Peter and Donna Thomas – Free Little Bird

Artist Statement

One reading the text could interpret it to be the mocking cry of a child saying “Catch me if you can.” But in another reading one could find undertones social justice concerns. We used the colophon to provide a hint to look for more in the book, stating: “…the text is an Appalachian folk song and an excerpt from Maya Angelou’s ‘I know why the caged bird sings’.” The reader then asks, “Where is Angelou’s contribution?” A careful look through the cut-out birds on the back of the accordion reveals Angelou’s darker text “caged” inside the nested accordion structure.

Materials & Technique

Binding: Nested accordion binding: repurposed mahogany wood covers, front cover engraved with image of bird. Clamshell box: Blue paper with blue cloth spine, woodcut label on front cover. Paper: background accordion; blue and tan duplex, nested accordion; ochre handmade by Peter Thomas. Pages laser cut paper doll style with bird images. Printing: Letterpress: printed from linoleum blocks. Typography: Handset Canterbury, linocut text. Illustration: 9 linocut blocks with text and images of birds, etc. cut by Donna Thomas.

About Peter Thomas

Peter Thomas is a book artist, fine press printer, bookbinding and papermaker who works collaboratively with his wife, Donna Thomas, making both edition and one-of-a-kind books. Their books combine the precision of the fine press aesthetic with the structural creativity found in contemporary artist’ books. Between 2009-2019 they made four cross-country road trips, traveling in their artistic tiny home on wheels as the Wandering Book Artists, teaching classes and giving talks about the book arts as they visited university and community based book arts centers around the country. They are the authors of More Making Books by Hand, and editors of 1000 Artists’ Books, and in 2021 The Legacy Press published a descriptive bibliography of their work: Peter and Donna Thomas: Bibliography, 1974-2020.