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....

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Parked for the Winter

People have been asking what happened to the gypsy wagon... We've parked it for the winter in Mariposa, California, a gold rush town in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It is parked under a big barn roof, right next to our 1926 Melbourne W-2 Trolley. We've been up there a couple of times this winter, with freezing cold nights and mornings at the 3000 foot elevation, which is usually just below the snow-line.

Looking out the front door to the oaks and pines.

Peter at the trolley door.

Inside the trolley

We got this trolley car from the Kelly Park History San Jose trolley barn. They had bought it as a parts car, had stripped it, and were ready to let the firemen practice putting out streetcar fires (?!) using it for their practice; we rescued it (but had to saw it in half to move it) and made it into a living space. The best part about it is the all around windowed walls!

Since we have not been traveling much this winter, we had time to be active in the studio and in the community.

In the studio: we made several new books, both letterpress printed editions and a few new one-of-a-kinds. Here is a link to our website to show you some books for sale now. Expect a new William Everson book, "The Alder" to come out later this year....

"Sierra Point"
(Click on Photo for link to website for this book)

"Sierra Nevada"
(Click on Photo for link to website for this book)

In the community: Inspired by all the community-based book arts groups we met with on our trip, we decided to put some effort into creating Book Arts Santa Cruz, a new group in Santa Cruz, involving many artists, binders, printers and papermakers. We've had several gatherings at members' studios and just participated in our first event, Poetry and Book Arts at the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz. Peter and I demonstrated papermaking and binding, others did printing, poetry, pochoir, marbling and more. If you are in the area and would like to join this illustrious band of merry book artists, check us out: Book Arts Santa Cruz.

Donna Thomas demonstrates the double accordion pop-up, while Kirsten Liske talks about her watercolor journalling techniques at the Book Arts and Poetry Event.

We are planning the next "Adventure of the Wandering Book Artists" for the Fall of 2012. We will leave in mid-September, 2012. Our general plan is to head out for the Friends of Dard Hunter and IAMPA paper making meeting in Cleveland and our ukulele class at the John Campbell Folk School, then head for Florida, and return home through the South. Can we include you in the adventure? We teach bookbinding classes, give lectures in the book arts and show our artists' books. Let us know if you would like to help us set up a stop in your area. We also love to visit National and State Parks, play ukuleles and sing, so invite us to go camping or have a jam session with you. We are looking forward to the fall.


Peter and Donna Thomas


We are having fun hanging out with our grandaughter Emily during our time at home...


Desert Paper, Book and Wax said...

Hi Peter and Donna, Love your trolley! Thought of you both when Rob and I meandered through the Muir Woods this past Nov.
Will look forward to seeing you in Cleveland in October. Consider Tucson as a potential stop on your way back. (Can't believe how big Emily is already...) Love from Catherine and Rob

Tanya Cothran said... of the trolley in Mariposa always bring back good memories of relaxing days and cooking over the fire. Love you!

Jessica said...

Hello Peter and Donna,

I am the Director of a small public library in Schaghticoke, NY (outside of Albany near the Vermont border). If you're coming our way, we'd love to book you for a visit! Please be in touch if you can so we can arrange something for the fall.

Thanks and best, Jessica

Meredith said...

I teach book making at a University here in Baltimore (as one piece of an MFA program in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts). If you expect to find yourselves in the mid-Atlantic, I'd love to talk to our department about hosting you!