Tuesday, August 4, 2009

An Improbable Success Story

Tara Books—an independent publisher of picture books for adults and children based in Chennai, South India—specializes in books made entirely by hand. Here's an excerpt from Tara's 2008-2009 catalog:
The texture, colour and smell of a handmade book lures the senses back to the experience of reading for pleasure. Created in our Chennai workshop, our handmade books are made using screen-printing and letterpress processes, which we have pioneered over the last fifteen years. ... [O]ver a dozen skilled craftspeople from local villages produce books that are entirely made by hand. Using handmade paper (made from a mixture of cotton cloth waste and tree bark, rice husk or grass), they individually screen-print or letterpress each page of every book. Run on fair trade practices, more than 160,000 handmade books have been born and bound in our workshop so far. ... Our handmade editions are cultural objects: accessible, as well as affordable, for book lovers around the globe.
If you'd like to know more, a recent story in the Globe and Mail features this publisher that's been "hugely, implausibly successful" in the international market. The story covers Tara's founding as well as its unusual and refreshing governing principles.

I'm the proud owner of two of Tara's recent publications. The first—Nurturing Walls—presents the art from the walls of Meena tribal homes in Rajasthan. The book's images are a mix of photographs of the Meena women painting along with screen-prints of the painted images themselves. The book also includes two informative articles, one explaining the tradition and the other the technique of the paintings.

The second Tara book in my collection—The Circle of Fate—is an illustrated Hindu parable of destiny and love. This slim book is filled with intricate illustrations, screen-printed in bright, stunning colors on thick, handmade paper. The parable finishes with this "truth":
The world is a never-ending cycle, where everything has a time and place. Even a thing of exquisite beauty must come to an end and be re-born as something else. There is a pattern. If you want to change it, you must act in the way your heart dictates. But in the end, it is you who belong in the pattern. It does not belong to you.
Each of these books would make a perfect and unique gift for a booklover, or treat yourself to one. Both are available from Amazon for under $30. After all, how many books do you own that are entirely handmade?


Anonymous said...

These sound really lovely. Thanks for bringing them to our attention!

Zibilee said...

These books sound beautiful. I would love to get my hands on a copy of one. I may just have to head over to Amazon and pick one up.