By Aimee Crickmore, MA Conservation, Camberwell College of Arts

Image courtesy of Christin Steinbruch, MA Conservation student

On the 11th March, MA Conservation hosted a workshop on the art of marbling paper. Steeped in history, the art of marbled paper spread throughout Europe in the 17th century, and is linked to the traditional arts of Japanese Suminagashi (“ink floating”) and Turkish/Iranian Ebru (“cloud art”), which date back to the 12th and 15th centuries respectively.   Postgraduate Community Ambassador, Aimee Crickmore, MA Conservation, Camberwell College of Arts reports back here:

These practices differ in method, but share a similarity in materials and practice. The desired paint (or in the case of Suminagashi, ink) colours are added to a water bath, where the design is manipulated by means of a variety of tools.

In the tradition of Western marbled papers, these patterns are typically produced by utilising a series of wire combs, though for more abstract designs a reed or skewer can be used to manipulate it manually, or a rounded soft bristle brush can be tapped to produce a sprinkling effect – though the limit is your imagination!

Method

Things you’ll need:

Apron
Carrageen moss (powdered; this acts as a size so that paints float on the waters surface)
Acrylic paints
Alum (We used Aluminium Sulphate for best results!)
Paper (Sugar paper works well, is cheap, comes in a variety of colours and is a wonderful starting point for your design)
A Blender
A sponge to apply the alum
A tray to marble in
A tray to wash the paper
The tools to create your design
Pipettes or brushes to apply colour
A piece of board to clear the surface of the tray
Newspapers or plastic sheeting to protect surfaces
Kitchen towel or similar to clear up any spillages!

The night before you begin:

Mix the carrageen moss in a blender (1tbsp powder to 2 litres of water) add to tray and leave to settle with no bubbles on the surface.

Add alum (1 tsp to a cup of water) with a sponge to the papers, and leave to dry under weight. Before the alum is applied, mark the other side – this ensures you can tell which side the fixative has been applied to.

Marbling:

Acrylic paints should be mixed with water until a runny consistency has been achieved – set these near the tray of clean water.

The surface of the carrageen moss and water mix is now ready for the paints to be applied – this works best when applied in small concentrated drops using something like a pipette. Once you have the desired combination of colours, this may then be manipulated with combs, or skewers to create your design.

When you are happy with your pattern, lower a piece of paper alum side down making sure that the motion is smooth and all paper comes into contact with the surface of the moss solution. Then rinse the paper in the clean tray of water or run it under a tap to remove any excess moss.

Leave the paper marble side up to dry, and clear the surface of the moss with the card in between each design otherwise some paint residue will remain; if you want to do a lot of marbling preparing two trays is a good idea as the mixture can become saturated with colour and turn cloudy.

Marbling can be applied to many absorbent materials such as silk and leather when first treated with alum – give it a go and see the fabulous results for yourself!

For further inspiration, take a look at http://marbleart.us/index.htm for an idea of the variety of effects which can be achieved!


Sources:

Instructions kindly provided by Solange Masher, current MA Conservation student (and marbling workshop leader!)
http://suminagashi.com/history/
http://marbleart.us/index.htm