Causes Environment

Artisan Series 2: The History and Art of Marbling

The History and Art of Marbling
Written by Julia Eden

History and Art of Marbling

We are disconnected. Living in a consumer-society has reduced our exposure to how products are actually made. In a continuing series, SoCo will bring you exposure; the art, the technique, the history that binds us. The small details that can make a thing more than it is. Reconnect to your past, the past of all of us, through the visual beauty of ancient art.

I would like to paint the way a bird sings.
-Claude Monet

History of Marbling

The process of coloring, or dyeing, paper and cloth goes back many centuries, millennia even, in human history. From the indigo dyes of the conch shell (we can thank the Phoenicians for our blue jeans), to the leaves and bark used by prehistoric cavemen, to the synthetic pigments we use today, the art of dyeing is expansive in its application and variety.

What we call marbling today dates back to the at least the 12th century in Asia, and possibly much earlier, though sources are unclear about its exact origins. Developing in Japan as suminagashi and in Turkey as ebru, marbling, in its most basic form, is the act of dyeing fabric or paper by floating dye in a bath of water.

Color is the place where our brain
and the universe meet.
-Paul Klee

Probably the most well recognized example of the art form is in the paper linings found in old books (and some lovely newer ones, as well). Swirls of color echo ocean waves, sharp peaks and soft troughs, each piece an individual and completely unique work of art. This tradition is steeped in Turkish heritage and conventionally is performed by dripping dye into a thickened water bath, then raking the color into patterns of distorted calm.

Relaxation In Art

Onitsuka Tigers find beauty in the slowness of skill

Swimming In Color

Youtube, of course, has myriad how-to videos for those of you who would like to try this at home. Or you can begin your research into the slow and still world of suminagashi with this stunning site. For more information about the Turkish art of ebru, I recommend starting with Muslim Heritage’s page on the tradition of the technique.

Robert Wu’s site features many examples of his marbled art if you’re looking to explore the world of imagery, or maybe even pick a piece up for your home (includes an easy link to his Etsy site).

We at SoCo believe that sustainability is not just a lifestyle – it is life. Working with the Earth, for the benefit of all, is tantamount to becoming the best society we can be. Perhaps modern technology has made things easier, but it certainly does not always make them better. In this continuing series, we aim to highlight those artists and techniques that should not be forgotten, and hopefully are never overlooked. By remembering how we started, perhaps we can find a better way to move forward. Please let us know in the comments if there’s a particular artist or technique you would like to see highlighted. This post is the second article on our “Artisan Series,” you may check out posts you missed in this series using this link.

About the author

Julia Eden

With a passion born in rivers, Julia Eden has spent the last decade crusading for the environment. Educated in fashion design and English Literature, and skilled in dance, she is dedicated to finding the information needed to live a new and better life. While not quite a Luddite, she would very much like to live in a cave with a wolf and an internet connection.

Leave a Comment