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....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

From Pennsic Wars to Penn State

We’ve had a magical week


We arrived last Friday at the Pennsic Wars, which is a production of the Society for Creative Anachronism. We really hadn’t planned this visit, but Peter had been in contact with several gypsy wagon owners and they said they would be here. Now this was a good chance to see some wagons all in the same place! The Pennsic Wars are like the Renaissance Faire (Peter and I participated for 20 years or so back in the 70s – 90s), they re-create a time period in England (mostly), but the SCA concerns itself with the medieval time. A big part of their activities have to do with fighting, i.e.: swords, foils, shields, bows and arrows.

So here we are. In the middle of the 11th century with 10,000 people wearing linen sheets and armor, carrying weapons and PARTYING non-stop! We had fun. I painted and Peter photographed all the gypsy wagons we could find. We camped with a group that welcomed us in and fed us and took us touring around the site. Something we have noticed on this trip: We feel like every person we meet is the most interesting and friendly person in the world and we are dear old friends. So nice.

We spent the next night at friend Marty from Santa Cruz parent’s house in the country near Pennsic, where he just happened to be there because of a wedding. We ate dinner from their garden then visited in the firefly and cicada evening. I picked enough green beans, squash and tomatoes for the next few days. Yum.

The next day as we drove east on the Interstate 80, Peter saw a sign for Penn State University. He thought, we’ve sold a book to them before! I was napping and the next thing I knew, we were on the way to an impromptu meeting (actually, this is not usually a concept in a librarian’s world) with special collections librarian Sandra Stelts. The library is under construction this summer (this is happening ALL OVER), so she wanted to come down to the gypsy wagon at the loading dock and see our books there. We were happy to oblige because it would save us hauling all the books inside. What a nice meeting it was! We sold books (quite a few!), people dropped by and smiled and inquired about the wagon (as per usual) so our detour off the highway was a highlight of our day. And in an email she said, “Your visit was the highlight of my week! So glad that you followed your impulse and called from the highway. I felt when I got back to my office that I'd BEEN somewhere, even if we never left the library's parking lot! The caravan is a charming little world of its own.”


Bonnie K said...

Sounds like you had a magical time there. Only a few more weeks and you'll be in Buffalo...can't wait!

Kathryn said...

Your little cottage on wheels is still the prettiest of them all!


rickzeek said...

Where are you this morning? I can't believe you were in Plains, PA. my # is 570 864-8595. I'm in the area.

Erin said...

It was so great meeting you! Tim and I are planning our vardo already, and have been making bread-biscuits like yours since we got home. You two are very inspiring!

Eric said...

my friends and i were happy to have you with us in our camp at pennsic. and would love to see you back. have a great tour of the rest of the USA ERIC