Stitching together two loves

Townsville's publisher, Waterbell, is raising funds to produce a run of limited edition, artist-illustrated, hand-stitched books IMAGE: Supplied

A Townsville couple is turning their passion for art and literature into a series of limited edition, handmade, illustrated hard-cover books in collaboration with four Australian and international artists.

Michael and Melanie Richards are currently running a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to get their first project off the ground and onto book shelves across the globe.

The project will see the couple lovingly hand-stitch up to 2,000 copies of their first four publications – Pride & Prejudice, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and Treasure Island – under the Waterbell name.

Melanie said she and Michael had been spurred into action by the lack of beautifully illustrated, hard-cover novels available; and had done their homework to ensure their traditional methods of book-binding were of the highest quality.

“This project is two years in the making,”said Melanie. “We’ve done all of our research and our homework to ensure we’re making the best products we can.

“The books are completely handmade. We sew all of the pages together by hand to create the leaflet, and have gone back to traditional book-binding techniques. We’re covering the books with lavish illustrations that we’ve commissioned from various artists.”

The artists include Australian fashion illustrator Mekel, whose past commissions include work for Westfield, Twining and Revlon; Melbourne’s Guy Shield, who has illustrated for major brands and publications across the world; Central Coast watercolourist Stephanie Cowley; and Emilis Emka, a digital artist from Lithuania.

A mock-up of Waterbell’s Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn, illustrated by Guy Shield IMAGE: Supplied

“We’ve found most of the artists via social media and have just been trying to tie their unique style together with our own vision for each title,” Melanie said.

“Each publication is a timeless piece that we hope future generations will be able to fall in love with as they’re attracted by the beautiful artwork and that older generations, who’ve loved these stories since they were kids, will be able to rediscover. For us, it’s about making sure these pieces are pieces that will be treasured by people who love books as much as we do.”

While the six titles included in the first four publications are all in the public domain (and therefore free of copyright restrictions), Melanie said she and Michael were already looking ahead to other titles, which would require licensing.

“In the future we will look to make more modern titles and we’ll need to seek licensing for those. We have other projects already in the works – we’re working on a five- and 10-year plan.

Waterbell’s Kickstarter project has raised more than half of the $15,000 needed to get their first four books off the ground, with three weeks still to go.

“The backers are spread all over the place,” said Melanie. “US, UK, Canada. We’re open globally and happy to ship anywhere. We’re not putting any boundaries on it.

“We’d just really love support from book lovers to bring the project to life.”

For more information, and to back the project, visit Waterbell’s Kickstarter campaign.

UPDATE: Waterbell has since added an option to purchase machine-made copies of their books, as well as the premium hand-stitched editions, in order to make their pieces accessible to a broader range of book lovers. 

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