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First Rule of Life
One-of-a-kind book by Donna Thomas. 2020
Peter and Donna Thomas: Santa Cruz

First Rule of Life. (2020) Texts by Donna Thomas, Ed Ricketts, John Steinbeck. 12 accordion pages. 8.125 x 13.75 inches. $2,800.

Full leather binding, rust Oasis goat leather covers, tan goat spine (tanned by Donna), tooled multi-colored leather onlay of a Brittle Star with enamel on copper panel image of setting sun (made by Donna) on parchment backing (parchment made by Donna) inset on front cover.

Accordion made using various colored sheets of paper (handmade by Peter Thomas) stitched together using synthetic sinew before folding. Text, maps with paintings, compass roses, images of pages from Rickett’s notebook, painted on text pages. Four watercolors, painted plein air in Baja, Mexico, are framed by paper cut images of cactus landscapes, both stitched to the accordion.

Clamshell box, Beige cloth covers, green leather spine, handmade paper sides, paper label with title inset on cover.

Artists' notes:
In January of 2020 Peter and I spent a week in Bahia de Los Angeles, in Baja California, with a Glendale Community College natural history class. This was the same place John Steinbeck went on his 1940 expedition with Ed Ricketts, documented in his book Log from the Sea of Cortez. The waters and tide pools of the area were rich with life and Steinbeck reported collecting thousands of specimens. We searched for mammals in the waters, painted out in the desert and strolled the tidewater area to see birds and invertebrates, and were pleased to find many of these animals and plants still thriving. We also saw fisherman harvesting what were supposed protected species, and collecting octopi, clams and other sea animals by destructive methods that will all but insure the final demise of the areas biological bounty. Several times I was left heartbroken. Ricketts and Steinbeck observed this same ravaging of the sea and noted in his book, “It seems to be our human nature to keep taking without thinking about the consequences.” I felt privileged to be able to go on this trip Bahia de Los Angeles to learn what I did, and see and appreciate the wild things still there. I made this book to witness what I saw and share my hope that humankind will find a way make a living in a way that will preserve what is left so the people of Mexico especially can both be fed, and continue to enjoy and appreciate the beauty and wealth of their oceans and desert coastal land. The cover of a book often sums up the contents. Sunrise always suggests to me hope for a better day, so I placed a copper medallion I had made on the cover to remind me of the sun rises I watched the over the Gulf of California while on this trip. I also made a leather onlay image of a brittle star. This is an animal we no longer find in our tide pools in Santa Cruz, but that is still found in healthy numbers in the tide pools where we were staying, and it represent the loss and the hope I experienced while on that trip. These same emotions are expressed in the text of the book where I pair what I saw and what I wrote with excerpts from Steinbeck’s log book entries.


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© 2002 Peter and Donna Thomas