Purple Pomegranate Press is a small independent publishing company which was set up in June last year by artist Elspeth Tavaci. Its beautifully illustrated little story books are a greeting card and a gift all in one.
Elspeth takes up her story: “I grew up in Yorkshire and the ginnels, the mills, the old stone houses blackened by soot and time, the bracken and heather covered moors, the lush green fields dotted with sheep and framed with higgledy-piggledy dry stone walls have stayed with me and still continue to inspire my stories.
“I left school and studied Drama at Aberystwyth University in Wales and after graduating moved to London to work in the theatre. From London, I went on to teach English in Istanbul and got a job working as a writer and editor of books for children learning English. I met my husband whilst working on a book together and in 2014 we moved to London together and decided to set up our own independent publishing company.
Whilst in Turkey I became fascinated by pomegranates, their shape and colour, their seeds like rubies and their rich ruby juice. In Istanbul, there are pomegranates piled high on market stalls and at fruit juice kiosk, painted on the ancient Iznik tiles of the palaces and mosques and woven into the rich red fabrics of the sultans’ gowns. I began to notice pomegranates everywhere and one day, my husband bought me a ceramic one which I particularly love and which sat in pride of place on my desk as I wrote. Back to the company name again, I like the alliteration of letters and sounds so the colour of the pomegranate had to purple or pink and purple being my favourite colour, it became Purple Pomegranate Press.
“I grew up with my grandfather’s library of books. It wasn’t anything grand but they were there to pick and choose from and there was always something interesting to read in the house. We were a family of readers and books were special – stories were special. My mother went to art college and studied textile design so the picture books she bought were always full of fascinating illustrations and from that a love of art was born. Then, throughout my life I’ve always collected greeting cards and postcards as it is an affordable way to collect art, so from there the idea came to put the three together – my love of books, art and cards and create a greeting card from an illustrated story.
“Our mission first and foremost to bring back special memories and to share them and create new ones for your children and grandchildren through stories and art, whether it be a small incident in the history of an iconic building such as the Tower of London, or a place you loved to visit in your childhood, or a story you loved as a child, such as The Little Red Hen or The Selfish Giant.
“Secondly, having worked in publishing for many years, I am aware of the amount of work an artist puts into the illustrations so our mission is to ensure that the profit is divided between the writer, the artist, the shop and the publisher – the people who create and sell the product and who nowadays, I feel, are left with very little financial reward for their work”.
The exquisite little books are designed as greeting cards. They are A6 in size and are printed in Northumberland on Gesso card which has a satisfyingly thick and grainy texture and which shows off the illustrations perfectly. Each book contains a story and 8 or more stunning full-page illustrations by some extremely talented artists, including: Claire Fletcher, Nick Tankard, Johanna Gousset and Cansu Kaykac. Titles include:
The Birthday Surprise – an original story inspired by a visit to the Tower of London and illustrated by Claire Fletcher; The Little Red Hen – an old English folk tale, illustrated by Cansu Kaykac; The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, illustrated by Cansu Kaykac; The Little Snow Girl – a Russian fairy tale, illustrated by Johanna Gousset; Goldilocks and the Three Bears – a fairy tale, illustrated by Claire Fletcher and Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi – the story of a man who built himself some wings and successfully flew across the Bosphorus in Istanbul in the seventeenth century, illustrated by Nick Tankard.
“For future greeting cards” Elspeth adds, “I plan to add to our range of traditional folk tales and fairy tales and also to extend our line of original stories set in castles, historic houses or other places of historical interest around the country and I will be happy to write a story set in your region. I am currently working on a story set in the National Trust property, Ham House on the Thames River near Richmond”.