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, February 28, 2015

Won't have anymore until next season

The title is not referring to the weather. It is supposed to stay cold for the next few weeks. What it refers to is small portable electric heaters. Our little heater bit the dust monday. (Or should I say bit the snow?) We went to Home Depot to get another. The clerk said we don't have anymore. I asked when they would have them in and she said won't get them in until next season. That means September or October. We went to Walmart and found the same reply. Lucky we have our trusty propane heater. The inside temperature of the caravan is 38 in the morning!

Wine with friends at the Folk School
We are getting ready to move on from the Folk School, where we spent 2 weeks. We can't tell you enough that being here is the best thing! You should try it. We love the people, the classes, the music and dancing. Right now as I write this, in the background there is a class in clogging. So fun.

A fresh coat of snow. I guess the solar panels aren't doing much...
Peter's class at the folk school was great. They played a mini concert at the end of the week and wowed the other students with their abilities after one week of instruction and playing together! They played kazoos and a stump fiddle and Peter's can!

The 'can' with whistles, kazoo, harmonica and more!
Peter's uke class, kazoos and all

Here is a video of the "Brasstown Polka!!!"

Donna took a tile class, where she learned various surface techniques like slip drawing, stenciling and scrubbing.
Donna's ceramic tiles from a week at the folk school

The obligatory caravan object from a week of tile making

Peter loving the beautiful snow around the caravan
Now we are ready to travel on to Tennessee. I think the snow is clear from the roads enough now!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Arctic Blast Catches Wandering Book Artists Unawares

If we were in California right now we would be enjoying warm spring-like weather - but we are in North Carolina, at the John C. Campbell Folk School, and we are in the snow. It's been snowing and down to the single digits some days, icy and windy with blue skies other days.

Snow in the Campground
But don't worry (everyone here is. They keep asking, "Are you staying warm?") We are warm and dry in the caravan. We will be camped at the folk school, taking and teaching classes, for 2 weeks. Hopefully when we get back on the road on the 28th of February weather will be warmer and drier. Are we wishful thinking? You bet!

Peter and Micahlan jam in the evenings, Dee Dee clogging!
The evenings have been spent jamming and contra and square dancing. This is a picture shows Peter sitting in on an old time music jam playing his homemade Jug Band Can. Who would have guessed that old timey musicians would let a can player set in with them?

The days have been spent in the craft classes: Peter was in a ceramics class, Donna in a stained glass box making class. Next week Peter will teach uke and Donna is taking a tile making class in the Arts and Crafts tradition.

Donna's glass work
Donna's glass box (with hinged top!)
Peter's ceramic cups
I know we have stated this before, but just in case you missed it, the John C Campbell Folk School is an awesome place to learn a craft, or music, or dance, or cooking, the list is almost endless. Here with about 75 others, you take one of about 8 classes offered for a week in one discipline. The instructors are first rate, the facilities top notch, and the folks here lots of fun. Join us next year, in the end of March when Peter will come back to teach another ukulele class.

Felted hats made in the felt class this week.

Black ash baskets made in another class this week.

If you are interested in taking a class from us in Nashville:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Almost back on the road

Hi everyone,

We are ready to start a new trip... almost. First we will be showing our books at the CODEX Book Fair in Richmond, CA. 

On February 15, 2015 we will fly back to the gypsy wagon, which is currently parked with our truck in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and we will start a westward trek. Our first stop will be the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC where Peter will teach a week long introduction to the ukulele class. After leaving Brasstown we will head to Chattenooga to teach a class, then Middle Tennessee University in Murfreesboro, Nashville, Louisville, St. Louis, Memphis, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and home. If you are on our route and would like to meet up with us let us know. Send us an email or call!

While we have been home, between the last two trips, we have been having a great time playing music with several bands. This last winter we started a jug band called the Mariposa Trolley Drops and have been leading monthly sing alongs.

Here is a link to a part of a song by part of one of the bands: 

Before we left on the last road trip we made a CD  titled Book Arts Folk Songs, which had 14 songs about the book arts, that I had written, in the folk song tradition, based on the tunes and lyrics of popular songs. We performed these as sing alongs on our last road trip and look forward to more book arts sing alongs on the upcoming trip. Here is a link to more about book arts folk songs:

While home this fall and winter we have been constantly working on new book projects. Donna has made several a one of a kind books, and an editioned book with only 5 copies using original water color paintings she made in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. The text is a poem by the poet ranger Jay Leeming that has been hand written in a calligraphic manner. 

I have been working on an editioned book, which will have about 50 copies. This book reprints by permission of the poet, Gary Snyder, his seminal poem Paiute Creek. Gary Snyder drew much of his early inspiration from his studies of eastern religions, and to acknowledge this debt we will print the poem on a single, very long, sheet of paper and bind it using a scroll binding structure.

Before writing this post I was just searching the internet and found that a fellow named Frank Cost, who is  a professor of photographics arts and sciences at the Rochester Institute of Technology, had  posted a video on youtube about his visit with us when we were on campus at RIT last September. Here is a link to his post:

One last word about book and media. The next issue of Fairie Magazine will feature an article about us and our travels in our gypsy wagon. Here is a link for the magazine:

Hope to see you on our travels,

Peter and Donna Thomas