Tag Archives: books

The Vanishing Stepwells of India: A New Book by Victoria Lautman Documents the Fading Relics of Subterranean Wells 

Van Talab Baoli. Amer, Rajasthan. c. 1600/19th Century.

Scattered across India’s vast landscape of ancient architecture including temples, mosques, and palaces are an often overlooked relic of historic infrastructure called stepwells. These subterranean buildings, once numbered in the thousands, were originally dug into the landscape so residents could easily access water. Over time, stepwells grew increasingly elaborate in their construction, morphing from modest rock-cut holes into fully functional Hindu temples with ornate columns, stairwells, and shrines. Each well now serves as a fading structural fingerprint, diverse and unique as the communities that designed and built them.

Chicago journalist Victoria Lautman first peeked over the edge of a stepwell some 30 years ago and was immediately transfixed at the idea of staring down into an architectural wonder as opposed to looking up. She has since dedicated much of the last five years criss-crossing India over several years to locate and photograph as many wells as possible. We first mentioned Lautman’s discoveries back in 2015, after which she resumed trips to India to locate an additional 60 wells, bringing the grand total to over 200 sites she’s personally visited and documented.

“Descending into the earth is a profound experience, one in which sweltering heat turns to enveloping cool, and noises become hushed,” she writes about encountering the wells.

After centuries of neglect some stepwells are in perilous condition or have vanished altogether, while others have been thoughtfully maintained by surrounding communities or governments who recognize their significance and possess the will (and funding) to restore them. In an attempt to preserve their legacy, Lautman has gathered a visual tour of 75 of the more unique and interesting wells in a new book titled The Vanishing Stepwells of India. The book includes not only her original photography, but also her impressions about each well and the precise GPS coordinates of their locations.

It remains to be seen if the renewed interest in stepwells, as well as the accompanying tourist dollars, will drive the change to save them. “In the long-run,” Lautman tells Colossal, “I think the most helpful thing for stepwells is simply acknowledging their existence in history and guidebooks, through classes and specialized tours, and finally just seeing them up close, embedded in the landscape.” Another way to explore the wells is through the Atlas of Stepwells, a website where enthusiasts can share their own discoveries.

The Vanishing Stepwells of India with a foreword by Divay Gupta, is published by Merrell and is available now.

Ramkund. Bhuj, Gujarat. Mid-18th Century (c. 700 CE).

Mukundpura Baoli. Mukundpura, Haryana c. 1650.

Ujala Baoli Mandu. Madhya Pradesh. Late 15th/early 16th century.

Chand Baori. Abhaneri, Rajasthan. c. 800 ce/18th Century.

Batris Kotha Vav. Kaoadvanj, Gujarat c. 1120.

Dada Harir Vav. Asarwa. c. 1499

Navghan Kuvo. Junagadh, Gujarat. 4th/6th/Mid-11th Century.


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New Discarded Books Transformed Into Crystallized Sculptures by Alexis Arnold 

“In the Shade of Vines” (2016)

San Francisco-based artist Alexis Arnold (previously) looks to isolate the material rather than the content of the books she freezes in time, calling attention to both their physicality and quickly diminishing presence in our day-to-day lives. Utilizing borax crystals Arnold sprouts hardened, iridescent forms from a publication’s pages, posing the work more like a natural artifact rather than human detritus. Culling through discarded and found texts, she chooses those that seem to hold the greatest metaphorical weight. These selected titles are often those centered around advances in technology or wonders of our natural earth—Arnold subtly gesturing to how many experiences we leave behind as computers continue to gradually store the bulk of our collective knowledge. You can see more of Arnold’s crystallized works on her website and Instagram.

“In the Shade of Vines” (2016)

“The Science of Wine: From Vine to Glass” (2016)

“The Complete Book of Crochet” (2016)

“Hugh Johnson’s Story of Wine” (2016)

“The Art and Adventure of Beekeeping” (2016)

“The Art and Adventure of Beekeeping” (2016)

“Napa Valley: The Land, The Wine, The People” (2016)

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360° Earth and the Moon Book by Yusuke Oono 

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Book designer Yusuke Oono creates small books that unfold into 360° scenes revealing everything from fairy tales to high-end vehicles. His latest creation is a laser-cut Earth and Moon surrounded by clouds, stars, UFOs and other orbiting objects. Oono was born in Germany and was trained as an architect at the University of Tokyo, lending his design skills and understanding of materials to the concept of his innovative sculpture books.

The Earth & Moon book is now available in the Colossal Shop. Also check out his lovely Mt. Fuji book.

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Printed Short Stories That Double as Wine Bottle Labels 

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All images via Reverse Innovation

Combining two of my favorite winter (or rather any season) activities is the project Librottiglia, a newly designed set of wines which feature short stories built into their labels. The texts are printed on textured paper stock, minimally designed, and secured to the bottle with a single piece of twine, providing an alternative to both digital methods of reading and traditional books. Not only are the selected works aesthetically matched to the bottle, but the content is also curated to align with the taste profiles, the characteristics of the work conceptually paired to each blend.

Three writers were selected to contribute to the project, each bringing their unique style to their matched wine. Journalist and satirist Danilo Zanelli contributes the mystery “Murder” to a Roero Arneis, “The Frog in the Belly,” a fable by Patrizia Laquidara is paired with an Anthos, and Regina Marques Nadaes’s love story “I Love You, Forget Me” compliments the winery’s Nebbiolo Roero.

The project is a partnership between the product design agency Reverse Innovation and Italian winery Matteo Correggia, and is named based off of the Italian translations of the words book (libro) and bottle (bottiglia). You can learn more about the project on Librottiglia’s website. (via designboom)

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The New Age of Ceramics: A New Book Explores the Cutting Edge of Ceramic Art 

Jess Riva Cooper

Jess Riva Cooper

Over the last few decades, artists working with ceramics have begun to push the medium in dramatic new directions, producing wildly innovative sculptures with a craft that’s existed almost as long as human civilization itself. No longer satisfied with traditional decorative vases or functional objects, these artists have embraced a wide variety of refreshing approaches that incorporate humor, environmental awareness, and an array of unusual techniques. Not only are they building things up, but also tearing them down, reducing objects to shards before repurposing the fragments, or pummeling their own creations into damaged permanence.

Nearly 40 such artists have been gathered into a new book out this week from Gingko Press titled The New Age of Ceramics by Hannah Stouffer. The publication includes 180 photos of in-process details, intimate studio visits, and final works from artists like Zemer Peled, Jessica Harrison, Jess Riva Cooper, Jon Alameda, Hitomi Hosono, and many others. The book release was accompanied by an exhibition at the Dave Frey Gallery that runs through December 9th, 2016.

“The tangibility of the material is something I feel really drawn to, and feel there is a great importance in sharing that, as we stray further from this connection to traditional mediums and become more invested with technology,” Stouffer shares with Colossal.

The New Age of Ceramics is now available in bookstores and through The Colossal Shop.

Hitomi Hosono

Hitomi Hosono

Jennifer McCurdy

Jennifer McCurdy

Livia Marin

Livia Marin

Crystal Morey

Crystal Morey

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Kate McDowell

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Richard Shaw

Zemer Peled

Zemer Peled

Claire Shaw

Claire Shaw

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Intimate Embroidered Portraits by Danielle Clough 

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Cape Town-based artist Danielle Clough (previously here and here) embroiders portraits of friends and loved ones, adapting black and white images of subjects into multi-colored works. By working from black and white images the resulting works are not tied to the colors present in the original images, creating vibrant pieces that feature bright oranges, purples, and blues.

The portraits featured here were produced by Clough for the upcoming book Queer Africa II, a collection of new stories about love on the continent of Africa. The editors, Makhosazana Xaba and Karen Martin, were drawn to Clough’s work for the publication because of the conceptual linkage of her layered yarn to the personal narratives told in the book, which Zaba explained “adds meaning and speaks to the zigzagging nature of our lives.”

Queer Africa II will be published next month through MaThoko’s Books and be available online through both Amazon and African Books Collective. You can see more portraits by Clough on her Instagram, and take a look into the artist’s process on her blog.

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