A Geometric Universe: Natalia Zapella’s “Nights, the Cosmos, and I”

May 28, 2015 by

Brazilian graphic designer and Artist’s Book resident Natalia Zapella often stays up all night. Mornings, she says, are for sleeping. Nights are for working under the still canopy of stars.

“There are so few things interfering with your thoughts. It’s all about you and the stars,” she says, describing the kinship she found with the twilight. “I would wonder, looking at stars, what is it like out there?” Natalia’s long nights spent gazing at the sky inspire her newest artist’s book, Nights, the Cosmos, and I.

Close up of "Nights, the Cosmos, and I"
Nights, the Cosmos, and I pairs eight celestial illustrations with lines from a poem, which describes Natalia’s fascination with a star-lit universe beyond her grasp. Oscillating between the personal and cosmic, it hints at the galaxy’s underlying order, reimagined through scientific diagrams and geometric systems.

“I like how we try to capture and explain the world through math, chemistry, and physics,” she says. “We work to understand [the cosmos] and try to get as close as we can, but we are so far away from really understanding what’s going on.”

Spread of "Nights, the Cosmos, and I"

Natalia’s clean, minimalist aesthetic drives her love of geometric forms and attraction to subtle differences in material. She strives to create work that compels people to return to it again and again. In her new artist’s book, Natalia’s graphic linework, clever integration of media, and poetic meditation on the galaxy combine to create just that.

Nights, the Cosmos, and I is deceptively simple: using screen printed NASA imagery and astronomical charts, the book interprets highly accurate scientific diagrams with precise geometry. But upon looking closer, you’ll notice every straight line in the book’s illustrations is actually made of sewing thread. White, black, and sepia threads run across the black pages to compose the Fibonacci sequence overlaid a spiraling galaxy; the Earth’s axis tilted just so during summer solstice; and constellation points connected to form a triangle. A complex dodecahedron—created by over fifty lines of white thread—presents a theoretical model for the universe’s shape.

Natalia Zapella works with studio intern Ellen ProskoThe WSW crew binds "Nights, the Cosmos, and I"
Aided by a team of talented interns, residents, and staff, Natalia poured hours of hand-sewing into these complex diagrams. “The main reason the book was so time-consuming is because I wanted to fill my nights with something productive,” she explains. For Natalia, process is as important as product, which is why she bound the book as a throw-out accordion, so that only one end of the book block is attached to the cover. As Nights, the Cosmos, and I unfolds, its structure exposes the back of each threaded page, revealing the time and care sewn into its making.

"Nights, the Cosmos, and I" "Nights, the Cosmos, and I"
Guided by Natalia’s first-person narrative, the pages act as windows through which readers can stargaze at the book’s illustrations. Its sewn linework interacts with white screen-printed elements to create the illusion of a purely two-dimensional surface, inviting readers to determine which lines are printed and which are stitched.

“I like to watch people interact with the work and figure out its layers. The faces they make, how they touch and read it,” Natalia says. “When you make a book, people have to want to open it more than one time.”

Night, the Cosmos, and I presents an unfolding tactile experience, a beautifully embroidered investigation into the wonders of nighttime, the complexity and mystery of which are mirrored in each thread. “I CAN FINALLY SEE THE STARS,” reads Natalia’s poem. “CONSTELLATIONS / GALAXIES / AND EVERYTHING ELSE.”

Natalia Zapella received a BA in Graphic Design from Senac University, São Paulo, Brazil, where she works as a book designer. “The more books I can work with, the better!” she says. “I like the object, the touch, the smell. I like to think of the paper, the ink, and the content. I like to do it all.” View more of her work at www.nataliazapella.com.br, and see more images from her book’s production on Flickr.

Purchase your copy of Nights, the Cosmos, and I by visiting our bookstore.