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, October 21, 2012

The Wandering Book Artists become Roycrofters

About a week ago now, we taught a book arts workshop in East Aurora New York at the Roycroft Campus. It was an honor to work in this place that was the home to so much creativity and art at the turn of the twentieth century.

The Power House building where our workshop was held
Here is a bit about the Roycroft Campus: Dard Hunter, the father of the revival of hand papermaking in America started his artistic career as a Roycrofter. Elbert Hubbard founded Roycroft, an Arts and Crafts movement community, in 1895. Inspired by a visit with William Morris who had founded the Kelmscott Press in 1891, as a way to produce books by traditional methods using printing technology and styles of the 15th century. Morris and his fellow artists went on to design and produce products such as wallpaper, textiles, furniture and glassware. Hubbard started his own private press, the Roycroft Press, and then developed the Roycroft community. The "Roycrofters" produced handsome and sometimes eccentric books printed on handmade paper, and operated a fine bindery, two magazines (The Philistine was bound in brown butcher paper and full of satire. Hubbard claimed the cover was butcher paper because: "There is meat inside."), and shops producing furniture, stained glass, limp suede and hammered copper goods in the uniquely American "Arts and Crafts" style, a decorative arts design that emphasizes spare, clean lines and simplicity of design.

Our class in the Power House building
Peter posing as a Roycroft printer

As we were leaving town I stopped for gas. A woman came up to me asking, “Are you the gypsies? Three wagons are supposed to be arriving. Where are the others?” I am not sure what that was about. Still pumping gas a fellow came up to admire the wagon. He said he had lived on boats in San Francisco, and painted school busses in Vermont at Bread and Puppet, and it turned out he was Daniel Roelofs, a great grandson of Elbert Hubbard and he ran an organic farm called Arden Farm located outside of town. I gave him a tour of the wagon and he gave me a beautiful bunch of kale for the road.

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