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, March 3, 2013

Gypsy Wagon meets Quirky Primitive

One thing about traveling around the country in a gypsy wagon is that gypsy wagons are like "art magnets" and we sure have been lucky to meet some incredible and creative artists on this trip. For example, in Atlanta we parked beside the home and studio of Julie Newton and Raymondo Vaughn. Julie is best known as a book artist and Raymondo a metal worker and their work is categorized as “Quirky Primitive.” 

The mosaic in their kitchen

At first glance quirky primitive art can appear simply fun and whimsical, but closer inspection reveals layers of meaning that are deep and sometimes dark as well. We want to share two short videos made by Jacob Snowden about Raymondo's art and life. Chalk tells about his work. Angel + Mermaid shares a more personal story

The gypsy wagon angel over Raymondo's art work.

Thinking about those two videos, I am reminded that when I find art is good or successful for me, it is usually pleasing at the first glance but doesn’t stop there. The longer I look, the more I enjoy it and the more I start to imagine I can understand the intention of the artist and where they are leading me and what they are sharing through their creation. 

As book artists we work in a medium that abounds with opportunity for depth. A book is not two dimensional, it has layers, both physical and conceptual:  There are almost endless choices for text, endless ways of illustrating and binding, multifold possibilities available in the choice of type faces, colors, papers, threads... These choices and options all lead to the possibility of creating a very rich and engaging art work.

As I type Peter is teaching a book binding class at Emory University Library in Atlanta, GA. The binding is one we developed for our book, Song of Creation, using pop-ups and layers of accordions. It’s pretty fun to introduce folks to structures that are new for them, thus adding to their stash of binding options.

Current and future great book artists at Emory University

Along with sharing book arts with folks, we are playing music too. Yesterday we gathered with people from the class Peter taught last fall at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. We played and sang for hours at a funky fun tea house called “Dr. Bombay’s Underground Tea Party.” Peter will be teaching uke again in 2014, so you too can have this much fun!

Uke playing at the teahouse

This photo is especially for my son-in-law Toby. This is the cool collection of skateboards in Raymondo's living room. Many more vintage boards line the walls of other rooms.

When we finish teaching this workshop we will be heading west. Our first stop will be Birmingham, Alabama for a short visit with Vamp and Tramp Booksellers, who represent our work and the work of many other book artists.

And now a final look at the Quirky Primitive:

The Low Key Hideaway, a quirky primitive bottle-walled bar in Cedar Key

bottle wall detail
The bottle wall in the garden at the Low Key, Cedar Key

Good bye to Florida and Georgia.
This is the view out the window at our campsite in
Cedar Key, Florida.


Suzanne said...

I love the skateboards!!

kat>^^ said...

I am in LOVE with your Gypsy Wagon!!! First time seeing this blog - did you build this yourselves?

Jake said...

I love Ray and Julie, they use to be my neighbors. If you check out my site you can find some videos with them.