Peter and Donna Thomas
Santa Cruz, California
Peter and Donna Thomas are book artists. For over three decades they have worked both collaboratively and individually: letterpress printing, hand lettering and illustrating texts, making paper, and hand binding both fine press and artists' books. Inspired by the archetypal quest for beauty and perfection, and informed by the potential of word, image, shape, and texture to create an illuminating or transformative experience, their initial aim was to create limited edition fine press books made of the finest materials and produced to the highest standards of quality, in both full size and miniature format. This aesthetic continued to guide them through the 1990s as they worked in new formats made possible by personal computer technology, exploring non-traditional book structures and shaped book objects as both limited editions and one-of-a-kind books. Their 2002 book More Making Books by Hand: Exploring Miniature Books, Alternative Structures and Found Objects is a manual describing how to make the book structures they developed during the previous decades' explorations; their 2000 Ergonomics of Hand Papermaking video demonstrates production papermaking techniques rediscovered visiting European hand paper mills. From 2010-2015 they traveled the USA as the "Wandering Book Artists" giving talks, workshops, and demonstrations to both academic and community-based audiences.
William Everson, The Alder, 2012
We began working with William Everson just as he finished his 1975 Lime Kiln Press edition of Robinson Jeffers' Granite and Cypress. That book, with its edificial binding, ghost printing, and Everson's signature as artist rather than author, demonstrated a book has capacity to embody artistic as well as literary ideals. When we conceived the idea to make a book using Everson's poem "The Alder" as the text, we decided to allow Everson's masterpiece, Granite and Cypress to guide our work. We used Everson's own type to print our book. We used the same ink, Mandlick Dull Strong Black. We made the paper with ghost illustrations created by spraying colored paper pulp through stencils onto our still wet handmade paper. Our binding, with pages carefully suspended on wooden stays, is made of alder cut from the same site that Everson felled the tree he described in the poem. This binding, informed by Everson's dramatic life as a Dominican monk, is a reliquary, a vessel; homage to his poem and his life. The poem and its binding are enshrined in a clamshell box, accompanied by a second book titled A Companion to the Alder. This second book is Coptic bound using alder boards and slipped inside a fringed leather bag, another homage to Everson: when we knew him he dressed in a buckskin jacket, wore a bear claw necklace, and always had a leather bag, with his journals, hanging over his shoulder. This companion book contains an essay describing this unpublished poem's place in the poet's larger body of work. It also has our artists' statement, and it is designed to provide documentation without encumbering the presentation of the poem.
Alder wood, brass hardware, leather, book cloth, handmade paper, thread.
13 x 11 x 4 inches; 33 x 28 x 10 centimeters. Created 2012.