“An embroiderer’s skill is actually revealed by the quality of the work on the reverse side of the fabric— the hidden intersection of threads and knots that hold the embroidery in place. It is not seen immediately, and yet must be impeccable. Perhaps a book works somewhat like embroidery. Its pages are held together by a thread that is also hidden. It is behind the scenes but without it, nothing exists. It is the symbol of what we do not tell and which, nevertheless, is necessary.”
—Anaïs Beaulieu, creator of A Stitch Out of Time
French artist Anaïs Beaulieu weaves the world of books and embroidery together in A Stitch Out of Time, published by Tara Books in South India. The Chennai-based independent publisher is known for handmade and experimental book forms, which makes Beaulieu’s book feel right at home in their collection. This herbarium of photographs depicts plastic bags that the artist embroidered with endangered species of plants, and even features an actual embroidered plastic bag on its cover.
Tara Books has a reputation for preserving handcrafted book production, which includes making their own paper as well as silkscreen-printing and binding their publications by hand. They also work with environmentally sustainable Riso printing and old-school letterpress, and they hope to bring the physical book back into focus in a digital age keen on casting it aside. “To us, the form of the book is as important as its content— and we continue to draw on Asian as well as other traditions of book craft to redefine the boundaries of the book, as we know them,” their promotional materials read. A Stitch 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,” Tara Books founder Gita Wolf admitted in a blog post about the book’s production. “It looks lovely, but its tactile beauty is best experienced by running a hand over 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 Stitch Out of Time was a plastic bag on which Beaulieu had embroidered an ivy plant. “The idea had come to me in Burkina Faso a year earlier, when I had driven by a field choked with plastic bags,” Beaulieu reflected in the aforementioned blog post. When the artist showed her initial piece to the Tara Books founder at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, Wolf’s book brain was immediately activated. She insisted they collaborate to turn the piece into a published series of Beaulieu’s embroidered plastic works.
This unique project combines multiple artisanal processes, including embroidery, tailoring, book-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 delicate cover of the book to be protected, and at the same time offer readers a chance to try their own hand at embroidery— this they can do on one side of the bag,” writes Beaulieu.
A Stitch Out of Time is available for purchase now through Tara Books for $44.95.