When I was in primary school we did loads of cool art things that I don’t get to do any more. I could do something about this; I could build a makeshift flower press; I could take out some crayons and paper and head out for a walk to take some rubbings; I could even buy a load of different pasta shapes and make a collage, but I am less likely to do any paper marbling at home. Mainly because I can’t really remember how to do it and I don’t really remember what equipment I might need.
So when I saw that my friends at Edge of the Universe Printing Press were running a series of workshops last Summer I signed myself up straight away. It’s just taken me this long to type up my notes about what we got up to!
I went along to have a go at marbling and book binding in a two part session. Sarah and David divided up the participants into two groups, one tacking the marbling first and the others working on the book binding. I had brought along some coloured paper, trimmed to A5 size, and sat myself down to bind my little book first.
To begin with for a Japanese bind, you need to select your paper and card covers. I had chosen a spread of blues and purples and a cover from David’s selection with some random printing on.
Part two involves making a template. This will make it easier to mark out the holes that we will need to punch in order to bind the book. I used a scrap of paper, the same size as my book, and drew a line about 1 1/2 centimetres from the long edge. (Using a ruler of course, I’m not a Philistine!) Then I folded the paper in half lengthways, half again and opened it up. Using an awl and a cutting mat I punched holes in the paper along the pencil line. The template was attached to the front cover and some of the pages and I used it as a guide to pierce the pages beneath. The process was repeated until all the pages were ready for binding.
To bind, we used a linen thread and a chunky needle, starting from the middle pages to the front, leaving a tail to tie off at the end. The stitch wrapped the spine, moved up the cover, around the top, back down the spine, around the bottom and back to the middle to tie off between the pages. My tension of thread wasn’t entirely correct, a continuing theme in my projects, but I think it was a pretty good attempt for a first time!
Part two was my marbling refresher. I had come prepared with some ideas of what I’d like to do because as a child I’d had a book that was illustrated with beautiful papercut designs and marbled backgrounds. I had searched for about 5 years for this book, not remembering the author, illustrator or title, but the pictures had stayed with me and eventually I found it! My favourites are of Baba Yaga’s house with glowing skulls and chicken legs with a swirling yellow and green marbling and a man on horseback, cutting off his hand to placate two hungry wolves who are barring his continued quest. The latter picture has an almost moving and flowing nature to it in blues and white. I wasn’t really feeling like it was a yellow/green day so I was going to make some blue marblings!
Sarah was in charge of the marbling trays and she told us we should prepare the water. We were using brand new litter trays to hold the water and ink, as they are just larger than an A4 paper, have deep sides and are easy to get hold of if you are going to do this at home. I had a dark tray, which does mean that the ink patterns are trickier to see, so it’s probably worth getting a light grey or cream one if you are planning to try it at home.
So to prepare the water we just added a couple of drops of oil based ink to the water filled tray and allow it to spread across the surface. Each ink we were to use had a slightly different oil content and so would react slightly differently. When these inks are combined and swirled you get the marvellous patterns that marbling can produce.
I dripped the inks in, mostly focusing on the blue, purple and reds, but sometimes dropping in a bit of yellow for contrast. Now you can either drop the inks and place the paper straight on to produce spotty patterns, or you can mess it about a bit. We used BBQ skewers and spoons to swirl the inks, but you can also use combs, feathers, forks, pretty much whatever you like to produce the desired effect. You could also blow them with a straw to move the inks around the water surface.
I then took some sheets of paper, and a couple of card, and placed them onto the surface of the water and pushed it down a little so that the surface was fully covered. I could get a couple of prints from each dripping of ink, but the second was a little paler, as you would expect. The papers were then hung up and laid to dry (space dependant) and the process was repeated.
What I like about doing workshops with Sarah (I’ve done a few different ones now) is that she lets me play and get on with it, but is on hand if I need a bit of help. I therefore made quite a few, some pretty good, some less so. It’s over six months later and I’m still not sure how best to use my new papers, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.