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, May 5, 2011

How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?

This is the title of a song by Blind Alfred Reed, written in the 1920s. I made an artist book using his song as part of the text. 

The photographs came from Peter's Grandma Mary, who was born in "Indian Territory." My family tree is the other part of the text. I found my family, like Blind Alfred, faced hard times in the depression, traveling state to state to find work. My Grandma Mary Caroline was born in 1915, in Blue Springs, Nebraska. Her family lived on 5 different farms in Nebraska and Kansas. We drove through Blue Springs, NE on our way from Lincoln, NE to Lawrence, KS.

 A local woman described the place to us, "...Just a jerkwater town now."

I thought it was beautiful country. Nebraska sky. Montana is not the only state that can call themselves, "big sky country." 

We camped beside a reservoir near Lincoln, Nebraska. All the sites are mowed grass, which may be pretty for city parks, but a little odd for State Parks, don't you think? In Pawnee Lake State Park we camped in a "primitive" site right on the water, and we were all by ourselves because we have solar power, so didn't need electricity, water and sewer. The blue glow at night shows that most RVs are plugged to watch TV. One student, awhile back, asked "What do you do for entertainment? I answered, "Read, play music, and talk." Those were all foreign pastimes to him. His incredulous reply was, "You don't have a TV?!!" 

We have both finished reading "My Antonia" by Willa Cather. I made a book using a quote I found in it. I drew the pictures from Grandma Mary's photos, the same ones that I reprinted for the "...Hard Times and Live" book.

"My Antonia" is set in the red grass prairie land of Nebraska where we are right now. At the campground we got to walk through the red grass.

Then we entered Kansas on the "road to OZ."

We were busy, giving talks to classes at KU and Kansas City Institute of Art and want to show you a few more of those "Gyspy Wagon on Campus" and "Peter sings book arts folk songs to students" photos.

1 comment:

Tanya Cothran said...

I love the beautiful photos of the prairie! I'm also reading a Willa Cather book now, "Song of the Lark" set in Colorado. She has such a way with words! Enjoy the open road.