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....

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wandering Wisconsin


We entered Wisconsin in the "Driftless Area", the part of the midwest that did not have glaciers move through, so the terrain has hills and hollows. The Driftless Bookshop 
was the first stop. This used book store is where our friend and fellow printer Mike Koppa works and they buy used books that others want to throw out and find readers for them. What an awesome collection of books in a cool old tobacco leaf warehouse! Here's Peter wandering the stacks, playing his uke. Mike works for Organic Valley, purveyors of organic dairy products and we spent last Sunday gorging on lovely yogurt, cream, chocolate milk, ice cream and more at their yearly festival. 
John Muir spent his youth in Wisconsin so we stopped at "Fountain Lake Farm" in the middle of the state. It was a super hot and humid day but we managed a walk around the lake in the beautiful prairie flowers to his old home site. The area has been preserved as a park and Muir would be happy to see the way folks have loved and nurtured the native prairie landscape. A jump in the lake refreshed after the sweaty hike. Afterwards we visited the nearest town, Montello, where the Montello Historical Preservation Society has a great show up highlighting Muir in Marquette County. Kathleen McGuin, from a long time Wisconsin family, showed us around the incredible artifacts they gathered for the show.

Hamilton Type Museum in Two Rivers was our next printing stop. Here is where wood type was made for years and we printed a broadside here using some great fonts of various sizes.

We camped just north of town on Lake Michigan with all the mosquitos. Oh and some other campers. One camper was "Fish Bah" who made a very nice cabin camper over 25 years ago and look how nice it still is. He lives in Idaho and drove all the way to his high school reunion in Two Rivers.... 
Swimming was fun in Lake Michigan: we body surfed the smallish waves! Then made dinner out at the dunes before we had to move back into the dark wet buggy forest for the night (that is where the campsites were). 
On to Madison, where we were hosted by a family who own and operate a glass shop: Studio Paran. The artist, Richard, makes such beautiful vases, tumblers and bowls. 
Richard cleared out his gallery and Peter taught a book making class there on Saturday.

But earlier in the week, we were treated to a "Muir-iana"tour of the University of Wisconsin. Muir went to school here in 1860s, and a Muir enthusiast, Dan Einstein, was kind to give us a tour of all the Muiriana on campus. We toured his dorm hall, saw his bronze bust in the biology dept, visited his famous "locust tree" site (where he supposedly had his first botany lesson) and more.  
Our friend Tracy Honn is the director and letterpress printer extraordinaire at the Silver Buckle Press, which is in the Memorial Library on the U of Wisconsin campus. I have always admired Tracy's fine aesthetic and while printing our next broadside, she showed us some cool techniques. One was "pressure prints", which I won't try to explain, but we used some grass from "Muir's Knoll" which is right up the hill from the library. In the end, we didn't used the technique for the edition, but the learning was great and I am happy with the broadside featuring Muir's grass and a tiny caravan paired with Muir's words about wandering in Wisconsin.

A little more Madison: farmer's market on Saturday: crazy crowded because you could get organic cheese, fruit, vegies, cheese, sausage, jerkie, bread and more cheese. Oh, and fresh corn. That's the best!


Sequoia said...

Very Cool ! ... love your updates, glad you and Peter are having a good time and sharing all this neat stuff with us - Sequoia said...

They have "vegies" is Wisconsin? It all sounds great. Come back to Utah our corn is ready..........
Willy & Pam

MoonPear said...

Great people, great class, cool gypsy wagon-great opportunity! Thanks for a wonderful opportunity to study and meet you both. I have been truely inspired and can't wait to play with the ideas flooding forth! Keep on truckin' and briefing us along the way. -Tinameri

Pamela said...

Hi,you cuties.... Thanks for keeping us posted with your wonderful and fun adventures!!!

Thanks, too, for the info on Spirit in Action...

Wish you were here!!!



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