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, April 18, 2013

Do we have a printing press with us in the Gypsy Wagon?

People have been asking us if we have a printing press with us in the Gypsy Wagon, and how do we get so much work done in such a little space? Then we have to ruin their romantic vision by telling them the truth, that we actually don't live in the gypsy wagon full time, that we have a studio in Santa Cruz, CA where we do our printing, papermaking and bookbinding. But actually we do have a sort of printing press with us. It is called a Cuttlebug, a sort of mini etching press made for "crafters".

Santa Fe, NM is a town of Art and Artists. Donna's Great Aunt Mil lived in Santa Fe in the 1930s and one of her friends was an artist named Gustave Baumann. When we knew Aunt Mil she still had a few of his prints hanging in the living room of her house. Donna always admired those prints, so when we were in Santa Fe we visited the Palace of the Governors, where there is a historic print shop that has a display of Baumann's printing shop. It has Baumann's handpress, his pigments and equipment for making ink (now we want to make our own ink too), and examples of his prints. Curator Tom Leech took time to show us additional prints from their archives. Looking at examples of Baumann's reduction woodcuts, in the various states and colors, Donna was inspired to try making a print that looked like one of Baughman's. After leaving Santa Fe, while camping near Navajo Dam, in the Dine-tah (the Navajo's traditional homeland) we pulled out the little press and printed a three color reduction cut print of the surrounding landscape.

Donna is getting ready to cut the rubber stamp block

Donna pulling the first print with yellow ink

Peter's view of Donna working while he is laying in bed eating bon bons....

Inking up for the second color

The image after pulling the second color

Drying the cuts out of the wind

Placing the block for the third color

Removing the block after printing the third color

The finished print. It is about 4 by 6 inches.

So there you have it. Now we can say that the Wandering Book Artists DO work while on the road. 


Roberta said...

That is an interesting contraption.

Carl Mario Nudi said...

Beautiful piece, Donna, as expected. I's so desert-ty. Hope all is well. We miss you in Tampa.

Anonymous said...

Great job Donna! I can just see Peter eating those BonBons. You two are great, love the posts. Can't wait to see you at Strawberry!

Bonnie Klatt said...


Dr Dave said...

That's a beautiful print, Donna. The campground looked interesting also.

Dave Peters

Doda Smith said...

Hi there, just found your blog while searching to see if the cuttlebug can be used for printing lino cuts. I wonder if you'd mind sharing how you use it sometime?