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Peter Thomas

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A Brief History of the Ukulele

This quirky and colorful accordion pop-up book tells the history of the ukulele from 1879 to 1985. The text was originally made for a miniature book in 1999. It has been enlarged and reprinted for this edition, with a new title page and colophon, which were printed on artist Peter Thomas' handmade paper and sewn to the text.

Handwritten by Donna Thomas, the text is accompanied by watercolor and ink illustrations of ukuleles. The housing was made by sawing a ukulele in half, then re-connecting the two halves with hinges and a lock. Both halves of the ukulele have chambers constructed in them to accommodate the accordion text. The book is housed in an instrument case.

A Brief History of the Ukulele is number 23 in a series of 26 ukulele books by Peter and Donna Thomas, with each book acting as an example of a different book structure.

Artists: Peter Thomas and Donna Thomas
Press: Constructed by the Artist
Date: 2003
Number and Edition: 13 of 15
Size: 6” x 20”


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Meditations at the Edge: Paper and Spirit

Meditations at the Edge: Paper and Spirit was written and illustrated by Dorothy Field. Over several years, Field traveled in Asia visiting papermakers, tracing the history of paper and collecting information on how paper is made, while reflecting on its place in various cultures. She found that in parts of Asia the uses of paper went beyond the mundane into the area of spirit. She points out that in Japanese, although the characters are different and linguistically unrelated, the spoken word “kami” means both “gods” and “paper.”

The signatures of the book are attached to wooden dowel rods and presented in a wooden frame reminiscent of a Japanese gate.

Press: Constructed by the Artist
Date: 1996
Number and Edition: Unnumbered of 100
Size: 16.125” x 12.75” x 3.25”


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The Train Comes to Wichita

Designed and produced for an exhibit at the Wichita Art Museum, the train in this piece is a model of the typical western steam locomotive used during the period of the Westward Expansion. The engineer’s compartment was hollowed out, a hole drilled parallel through it, and a brass crank placed through that hole.

The text, on five scrolls stacked on top of each other and rolled onto the same crankshaft, tells the story of the arrival of the train in Wichita, Kansas. Each scroll is decorated with watercolor illustrations painted by Donna Thomas, and was color photocopied onto handmade paper.

Artists: Peter Thomas and Donna Thomas
Press: Constructed by the Artist
Date: 2004
Number and Edition: 18 of 20
Size: 7” x 3”

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