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....

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cincinnati and Ann Arbor

We had two days to drive from Larkspur Press in Kentucky to Ann Arbor where we were to teach a class at Hollander's then be part of the Kerrytown Bookfest. We spent the night between in Cincinnati, where Peg and Stuart hosted an open gypsy wagon pot luck for the Cincinnati Book Arts Society. (I have to add here, these people really know how to cook! Homemade cookies, salads, appetizers with olive oil and herbs, etc.)

We stopped for a short papermaker's pilgrimage to the Cheney Pulp factory in Franklin, Ohio. This is where we get the raw material for our paper. They buy raw rag and process it half way so that I can use it in my beater. An interesting fact…Before NAFTA they used to use denim, but now it is all produced in South America, too far away to make economic sense, and there is an even bigger problem with denim today, from their prospective. Almost all of it has some spandex put in it to make it stretch in all the right places…and synthetics make it unusable as pulp for papermakers. So, instead they use tee-shirt knit off-cuts, mostly from the Caribbean we were told.


 We arrived in Ann Arbor with plenty of daylight left to get lost a few times before ending up in front of Hollander's to get ready for the class and book fair. 

While in Ann Arbor, we parked on the street by book artist Barbara Brown's house. A park stretches out down the hill in front of her house, with huge mown lawns and lush green shade trees.

 What a lovely way to watch fall come in. Leaves yellow and red fell on the roof and the grass and we needed blankets again to sleep.
We stayed in Ann Arbor for 5 days. We taught a class, attended a eco-type festival about local food, participated in the "Kerrytown Bookfest", showed books to two libraries and gave a talk at the Book Club of Detroit. Our daughter asked, "Is your schedule ever going to let up? I mean, aren't you a little tired?" In answering, I thought about how much we get back from all that we do. The class at the center called "Hollander's" was well received and we saw some great innovations in the structures Peter taught. The bookfest was full of smart and interested people looking at books. It reminded me of the old days at the Renaissance Faires where there were crowds all day looking at books. We had our gypsy open for tours at the fair and had a nonstop stream of visitors. The rug kind of got worn out 'cause so many people walked through and I bet some of them will make their own gypsy wagon some day. 
For a short break, we camped one night in Waterloo State Park, 1/2 hour away from Ann Arbor. OK, now the campsites look like this: all empty. We walked in the woods here and saw cool carnivorous pitcher plants and dwarfed tamarack trees growing in the bogs. 

We made a quick drive up to East Lansing to show books at Michigan State University and arrived at just the wrong time: pouring rain! and no parking close by!

We had a worthwhile meeting with the librarians, though. Peter sold the 'History of the Accordion Book there!

One funny picture of me to end: this is what a wandering book artist looks like when doing bookkeeping in a gypsy caravan:


Misty's Creations said...

Dear Donna and Peter,
I have senn your detailed photos of how you built your beautiful wagon. I am trying to embark on the same journey. I have a few friends who have skills I don't have, who are going to help me. I have dreamt of having one since I was a little girl. yours is wonerful. I hope to talk to you someday. Thank you for your great pics of the build...Misty

Velma said...

well, you were here in canton just a short time ago, and it was HOT and now i'm wearing wool and the green is going gold and orange and scarlet. happy travels to you.