Learn all about Turkish marbling from Bade Kafadar
In the past weeks, Burton Saturdays were maxed out: all our events were fully booked within a matter of days after posting the programme on our website.
One of the most popular workshops was Bade Kafadar's marbling workshop with a waiting list twice as long as the people we could actually take. For all those who were here and of course those who could not attend, Bade prepared some information about the method she introduced to the participants on 10 November.
Many thanks to Bade Kafadar (and family) for running this workshop and providing the information below (in the spirit of Charles Woolnough):
The first marbling methods came from the East. Early in the twelfth century, Japanese artists began to decorate precious handmade paper with Suminagashi-Sumi, or "Black Ink," and Nagashi, or "floating". When a brush filled with ink is lightly dipped into a tray of water, the ink floats. If a second brush containing a kind of resist, or surfactant, is dipped into the center of the ink spot, the ink expands into a larger circle. The artist can alternate the brushes until pleased with the pattern, then lay a sheet of paper on the surface of the water and lift off design. The form of marbling known to the west, in which paints float on a gum-thickened tank of water, originated in Turkey in the fifteenth century, The Golden Age of the Ottoman Empire.
Known as Ebru, or "cloud art," marbling was used to for calligraphy, to border
manuscripts, and to frame drawings and paintings. In the early examples from the fifteenth century in Turkey, ebru appears in the battal (stone) form, namely without any manipulation. Interestingly, several variations developed in time, giving us types such as gelgit, tarakli, hatip, bülbül yuvasi, çiçekli etc (come-and-go, combed, preacher, nightingale's nest, flowered, respectively)
In the sixteenth century, marbled paper traveled westward along the great trade routes to Europe, where a handful of craftsmen invented patterns still named for their country of origin: Italian Hair Vein, French Curl, Old Dutch, Spanish. Ordinary folk used the colourful papers to decorate chimney places, line cupboards, bind books, and cover boxes.
In eighteenth-century France, marbling was given wider currency by the great French rationalist Denis Diderot, chief editor of the Encyclopedia. Appalled by a reactionary church and state that suppressed art and science, Diderot enlisted artists and men of letters from throughout France. Together they wrote an encyclopedia, a summary of art and science, as they knew it, convinced that scientific information would loosen the stranglehold of superstition and dogma- a point not lost upon the church and state, which clapped Diderot into prison for three months. Nonetheless, the 28 volumes of the Encyclopedia were published between 1751 and 1772. Included were detailed descriptions of the art of marbling, and line drawings of marblers at work.
By the eighteenth century, the craft found its way to the American colonies. Marbled paper was popular for "pamphlet wrappers" covering for cheap books. And in pre-Revolutionary America, lots of people had a great deal to say. Benjamin Franklin bound his almanacs in marbled paper, and at his insistence the $20 bill, issued in 1776, was marbled on one of its short ends to prevent forgery.
In England, knowledge of marbling was suppressed less by decree than by the determined secrecy of craftsmen themselves. By the early nineteenth century, books with marbled end papers were popular enough to support a thriving industry. Marbling houses operated on the apprentice system. The master would wander through the local workhouse in search of likely looking boys to work long hours in exchange for what passed as bed and board. In return, he promised to teach the boys his trade. In actuality, he did no such thing. Unwilling to train his future competition, the master taught each boy only one step in the process: how to make the bath, or how to grind the paints, or how to execute a pattern. Workstations were separated by screens, so that no one could what anyone else. When the boys completed their seven-year apprenticeship, they were turned into the streets.
The one to call the game was Charles Woolnough, a self-taught marbler who took a dim view of artistic secrecy in general and the exploitation of children in particular. In 1853 he braved the wrath of his fellow marblers and published The Art of Marbling, a textbook that described all phrases of the process. As the nineteenth century drew to a close and book production became mechanised, marbling faded into obscurity. No one has managed, then or now, to eliminate the individual artist from the art of marbling. It remained a curiosity in antique books until the late 1970's, when the crafts movement reminded us of the beauty of this method and the value of handwork.
The materials used for Marbling:
The paints that are used in marbling are obtained from some naturally coloured stones, plants and soil that don't melt in water and don't contain iron, magnesium and copper elements in their compounds. The main rule in classical marbling is the use of oily paint (oil-colour or aniline) that can float over water.
Gum Tragacanth: This is is the name of the herbal liquid'Geven', that solidifies contacting with air. It is used to adjust the density of water. It is cream coloured and has light adherence ability. In marbling also some other plants like sea-cord and linen seed are used for making gum tragacanth.
Bile (ox-gall): This provides the paint to disperse over water without precipitating. The container that has bile in it is placed into boiling water in open air because of its bad smell. The acids that are inside the bile give a tension to the paint so that it can easily be spread.
Tub (Trough): The standard size of tubs that are used today is 35x50cm and A3 paper sizes. The depth is 4-6 cm. In the past tubs were made of wood so they had to covered with pitch inside but today they are also made of galvanized iron, steel and aluminium.
Brushes: Handmade brushes are better for marbling rather than using products. They can be made of horse hair tied on rose branch at a length of 25-30 cm. These brushes don't leave all the paint on them to the tub instantly when they are scattered.
Handmade combs of 10-15 cm laths and iron sticks are used as well. The paper has to be good absorbent and have a matt side, usually between 70-90gr and first quality pulp is preferred. The size of the paper has to be 3 mm smaller than the size of the tub.
Making of Marbled paper:
Gum tragacanth is poured into water at a proportion of 1% and dissolved in it through mixing. This solution rests for two days and before used it is filtered through fabric. The gum water has to be clear and odourless before mixing with the marbling tub that contains water and gall. The consistency of the gum mix depends on the type of marbling. The paint that has to be mixed from time to time before use and
is poured onto the gummed water by the help of a brush or a thin wire. Its dispersion is controlled by adding new drops. The gall in the water prevents different colours dissolving in each other so that with every addition the water creates new veins of harmony in several directions. The paint is shaped by the moisture, heat of the room or even the breath of the artist. If combed or decorated shapes are desired, the embroidery is applied by a thin stick.
When the marbling is finished, the paper is slowly and carefully put into the tub. The air bubbles that remain under the paper should be removed by puncturing with needle. After 15 seconds the paper absorbs the paint and is ready to be lifted by holding from two corners in the front of the tub. The gum is discharged by wiping softly and the paper is sealed on the shelf to dry.
I would not venture into trying this without Bade's expert hands, strictly organic home-made materials and brushes. Let's hope that we can welcome her back once the Kafadar's family's new arrival, a baby girl due early next year, lets Mum go back to the marbling trough!