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, November 24, 2012

I just want a gypsy wagon...

We spent a day at Longwood University in Farmville, VA. The visit was set up by Kerri Cushman, who I had met while serving on the executive board for the Friends of Dard Hunter. They have an amazing new art building with a great papermill and binding studio. Donna and I set up our gypsy wagon in front of the student union and held an "open gypsy wagon." Crowds of students came to look and at some point Donna overheard one girl saying, "Forget the diamond ring, I want one of these things..." That's our kind of gal.

On this trip I have been giving a talk I title, "The ascent of the Artists' Book in the Age of the E-reader." Last summer we were hiking  the John Muir Trail, 210 miles from Yosemite to Mount Whitney. I carried two issues of the New Yorker to read, I cut out all the front matter and New York centric stuff to save weight. My daughter hiked with us and carried a Kindle. It weighed less than my stripped down New Yorkers but had about 30 books on it. The battery lasts 300 hours, it is back lit so she could read it at night, and if she got tired of reading she could put in earbuds and listen to a computer voice read the text. I was sold. For conveying information and text I am pretty sure the e-device is going to replace the book. (But the e-thing will not replace the artists' book, listen to the lecture if you want to hear more here is a link:

A sociology professor stopped to chat. He told us that most of his students preferred paper text books to digital ones. I couldn't believe it. So when I gave my lecture that evening I polled students audience of 100 asking who would rather have a digital text book or a paper one. 97 percent said they would rather have a paper one. So much for my theories....

After touring our gypsy wagon Kerri had her students make a quick drawing from memory. 


Jill Berry said...

I am a paper book reader and an artists' book maker. It will be a very long time, death maybe, before I give up either. A book does not just impart information, it sits with substance on your lap, it is made of paper and pictures and the things we love. A kindle is fine, I might not give it away, but it will never replace my trips to the library and the used book store, no, won't do that.

Kirsten Liske said...

Hi Peter -
I bet 97% of JMT hikers would prefer a Kindle!

Saw this article and thought of you.... (don't get any ideas)

hugs to Donna!