Paper, Paper, Everywhere and Everything is Lovely!

A few weeks ago my bookbinding teacher, who is an amazing artist of many stripes and shapes, did a paper marbling demonstration at his synagogue.  Saying it was very cool is a gigantic understatement.  I'm pretty much obsessed with paper marbling now and already have plans to add a paper marbling bath to my home studio (which only exists in my mind at this point).  In case you were wondering about paper marbling, enjoy the following:

A Little Bit of History: 
The beginnings of paper marbling come from Turkish/Islamic origins.  The Turks were really the masters and developed the process and some of the tools used today.  Marbling was developing in parts of India and Persia during the 17th-19th centuries as well, though Europe has perhaps the most commonly known association with paper marbling as they have been doing it since the 17th century.

Evidently, the first American money had marbling on it!  Thank you Benjamin Franklin. I haven't independently confirmed this, so if anyone knows anything about it I would love to learn. 

The Wikipedia page has some good info and some great examples. 

A Little Bit of Process:
You take a large bath of a mixture of things - water &special chemicals - and then you drip special paint mixed with oxgall (just what it sounds like - gall of an ox) into the mixture.

The paint stays on the surface and depending on a few factors (how much oxgall, the thickness of the paint, the consistency of the water/chemical solution) it will spread out.

Once the paint is applied, you take either a single needle looking tool, or a large rake tool that extends the width/length of the bath and rake patterns into the wet paint.  This was my favorite part and each time my teacher would rake the paint a new direction there were oooohhhs and aaahhhhs at the result.

Then you lay the paper carefully down on top of the paint, making sure there are no air bubbles, and after a few seconds you pull it away from the bath.  The paper has been treated with alum so the paint bonds to the paper immediately.  You rinse off any residue on the paper and let the awesomeness dry.
I am so obsessed I made a cheesecake this week and tried to marble the top of it with chocolate batter. The marbling turned out fantastic...the cheesecake, on the other hand, was not so fantastic.  

I bought a few marbled papers from a local artist at the demonstration and couldn't wait to make a wee little book with it.  I am making a sister book to send to Rick Steves in thanks for spreading his travel gospel.  Is that too stalker-ish? 


  1. You definitely just taught me something new - thank you! I have always thought "those strange opening pages" of old and beautifully bound books were a bit odd. However, as dumb as it makes me sound, I did not realized someone actually makes that...by hand. Now I'm going to look through all of my best books and admire the art that is the marbled pages. Thanks for sharing another of your amazing experiences.

  2. Hey,
    Love it! Will you teach me in a few monthes? :)
    Love ya,