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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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Does an accordion by any other name still fold the same?

Our first stop of the trip was at Kennesaw State University in Georgia where we spent half a day with our host Valerie Dibble and the book arts students in a class taught by Hannah Kraus. We had some interesting conversations, revisiting topics I believe are key to the advancement of the book as the dominant art form by the end of the 21st century.

Hanna and Valerie

This was the first book making class for one of the students, Amy, who is a printmaking major. She had fallen in love with the medium, and told us that what she was doing was hard for her other artists friends to understand. She had taken all the prints she had made that semester and combined them in an accordion book. Her roommate, also a printmaker, had seen the book and asked, “Isn’t that a waste of those prints? What are you going to do with this now? To which she replied, “Enjoy it, put it in shows….” Her roommate then said, “But how are you going to hang it on a gallery wall, or stand it on a podium? I can see you must be getting a lot more out of it than I am, probably because you understand the medium.”

Donna commented that she likes Classical music, but because she hasn’t studied it, her appreciation of it is minimal compared to her Classical music playing friends. I remember how my experience looking at paintings in a museum was enhanced once I took an art appreciation class. It is clear that for the book arts to advance we will need book arts history and appreciation to be taught as part of any art history 101 class.

Hannah’s university class’s first projects had been to make a number of different format accordion books. The students told me they made the “pants” book, the “x” book and the “snake” book. I had no clue what they were talking about until they showed me the books. They were simple accordions which I usually describe by the way the cut is made: the “U” accordion, the “O” accordion, the “N” and the “M” accordion. Clearly we need a book arts dictionary. We need to have common terms to talk about what we are making, for art historians or critics to do their work. If any of you reading this are interested in working on a project with me to create a dictionary of definitions for accordion structures and connections please let me know. It is a project that needs to be done.

We are currently in Gainesville staying with hand papermaker Amy Richards. Yesterday she took us to visit Sweetwater Wetlands Park where we saw this anhinga:

Tomorrow we will be heading to Orlando where the University of Central Florida is hosting one of the shows to celebrate 40 years of our making books, the we will be at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair in St. Petersburg over the weekend. If you are in the area, we hope to see you there.

And finally, if you are a Facebook user you can follow us there by liking our Wandering Book Artists page. We post almost daily while traveling.

1 comment:

Alisa said...

Hi Peter!
That's funny! I recognize the terms for the books; that's what I called them in Making Handmade Books, for just the reason you describe—they didn't (and perhaps still don't) have formal names. Katherine Ng called the one with the single long slit down the center the "pants" book because it looked like a pair of pants to the school children she was teaching. Scott McCarney calls his book (that you see as N or M) the "snake" book; he was the one who figured it out first based on looking at an open version of a binder's fold (originally he called it boustrophedon). I called the one you call an "O" book the "X" book because when it folds over it looks like an X before you push it together. We're on the same page regarding the "T-cut." ; )