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 other vendors had made to sleep in or use as booths to sell their wares from. In 2009 they built their own tiny home "caravan", designed after a typical 1900s Redding style of English Gypsy Wagon. This blog documents their trips around the country to sell their books, teach book arts workshops, and talk about making books as art; and to seek out and find beauty in the landscape of the USA.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Peter, Mary, Thomas, Jim, Donna, Susie and Bob, holding the books we made this week:

We are 2.5 miles down to the end of a dirt road and way into the green spruce woods. Jim and Melody have made this their home for over 33 years, starting by living in a teepee, now in a handmade house. They have lived a simple but labor-intensive life on this homestead where they eat from their garden. 

Melody makes baskets in the spring when the willow shoots are up, she sews warm wool children’s coats in the summer to have for sale in the winter and makes sweet fairies to go with each season from plants from her garden. In the summer Jim leads a workshop in making books by hand in the old way. And that is where Peter and I have been these last 2 weeks. There are 6 of us in this year’s workshop and we are making bone tools, tanning deer hides: (Mary, Bob, Donna, Thomas, Susie and Jim and the stretched out deer hide)

 splitting cedar boards for book covers, making paper: (Bob, Thomas and Susie in the greenhouse paper studio)

 and spinning our own flax sewing thread. This is an amazing time. Jim is a walking-talking encyclopedia of old ways knowledge and the participants are taking every minute to learn and create together. Here are the books we made this week. Mine is the upper right, with a bone carving of Old Faithful on the front cover. Peter's is the mini in the bottom middle with the dark leather spine.

Here is Jim talking up carving bone and sharpening paring tools with Susie and Mary:

If you want to learn medieval bookbinding and live in a beautiful green wood for awhile, check them out! You really haven't lived if you are a book person and haven't spent some time in Santa, Idaho with the Crofts.



moonbindery said...

I spent some time making books with the Crofts last summer, and it was a fabulous learning experience. Thanks for this post, it brings back some good memories!

Bonnie K said...

Oh, to live the way the Crofts do - close to the earth, simple, and self-sufficient!

I like the reference to spinning your ow flax thread.