aqueous surface design
August 25, 2012 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Ebru, turkish for "marbeling", and is hypnotizing to watch. It is a process that puts colored paint on the surface of water, and then transferring it to paper. It is probably most common for us now in its use in bookbinding, showing as early as the 17th century in Europe, and it's still being done routinely today in the US Government Printing Office. The art is much older, dating back to 10th century Turkey. It had a resurgence in the 60's as a psychedelic hippie art form. It's easy to learn but can take years to master.

Examples, and a more modern variation on the technique, fingernail art. (Previously)
posted by crunchland (32 comments total) 124 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, simply beautiful. Thank you.
posted by grimmelm at 8:16 PM on August 25, 2012

Nice. Needs "marbling" tag.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:31 PM on August 25, 2012

Wow, that's gorgeous stuff. Now I want to marble all my books.
posted by sonascope at 8:31 PM on August 25, 2012

Cool post, but Turkey is a 20th c. Creation...
posted by k8t at 8:34 PM on August 25, 2012

Previously - or Double maybe?
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:40 PM on August 25, 2012

I wonder how hard this would be to (coarsely?) simulate using an iPad running some kind of fluid dynamics app…
posted by schwa at 8:49 PM on August 25, 2012

I have always wondered how they did that. Thanks!
posted by carsonb at 8:52 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Very cool stuff - thanks for posting!
posted by capricorn at 9:12 PM on August 25, 2012

Repeating the Wow.

This art form is a cycle of creation and destruction. They would lay something out and I would think, pretty! and then they would proceed to destruct what they just made and it would make me sad. And then, again, wow! pretty!

Repeat until the work of art is all soaked up.

Just wow.
posted by mephisjo at 9:16 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Very neat. I wish they had explained why the USGPO still does this - is it some kind of security feature like it was centuries ago? Just for gravitas, like the beautiful bindings? (How did all this lovely craftsmanship escape the budget cuts?)
posted by Quietgal at 9:24 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Amazing! Beautiful! Nifty! (Am I missing any adjectives?)

Thanks, crunchy!
posted by deborah at 9:29 PM on August 25, 2012

During my crafting years I actually tried to do some paper marbling (also papermaking and book binding) and they are not kidding when they say that the method is simple but takes years to master! Needless to say, I did not master it. However, I still cannot resist marbled paper and keep a few sheets in my stash of special paper. I do love the link to these examples.

Today is a good day at MetaFilter for paper lovers! Thank you.
posted by Anitanola at 9:43 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to try my hand at this in my basement. Thanks for the post.
posted by Mojojojo at 9:54 PM on August 25, 2012

How can I apply this to steak?
posted by Bonky Moon at 9:59 PM on August 25, 2012

Paper marbling briefly became huge in my junior high because this one cool girl did it and so everyone else wanted to do it. There was a kit that some company was selling so you could do individual sheets of stationery. (Also it was the late 80s so you could do your marbling with NEON! COLORS!) I was irate for the longest time that my mom wouldn't let me get a kit. The fad passed as quickly as it had arrived and we all moved on to slap bracelets, but I've always sort-of wanted to try it since then, and I always get a kick out of seeing books or stationery with marbling, even really impractical stationery that's marbled too dark to actually write on. It was one of the very few junior high fads that appealed to a bookish child like me (well, also Flowers in the Attic but that was a very under-the-table, girls-only fad) -- other fads included multiply-stacked fluorescent slouch socks (meh), tight-rolled jeans (obvs I had a great tight roll but hardly appealing; just a good life skill), making friendship bracelets (fun, but a waste of thread I could be embroidering with!), that plastic weaving stuff you do at camp (meh), The Beatles (yay!), the Sword of Shannara (confusing as to its fad status, but yay!), slap bracelets, Esprit bags to ruin your back .... Anyway suddenly everyone was marbling paper and turning in assignments on marbled paper. It was all very bizarre and seeing this throws me right back into that time.

I may be admiring the "examples" page forever!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:07 PM on August 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

This was offered as a fiber arts elective at my art school. It's insanely easy to set up at home and lends itself well to making gorgeous fabric. Instead of water, the medium I used was very thinned-down agar gel. Much more forgiving for beginners like myself. For colors, I used (rather toxic) acid dyes because I was working with silk, but I would imagine there are nontoxic alternatives these days. And it's like magic how the colors lift off the medium and onto the silk at the end.
Marbling is so pretty it's practically impossible to screw up!
posted by memewit at 10:59 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's something that makes me chuckle about the idea of archiving for future generations the odious words of the assorted Paul Rands and Todd Akins of this world using the finest craftsmanship and materials.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:37 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

(I of course meant Rand Paul, ahem.)
posted by Rhomboid at 11:38 PM on August 25, 2012

So beautiful to watch!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:12 AM on August 26, 2012


Incidentally, Ebru is also a quite popular female Turkish given name, as can be quickly confirmed by a Google image search.
posted by sour cream at 4:07 AM on August 26, 2012

I did this with vector drawings so I could make end papers for an electronic book. It was fun learning how it was done traditionally, and then replicating that vectorly. My stuff wasn't as nice or as fluid.
posted by b33j at 5:57 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

In the field of book collecting, paper collecting, bookbinding and marbling, ebru is actually used to refer specifically to the flower like pattern seen in the second link. There are many more patterns, and plenty of people still do this today! The Marblers Apprentice in New Hampshire focuses on nineteenth century European patterns and markets them specifically toward bookbinders and conservators trying to match an historic pattern.

You can find more examples here (although ignore the paste paper at the bottom, that's a different post) and here.

One of my favorite artists in marbling is Karli Frigge, and the folks I learned marbling from at Chena River Marblers make most of their money from marbling silk ties and scarves and not the paper they sell.
posted by clockbound at 7:28 AM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Roumi !
posted by peacay at 8:04 AM on August 26, 2012

I just looked at the nail polish one, and realized that while I won't do my nails that way, maybe it would be a cool variation to use for jewelry coatings.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:05 AM on August 26, 2012

Thank you! I badly want to try this, but fear how very quickly it will turn into MARBLE ALL THE THINGS.
posted by mimi at 8:21 AM on August 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I did this in middle school as part of the Young Authors program. A bookmaker came in and taught us how to do this (a similar Japanese marbling technique called suminagashi), and how to print our books as signatures and bind our own hardcover books. It was a fascinating experience. I tried it again a few years ago, making holiday cards, and it was even more fun than the first time.
posted by xedrik at 9:47 AM on August 26, 2012

Terrific post, thanks.
posted by theora55 at 10:29 AM on August 26, 2012

I'm a professional book & document conservator, and part of my training included the study and creation of decorated papers - including marbled papers.

It's such an interesting craft that I fell very much in love with it, and became one of the noteworthy artisans in the field during the 1990s. As a result, I was included for selection in this book: "Design and Pattern in Decorated Papers: Wet & Dry Techniques." You can see an image of me marbling paper on my professional site.

There are some images of Ebru by the very talented Norma Rubovits in this blog post and on this FB album. The Newberry Library did a show of her work two years ago, and they have a substantial collection of her marbled paper in their collection (as well as having some of mine.)

Some references for those who may be interested in trying marbling on their own:

"Practical Guide to Marbling Paper" by Anne Chambers

"Paper Pleasures: The Creative Guide to Papercraft" by Faith Shannon

It's been the better part of a decade since I did any marbling, but I keep thinking that I need to drag the equipment out and have some fun with it one of these days.
posted by Shadan7 at 11:56 AM on August 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

Wonderful post! I've tried nail marbling a few times (messy but oh-so-fun, the results vary from so-so to amazing). I never actually knew that the paper technique was so similar! Beautiful to watch.
posted by Gordafarin at 2:53 PM on August 26, 2012

Sumanigashi, as mentioned by xedrik
posted by Chrischris at 3:27 PM on August 26, 2012

Also related - Decorated Paper. Exactly two years ago, to the day!
posted by unliteral at 5:59 PM on August 26, 2012

"[Y]ou will no more be able to penetrate the moral of the next marbled page (motley emblem of my work!) than the world with all its sagacity has been able to unravel the many opinions, transactions, and truths which still lie mystically hid under the dark veil of the black one."

Tristram Shandy -- for a while, every copy of the third volume was unique.
posted by holgate at 9:03 PM on August 26, 2012

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