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....

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Friday, November 23, 2018

Home again home again jiggity-jig

It takes a long time to drive around the country. We thought our Wandering Book Artists trip to celebrate our 40 years of making books that we thought would only go from 2017-2018, but clearly it will be stretching into 2019.

The route this leg: looping around the midwest!

Although we are home, the truck and trailer are not: we left the truck and trailer in Waco, Texas and flew home. The vehicles are in a metal barn formerly used to store vintage cars, belonging to a Baylor University librarian. Apropos, as I believe we can now call our caravan “vintage” since we have pulled it over 75,000 miles over the last 8 years.

Backing into the barn

We are truly fortunate to have had the chance to drive, camp, shop, eat, and meet the people in so many places around the US.

Open Caravan at Baylor University, Waco

"Wait, can we really go inside?"

We will miss seeing a new part of the country every day. But we won’t miss the crazy schedule with long drives between universities, or the stress of trying to find an alternate road when we find Google maps has directed us to what they say is the quickest route, then turns out to be a narrow dirt road with a sign saying no thru trucks.

Typical morning in the RV park, crowded but quiet

And speaking of things we will and won’t miss, now that we are back in our 1500 square foot heated home, with running hot water, we have made a short list for you to consider: We will miss the beauty of the wagon. And the simple living, without too much stuff, and without too many expectations. This is what everyone who sees us in our trailer imagines our life is like: carefree, unhurried, and uncluttered. We rarely ruin that imaginary story line by telling them the hidden truths.

Donna stays busy knitting while Peter drives. These are fingerless gloves.

What we won’t miss is stepping over each other’s legs and feet when trying to cook or clean or get dressed, or do anything really. We won’t miss having to shop every other day for food, and then having to search up and down the isles in an unfamiliar grocery store looking for decent bread and fresh fruit and veggies.

The display of our work in Waco

We are really honored to have had all the universities hosting shows of our work for the 40 year celebration. But we won’t miss hauling two suitcases each, over cobbled walkways from remote parking lots (where there is space to park the caravan), and lugging them up stairways because we can’t find the handicap ramp, then pushing the first suitcase through double sets of heavy library doors and having the second door clamp down like a vice on the trailing suitcase.
Fun at the Printing Museum workshop

Our niece Molly's first printing experience!

But we will miss all the super kind and generous students who noticed our struggles and held the doors. We will miss seeing the libraries with all their varied architecture, modern or classic. We will miss meeting the librarians and learning interesting new things as they share about their special and unique fields of interest.

Great horned owl above the caravan

We will miss the constantly changing experience of nature we found as we stayed in campgrounds between appointments. FYI we used the All Stays app, and our preference is in this order: National, State, County, City, then private parks, with Walmart as a last resort. 

In the midwest many campgrounds were in parks built around reservoirs with watershed nature areas to explore on an evening walk. Some were pretty primitive, so we really won’t miss taking lukewarm showers, especially the ones we had to take in freezing shower stalls with moldy, pealing-paint floors, surrounded by no-seeums…

Ars Longa, "Art is Long" plant stand

But anything we are missing will not be missed for long. We will fly back to Waco as soon the snows will allow us to cross the Rockies, and then head for California, and home. Until then we are staying home, warm and dry, enjoying the chance to once again work in our studio. There are fun new books being created, which we will be showing you when we start the next leg of our trip, from Texas back to California.

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