“The know-how of an embroiderer is actually revealed by the quality of the work on the back of the fabric, the hidden intersection of the threads and the knots that hold the embroidery in place. It is not immediately visible, and yet must be impeccable. Maybe a book works a bit like embroidery. Its pages are held together by a thread which is also hidden. He is behind the scenes but without him, nothing exists. It is the symbol of what is not said and which, nevertheless, is necessary.
—Anaïs Beaulieu, creator of A point out of time
French artist Anaïs Beaulieu weaves the world of books and embroidery into A point out of time, published by Tara Books in South India. The Chennai-based independent publisher is known for its handcrafted and experimental forms of books, which makes Beaulieu’s book feel at home in their collection. This herbarium of photographs depicts plastic bags that the artist has embroidered with endangered plant species, and even features an actual embroidered plastic bag on its cover.
Tara Books has a reputation for preserving artisanal book production, which includes making its own paper as well as screen printing and binding its publications by hand. They’re also working with eco-friendly Riso printing and old-school typography, and they hope to bring the physical book back to center stage in a digital age eager to put it aside. “For us, the form of the book is as important as its content – and we continue to draw inspiration from Asian traditions as well as other traditions of book crafting to redefine the boundaries of the book, as we know them”, indicates their promotional material. A point out of time is no exception, as a true labor of love in which the artist’s hand has been preserved.
“Even by our adventurous standards, this book was a production nightmare,” admitted Gita Wolf, founder of Tara Books, in a blog post about the book’s production. “It’s beautiful, but its tactile beauty is best felt by running a hand across the front and feeling the textures of the textile cover, the smooth plastic insert and the raised threads of the embroidery.”
The impetus for A point out of time was a plastic bag on which Beaulieu had embroidered an ivy. “The idea had come to me in Burkina Faso a year earlier, as I walked past a field choked with plastic bags,” Beaulieu explained in the aforementioned blog post. When the artist showed his first piece to the founder of Tara Books at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, Wolf’s book brain was immediately activated. She insisted that they collaborate to turn the piece into a published series of embroidered plastic works by Beaulieu.
This unique project combines several artisanal processes, including embroidery, sewing, binding and screen printing. To keep the thread going, Beaulieu and the Tara Book team also created a special embroidered bag for the book. “We wanted the book’s delicate cover to be protected, and at the same time give readers a chance to try their hand at embroidery, which they can do on one side of the bag,” Beaulieu writes.
A point out of time is available for purchase now through Tara Books for $44.95.