The day that Tuathal gets dragged into A&S…

Tuathal has an ongoing A&S project that is, well, stuck.  I wanted him to do something today that didn’t involve the Internet, so I sent him out to the shed to get one of my dyeing buckets and dug out a small box of cheap marbelling inks that were in a pristine white cardboard box, untouched (- I have decided that art materials are not allowed to continue clean and unloved)  I hoped that it would probably appeal to him as he hugely enjoyed print making in school, and the results of marbelling are nicely immediate.   It was a hit, we have bits of marbelled paper on most surfaces in the kitchen.

The techniques for marbelling paper seems to have originated in Asia, with examples of washed papers as the background to fine paintings and calligraphy dating back to the 10th century.  There are also exquisite examples as backdrops for Islamic texts of the 15th century.  It didn’t really make it to Europe til the 17th Century where it became increasingly popular and used as endpapers and covers of books, but also for lining fine furniture drawers and so on. The Victorians were especially keen.   I don’t know very much about its history for the moment, apart from that the Oriental methods may have featured more pastes than plain water, which definitely intrigues me.

The modern technique out of my kit is a simple one; in a shallow tray (and I would definitely recommend a shallow one rather than my quite deep bucket) pour 2-3 cm of water.  Drip a couple of drops of whichever colours you want onto the surface of the water where they will spread, then carefully place your paper sheet to float on the surface, peel it back off the water and voila.    You can comb the surface to get swirls and mixes, and since I’ve started reading up a bit more I’ve come across marbelling ground, which is used to thicken the water to stop it dispersing into the tiny droplets that a lot of the pieces we tried became.  It takes a bit of getting used to the rate at which the colours exhaust as well – there can still be a lot of oil without much colour for example, which affects the spread as well.   It’s very satisfying to do, but I’m not overly keen on the colours that I have.  I think I need to do some more research…

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