A111. Accordion to Zither

A111. Accordion to Zither

(Front) A111. Peter and Donna Thomas. Accordion to Zither. Santa Cruz, California: Peter & Donna Thomas, 2002.

60.5 x 47.5 mm (2 3/8” x 1 7/8”), 30-page accordion, 100 copies.

Binding: Case-bound fold out accordion; bound in illustrated paper over boards. Title on label on cover. Paper: Cream, handmade by Peter Thomas. Printing: Digital. Typography: Reproduction of text handwritten by Donna Thomas. Illustration: Reproductions of thirty watercolor paintings by Donna Thomas. Notes: An ABC book. Covers are printed with an illustrated musical score. Reproduced from a one-of-a-kind of the same name by Donna Thomas [B208].

“This is an alphabet book. The paintings are of twenty-six musical instruments with names ordered from A to Z.” –Peter Thomas

“This is an edition from another of my 2001-2 ABC books. Peter and I had been working on his series of ukulele books and I decided to take this opportunity to paint some other instruments than the ukulele.” – Donna Thomas

(Rear) A112. Peter and Donna Thomas. Lead Pencil.  Santa Cruz, California: Peter & Donna Thomas, 2002.

51 x 70 mm (2” x 2 ¾”), one pencil as page, 45 copies.

Binding: Bound in printed paper over boards. Oblong wood block (painted with graphite) with perpendicular wooden arm attached to inside spine. Wooden arm is drilled with one hole that holds the stub of a pencil. Title on label on cover. Inside cover paper painted yellow. Paper: White, handmade by Peter Thomas and coated with yellow acrylic paint. Printing: Letterpress. Typography: Unknown hand set roman type. Notes: Text is printed on painted yellow paper over boards attached to front and back inside covers. Cover paper is photocopy of pencils placed on bed of copier. The pencils were all used, and gathered over a period of years.

“The text defines the word pencil and relates the origin of the term lead pencil. Note on binding structure: until the late 1970s or early 1980s, it seemed most handmade books had traditional sewn codex structures. However, the introduction of the personal computer and printer changed that. When it became possible for anyone to get words onto a page – not just someone who had a printing press or could write in calligraphy – artists from other media began to explore bookmaking as a way to express artistic ideas. They created interesting and experimental book works that explored the combined potential of narrative, illustration, and structure, and often found the contained codex structure too limiting. For these artists, making books with accordion-fold formats were the easiest kind of book to make. This structure also provided an easy way for artists who were used to working in two dimensions to express their ideas in a book format. Everyone started making accordion books. Print or paint on one side of a sheet of paper and then fold it up and attach covers to the two ends – it was so simple! I saw a bookbinding fad being created before my very eyes and decided to try starting a fad of my own.

I began experimenting with ways to make a book that had all the elements of a traditional book – opening covers and turning pages, text and illustration – but presented them in unexpected ways using unexpected materials. My first efforts were folding the pages in different ways, adding flaps and map folds to the standard folio pages of codex books. I then explored ways of attaching pages together and came up with the idea of using wooden dowels instead of using thread. Thinking this had further possibilities, Donna and I began challenging each other to come up with a different stick binding for each new edition of our miniature books. We started calling the bindings “stick structures” and claimed they were the bookbinding craze of the future. We probably came up with a dozen original stick structures, but, alas, they never caught on with enough of the wider bookmaking community to create our fad. The experiments were, nonetheless, very worthwhile for us as they led to other alternative structures, including our scrolling books like A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf [A75], The Mystical Quality of Handiwork [A128], and Pandora’s Box [A85], or our flapping books like Paradise [A93] and Time I$ [A118].

It was during this time that we met András Böröcz, a Hungarian sculptor. Because of the tight export restrictions before the fall of the Soviet Union, it was difficult for him to get his art into Western European countries. His ingenious solution was to sculpt nude figures out of pencils, which he could smuggle out of Hungary – hidden in plain sight, tucked in the front pocket of his shirt. Intending to help, I began to collect pencils to give to him, but I became so attached to them as artifacts that I never sent him any for his sculptures. One year, to celebrate our mutual birthday (we were both born on January 5th), I decided to make a book using those collected-but-never-sent pencils as the text. Working with the same ideas I had explored in making the scrolling and flapping books, I created a wooden structure to hold the pencils and attached it to the book’s spine so that the pencils would appear where a reader would expect to find text. The worn state of each pencil would tell a story, and thus, the pencils would act as both text and illustration in this book. I made two copies and sent one to András as a birthday present in 1998. I kept collecting pencils.

I especially loved finding the short, worn out pencil stubs that were little more than a sharp lead and a much-used eraser. I made a special collection of my favorite “stub” pencils and, in 2002, decided to use them in a miniature book, further exploring the pencil book concept. The structure was similar to the one used in the birthday pencil book, but text panels were added to the inside of the front and back covers. The text, a concise historical definition of the word “pencil,” added another level of aesthetic interest to the work, and the stub pencil could be considered either an extension of the text or its illustration.”

Peter and Donna Thomas