Tara Books is an independent publishing house based in Chennai, South India that publishes illustrated and handmade books for children and adults.
If you’ve visited the Craft Contemporary Shop recently, you have doubtless spotted the colorful silkscreen artwork of Tara Books – perhaps through their handmade books, “Flukebook” journals, or notecard designs. There is a lot to love about Tara Books, and for those who haven’t had the chance to check out their work in person, or who would like a deeper introduction, we are pleased to share a little more about one of our favorite vendors. Thank you to Tara Books and Deepali Trehan for providing the following material, which has been edited for this article.
Tara Books is an independent publishing house based in Chennai, South India that publishes illustrated and handmade books for children and adults. It was started in 1994 by Gita Wolf and has since grown organically and in many directions to become a collective of writers, designers and book artisans who favor a non-hierarchical mode of functioning, informed by feminism and other movements for social justice. Tara has an office team of 18 people, with another 25 artisans who work in their bookmaking workshop on a fair trade basis. In addition to these facilities, their building in Chennai houses a bookstore, gallery, and a residential space for visiting artists, authors and designers.
Tara Books is committed to returning the senses back to the physical book in an age busy writing its obituary. Although they publish some standard offset printed titles, Tara is particularly known for their screenprinted books made entirely by hand—from the paper to the printing and binding. Put together by contemporary designers, each page in these books is an individual print, featuring art and stories from the rich folk and tribal traditions of lndia. An integral part of their publishing is a pioneering engagement with indigenous art traditions, and over a period of 20 years, they have brought a range of such artists into the book form for the first time.
Tara Books is committed to returning the senses back to the physical book in an age busy writing its obituary.
Much of Tara’s work aims to enhance the quirky pleasures of reading text and pictures, and they value experimentation in content, design and production. Tara Books believes that the form of the book is as important as its content—and they continue to draw on Asian and other traditions of book craft to redefine the boundaries of what we think of as a book. Tara creates these award-winning artists’ books in large numbers, with the goal of keeping them affordable for the average book lover.
Tara Books believes that the form of the book is as important as its content.
Apart from individual books, Tara has also won prestigious awards including the London Book Fair International Publishing Industry Excellence Award, 2014 and the Bologna Prize for Best Children’s Publisher (Asia Region), 2013.
In addition to books, Tara has branched off into stationery, producing a range of handprinted notecards using illustrations from their books. In a beautiful example of their ingenuity and commitment to sustainability, Tara also creates their signature “Flukebooks” (a Craft Contemporary Shop favorite) which take misprints from the floor of their print workshop and upcycle them into gorgeous and absolutely unique handbound notebooks. Available lined and unlined, each book is the result of a happy accident (or “fluke”), and is marked “Edition 1 of 1”.
To learn more about why and how Tara makes their books, check out this short film about their handmade process.
We also recommend this 2018 Verve interview with Gita Wolf.