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....

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sometimes We Pretend

On our first trip as Wandering Book Artists we went from the Golda Meir Library in Milwaukee to the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center without stopping in Chicago. Donna said she never wanted to go into a big city with the gypsy wagon. Well, never say “Never.” This trip Paul Gehl asked us to stop by the Newberry Library, and how could we refuse. It wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be and led to a few great photos of the wagon causing traffic jams on busy Chicago streets.

Just before entering the Eastern Time zone we spent a night with Andrea Peterson, Jon Hook and their family at Hook Pottery Paper near La Porte, Indiana. On our last visit Andrea taught us how to spray pulp through stencils to create imagery in handmade paper and we wanted to show her what we had done with the process. This we lucked out to be there when they were having a wood fired oven pizza party!

Did you know that Indiana is all split up with the time zones? We didn’t either (the zones were set keeping in mind Chicago and Louisville TV broadcasting areas rather than geography) so we were an hour late getting to the Tri-state Bluegrass Festival in Kendallville, Indiana to meet up with Howie Clark. Besides being one of America’s best know papermakers (TwinrockerHandmade Paper) Howie is a regionally recognized old timey and blue grass musician. And yes, he was in the seminal 2005 Dard Hunter Conference Band in Chillicothe, OH, when the Book Arts Folk Songs were first performed live in the Chillicothe Opera House.

But let’s get back to the bluegrass festival. It is a three-day event, the largest in the tri-state area, with about 2000 attending. Most of the other folks were camping in beige RVs, trailers or fifth-wheels, so all eyes were on the wagon as we pulled in. We set up camp, did some laundry and hung it to dry. The laundry might explain why, but the people who stopped by to see the wagon (and that was at the rate of about ten every five minutes) kept asking, “Is that a gypsy wagon? Are you gypsies?” We told everyone, “No, we are book artists, but ‘sometimes we pretend’ we are like Mr Toad in Wind in the Willows,  'A life on the open road, there’s nothing like it!' ” We then show them what an artist book is, pulling out our most recent book, which is titled “Sometimes I Pretend.” Click on the link to see the book. It works with a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. That book, as all our books, is made with our own handmade paper. The illustrations were made by spraying pulp using the technique we learned from Andrea Peterson.

Everything comes round in a big circle, doesn’t it? And this week we will be circling around Michigan. Then we will be driving up to Rochester, NY, and after that heading out to New England. We are planning a book arts folk song sing along in the Boston area, so let us know if you want to attend.


susiek said...

Hello. I left a comment last night about a bookstore in Indianapolis for a possible place for you to stop, and here is another idea. Homespun is a neat little shop that gives workshops.

Amanda Mauer Taflinger, Shopkeep Rana Salame Striedinger, Workshop & Event Coordinator
Homespun: Modern Handmade
We've moved!
869 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204


| Sun: 11am-6pm | Mon-Thurs: 10am-8pm | Fri & Sat: 10am-9pm |

Susie Kraeszig

mary c doughty said...

1525Where and when in the Boston area?

Stephen Flanagan said...

You guys are too cool... I wanna be a wandering artiste...



Tanya Cothran said...

I love it when I arrive just in time for wood fired pizza! I enjoyed the photos of you in downtown Chicago!

Pat Russell said...

You were very near my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana and Bill and I were just there visiting! We also were in Michigan- we love Petoskey, Charlevoix, Traverse City, and Harbor Springs- hope you make it to that upper part!
May try to stop by Campbell School while you are there. Hope you got one more to bring on Dave!
Pat and Bill Russell