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.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lexington, Kentucky: Miniature books and more

On our first day in Lexington we met with Meg Shaw of the Lucille Little Fine Arts Library. Parking near the library was so tough she agreed to look at the books in the gypsy wagon (braving the soaring 90s temps) as we waited in a loading zone in front of the art museum.
She chose two of our favorite books for the collection at the arts library:
"Sit and Knit"
and "The Pencil"
Our primary reason for visiting Lexington was to attend the Miniature Book Society's "Grand Conclave."
Peter and I made our first book under 3 inches tall in 1980 or so. We just were wanting to use up some beautiful handmade English paper that was headed for the recycling bin and thought this small format would be fun and challenging. Well, we were led down a long road of making miniature books, teaching miniature book making classes, writing the book, More Making Books by Hand (which features many miniature book bindings), and attending meetings of the Miniature Book Society. 
We went to the first ever meeting of the society in 1983 in Ohio, carrying baby Tanya (our daughter) with us. We were the "hippies from California" at that meeting. Today I watched a movie taken at that meeting, where long-bearded Peter played accordion and barefooted me played along on a penny whistle. But the folks were friendly and they bought our books! We just finished our weekend with the Society. The numbers at the conferences are lower than in years past, but the group is a close-knit one we are brought together by our somewhat quirky delight in small books.

On the second day of the conference Peter and I printed a broadside at University of Kentucky's King Library Press. 

This press was established in the 1950s under the artistic vision of American Uncial type designer Victor Hammer. Our broadside features a quote by Hammer that we find inspiring, about the "mystical quality of handiwork." In any age, there seems to be a small group of folks who find satisfaction, or even enlightenment through excellence in the use of ones hands and hearts. (Also meeting at the hotel was a group of 5000 marketers that looked to me like some kind of pyramid scheme, a way for some to get LOTS of money, while others get bilked, but that is another story, I guess....) I am happy to be a member of the group of craftspersons. Peter and I named our press years ago "The Good Book Press" because we aimed to make our books with the highest level of craftsmanship. The name fell away as we decided to work as artists and not as a press, but the intention has always been there in our work. Hammer's quote was a reminder for me.
The Miniature Book Society toured through the King Library Press while we were working, so we had to answer questions while pulling the handpress. This is not always the best way to do good work, but happily the ink went into the page crisp and black (and red).
On the last day of the conference, we parked the gypsy wagon in front of the Hyatt Hotel for all the miniature book folks to tour through. And we guessed right: miniature book enthusiasts also love miniature houses on wheels!


rickzeek said...

Sweet! I'm really glad you are having a great time. How could you not? I didn't have a cross country trip this year so I'm still jealous. I'm still in PA taking care of business and going to weddings. Thanks for being inspiring to us all!

Tanya Cothran said...

Great post Mom! It's fun to hear about the beginnings of the MBS. Love, Tanya