wagon driven by some wandering book artists. It was so great! They live in a huge house that is built into the wall of the gypsy wagon. It even has a door and a little bench where they can sit and watch the world go by as the wagon rolls along. When they sit out there, they wear seatbelts so they don’t get blown off and land in some cornfield to be lost or eaten by cows.

The best part, though, was the whole library of books they have in that gypsy wagon. They are just the right size for me to read. Oh, I still look at those big chapter books you kids read, but it takes me forever to carry even one book over to the light so I can read it when everyone has gone home. You can’t believe how heavy some of those covers are! Even my dad couldn’t help me carry The Invention of Hugo Cabret, it is so thick! I’m hoping that the librarian will leave a copy of that book on her desk so I won’t have to try to drag it across the floor. Anyway, the books Salice’s cousins have are just my size. They have beautiful pictures, too. Maybe I’ll draw one in the little book I’m making so you can see what the gypsy wagon looked like.

Well, I better go now. Please write back soon.

Your friend,

Do take care, and stay in touch,

Peter and Donna Thomas said...

katherine I need your email!, Donna.

wasabi press said...

Donna and Peter, do you have any idea how much I love and admire you both? I've just returned from a month in Oysterville, WA working on a book about bookpeople, and ended the residency with a friend from Seattle, who took me on a mini bookstore tour while we postered for the upcoming Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair. We drove in the big red van, but nothing nothing compares to the splendor of what you two do with your lives. oxoxo-patricia (now in LA)