Zio Baritaux

Publisher & Editor‚ Strange Plants Barcelona‚ Spain

Illustrations
Sine Jensen

Interviews
Nikolaj Hansson

May 12 2016

Plants are vital and omnipresent‚ but until Zio Baritaux’s Strange Plants was published last year‚ it felt like the last time they had been written about imaginatively was in the Victorian era. The tactile‚ beautifully-designed book was an immediate smash hit and has already spawned a followup‚ Strange Plants II. In addition to her plant adventures‚ Zio is the brains behind the agency/imprint Zioxla‚ has curated well-regarded exhibitions in L.A. and Miami‚ and was once managing editor at the late‚ great Swindle.

Were you surprised at what a huge success the first Strange Plants was right out the door?

Yes‚ definitely. The purpose of making the book was to do something I love. I wasn’t sure it would sell at all‚ because I did everything myself—compiling‚ editing‚ publishing—and had no publicist or distributor. But as soon as the book was released‚ there was an insane response. The book received a snowball of press and sold out in less than a month‚ and so I printed a second‚ larger edition‚ which sold out in less than two.

How did you select the artists for that first book?

I viewed curating the book in the same way someone looks at planting a garden. You don’t plant a garden with one type of flower—you plant a variety of species that bloom at different times but work within the environment that you live.

How did you link up with Folch Studio for the project?

I had been aware of Folch for some time‚ but I was particularly inspired by the book they designed for artist Angela Palacios. So I contacted them and they were very enthusiastic. Folch came up with a delicate design that would present the images and words as living forms. To emphasize the strangeness‚ the cover comes with a blank surface‚ which is definitely unusual for a book. To emphasize plants‚ and inspire the feeling of pressing flowers inside a book‚ the cover images come as adhesives‚ which can be found as soon as the reader opens the book. It is the reader’s choice if they want to leave the cover blank‚ or add one‚ two or all three images. I couldn’t have been happier working with Folch on this book. I’ve worked on a dozen or so books in the past‚ but this was by far the smoothest experience I’ve had.

Do you yourself have a green thumb?

Pale green‚ maybe. My mom definitely does‚ and she was a big inspiration in making this book. I grew up in her gardens which‚ at one time‚ included water lilies in a koi pond‚ and at another time‚ trimmed topiaries and low hedges of Japanese boxwood. I didn’t really appreciate growing up with them until I was an adult and living in an apartment with no outdoor space or plants. There were plants throughout the neighborhood but it wasn’t the same. I wanted to experience them. So I brought plants inside my apartment. It’s still an ongoing struggle to keep them alive‚ so I don’t think I have a real green thumb yet.

You’ve also written prolifically about topics ranging from graffiti to tattoos. Any subject you haven’t tackled yet that you’d like to dive into?

I would love to write a book of short stories or a novel. That’s definitely the next thing I would like to tackle. I’ve had some ideas swimming around in my head for years‚ but just haven’t found the time to flesh them out.

What was working at the late great Swindle like?

It was the best job I’ve ever had. I got to write about topics that really interested me‚ I interviewed people like George A. Romero and Jenna Jameson‚ and Bushwick Bill called me on a regular basis. I ate burgers with Morgan Spurlock‚ and Paul Reubens came to the opening of an art show I curated in L.A. But most importantly‚ my coworkers were my best friends. We had weird parties with topless bartenders and deep-dish pizza flown in from Chicago‚ went on haunted hayrides‚ had giant burrito-eating contests‚ and so much more ridiculousness. Through all of that‚ I learned a ton and started to develop my professional career. I probably would never have made Strange Plants had it not been for Swindle.