The Cloth of the Mother Goddess

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This week I had the pleasure of attending a talk at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery by Tara Books, a remarkable collective of writers, artists and designers from India who publish illustrated books for children and adults. They produce limited editions, hand-printed and bound, of works, ranging from religious and mythical subjects to stories of their everyday lives. The books are created through a complex process starting with the artists’ originals, through to screenprinting and then binding the pages into books. While there are some editions printed with the more conventional lithographic process, most are all hand-made, numbered limited editions.

Their visual books span a range of genres: children’s literature, social and art pedagogy, popular culture, photography and art. They are committed to returning the senses back to the physical book in an age busy writing its obituary. They value experimentation: in content, design and production.

Tara Books say, “We also like to enhance the quirky pleasures of reading, for both children and adults—from picture books for all ages to experimental graphic narratives, we have developed new genres of expression.

“The hallmark of our publishing is our engagement with the rich diversity of Indian folk and tribal art. We have brought many of these traditions into the book for the first time, by combining them with contemporary design and fine production, and in the process, have changed the perspective from which stories are usually told. Our books are universally accessible, and for us universality is not global sameness, but a genuine connection with difference.”

Tara are well-known for books made entirely by hand and they have created a range of what may be called ‘crossover’ picture books. Children are drawn to the tactility and graphic richness of the art in these books, while adults value the fine printing, unusual paper and brilliant design.

 While such artists’ books exist in small editions, Tara are able to create them in large numbers, making them affordable and available to the average book buyer. They create this exquisite form of the book—where each page is an individual print—to showcase beautiful artwork. They work with skilled book artisans from India, including handmade paper manufacturers, silkscreen printers and hand binders. The artisans have developed their skills to come up with standards of perfection unimaginable in the trade, winning several international awards.

Recently, Tara have gone on to explore the fascinating field of crossover titles in other forms—for example, the textile book.

This exquisite hand block-printed textile book that takes its inspiration from an ancient tradition of textile art called Mata-Ni-Pachedi. This painstaking work of art and labour is a unique offering that doubles as a book and art object.

Tara’s ongoing dialogue with the incredibly rich and varied forms of indigenous tribal and folk art in India began 15 years ago.

Tara Books adds, “We are privileged that in India, unlike in many parts of the world, these artists are our active contemporaries, ready to engage with us. Many of the artists that we work with come from remote and marginalised communities, but as is evident from the books themselves, their talent, intelligence and imagination are inspiring.

“Whatever direction a particular project takes, there is one basic premise on which our collaboration is based. We would like each artist to be an ‘author’, the active creator of a book. So when we work with an artist from a particular tradition, the book is not ‘about’ this tradition—it is not a documentary. The book is a gallery space which is offered to the artist to tell a story. We work intensively with them, developing the possibilities, pushing the boundaries both for the artist and for the book form. As publishers we play a curator’s role: linking art, story, design and printing and finally the book with its readers.”

At the Fruitmarket talk, Tara Books showed extracts from short films about their process, which you can see at Vimeo. They also highlighted, among other works, a new project, a fold-out book called The Cloth of the Mother Goddess. The images here don’t do it justice, however – the book is a beautiful object, tells a story, has a wonderful tactile quality and is abundant with rich and beautiful imagery.

The books are available from Amazon and elsewhere, but I recommend you seek out gallery bookshops that stock the Tara range, since these are books to be experienced as well as read.

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A Publisher with Imagination

Interview with Edward Stanton, Just Imagine It Ink

In my second interview this month, I caught up with Edward (or Charlie, depending on which hat he’s wearing) Stanton, head honcho of Just Imagine It Ink. Ebook publisher, podcaster and arts enthusiast, Edward’s love of what he does leaks through his very pores. It was Edward who heard the podcast version of my crime novel, Bone Machines, and through his good offices I got a two book audiobook deal from Blackstone Audio. Plus Just Imagine It Ink has published the ebook version. So, to say I am grateful for his support, enthusiasm for my work and all the hard work he does behind the scenes would be a major understatement. If you are an aspiring writer and don’t know how to get yourself out there, I strongly recommend getting in touch with Edward. And check out the podcast, Get Behind Me, Now Stay There, which I load weekly onto my ipod – required listening to all you podcast junkies out there. What I failed to ask Edward was where the podcast title came from…it’s open to various interpretations, I guess. So, here’s an offer…post a reply to the interview, and include an amusing interpretation of what “Get Behind Me, Now Stay There” means and I will give four entrants (make me smile) a free copy of my ebook anthology, Dr. North’s Wound and Other Stories. So, on to the questions, big guy…

Hi, Edward. Can I begin by asking you to tell us something about yourself?

I am currently working with many creative people on ebooks, radio music and so on. I have always been into the arts and even as a child read every chance I got. Adventure, science fiction and the like. Having traveled all over this wonderful planet of ours I found that we are all telling a tale of some sort and that people, no mater where they may be, are so fascinating. I began developing a career around this, telling of tales. And all of my five children have gotten into the arts as well so that’s what we do.

How did Just Imagine It Ink come about?

Just Imagine It Ink was started with the idea of bringing a web presence to all artists, film makers, audio book production, authors, poets, and musicians. We are looking for fun, entertaining artists, serious artists, informative artists; we try to give everyone a voice. So, with this in mind we started selling books and then publishing ourselves and eventually went into broadcasting with our radio show and podcast.

Tell us what your mission statement is and how you differentiate yourselves from other ebook publishers.

Well to be honest we do what a million others do: we publish and market your ebook. The only difference is we believe in whom we publish and are willing to drive into the deep end of the pool with our clients.

You seem to take a particular interest in helping new talents develop. I notice the same on your podcast, Get Behind Me, Now Stay There, on which you interview lesser known or developing creative people as well as speaking to better known people. Is this an extension of your Just Imagine It philosophy, or does the impulse come from somewhere else?

Alright, this is an excellent question. When we started the podcast and radio show we were looking to have something different than “Hey I’m famous, listen to me”. What we were shooting for and I think achieved was a format of interesting, fun people who had a story to tell. If you were famous, cool; if not, that was fine as well. Hence our motto: “artists,poets,writers,musicians or maybe just the guy down the street.”

While you do charge for what you offer, you’re not a vanity publisher in the traditional sense, in that you provide a full service for authors, covering everything from distribution to marketing. Can you say a little bit more about that and the benefits to writers?

Well if you’re a writer and we publish you, we will not only do a fine job on your book formatting, proofing, marketing etc. We will also help you get to the next level of mainstream publishing as we work with some of the largest publishers not only in US but Europe as well.

What do you regard as your greatest successes, or most satisfying, projects to date?

My greatest success has yet to come. the most satisfying has been be able to work with very talented people and have a whale of a time doing it , the icing on the cake has been that 80 thousand people a week around the world seem to enjoy being along for the ride. Have to love the web John !