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 8, 2015

Book Arts on a Snow Day in Tennessee

Professor Kathleen O’Connell teaches the book arts classes at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN. She invited us to MTSU as visiting (wandering book) artists to make a collaborative artists’ book while working with all three of her classes: Bookbinding 2, Letterpress 1 and Book Arts. We discussed structure and content ideas with Kathy by email, but decided to leave final decisions until we met with the classes.

Donna woke up the morning before the first class (inspired by an email we just received from a friend, Stephen Flanagan, that had real care given to the composition and a depth of content to match the quality found in old handwritten letters) with the idea to explore the interplay between letter as a shape and letter as a narrative.

The bookbinding class determined the structure, conceiving a simple binding that would convey the idea of letters being sent, a pleated spine with postcard-like pages attached.

The letterpress class met next and they determined a direction for the content, printing the letters of the alphabet on the 26 postcard pages, to represent the letters, or to imagine the stories that might have been told by letters or to letters. Students from the other classes also created letter postcards, using ink jet printers and hand inked flexi-cut stamps.

The book arts class pulled the whole collaboration together by titling the book “Letters”, creating a postcard-like title page, and envelope-like slip case to hold the book.

Working late into the night on the third day of classes, we finished ten of the 45 copies even though technically school was closed due to snow and ice. We have observed a trend these days to use a superlative like, "the oldest, farthest, biggest, etc. when trying to impress someone. Get ready to be impressed! During this collaboration we set two personal records. With a total of 32 students in the three classes, this was the most collaborators we have worked with on a single edition, and it was also the first time in our "California born and bred" lives that we have had a “snow day” while in school. We've always wanted a snow day!

Thanks to Jackee for taking the photos of the book collaboration.

1 comment:

Stephen Flanagan said...

Hi Peter & Donna: I was thinking of how to describe what I love about your wagon, the impromptu sing alongs, the book making and your encompassing art-life extraordinaire.

The word that came to mind is anachronistic!

Anachronism: a person or a thing that is chronologically out of place; especially : one from a former age that is incongruous in the present.

Here's to an anachronistic life, to life out of the current time, to a throw-back, a look-back, a life-back that reflects a saner, slower and hand-made, human to human sensibility.

Even if we use blogs, emails, texts, and whatever techno-magico gadget-apparatus to deliver our words.

Smiles from a rainy Williamette Valley Sunday afternoon...