Years ago, while traveling through China, we watched an artist dropping paints into a tray of water and using tools to draw them into incredibly detailed and complex paintings, preserved on the paper he laid across them. The art of water marbling has been known in the East since somewhere in the 10th-12th centuries. The Japanese art of suminagashi, or floating ink, involved dropping ink onto water and blowing or fanning it into patterns. In the 15th century in the Ottoman Empire, ebru, meaning cloud art, floated oil or gouache paints on thickened water to create marbled patterns.
Marbling spread to Western Europe in the Renaissance and marblers became highly sought after artists who formed guilds and closely guarded their secrets. Marbled papers were used for important documents because they were almost impossible to forge. The edges of ledgers were dipped in marbling so pages could not be removed without notice. The end papers of books soon began to be almost exclusively marbled paper. English bookbinders had to import marbled papers through the Netherlands for many years. The techniques were kept secret until 1853 when Charles Woolnough published his book, The whole art of marbling, to the fury of his fellow marblers.
Marbling declined as books began to be machine-produced, but has had a recent resurgence as an artisanal craft, used for art prints, hand-bound books, lampshades, and even textiles.
The Water Marbling Crate Contains:
Instructions and Patterns
Water-based Paints – Make marbled designs with 6ml each of twelve different colors.
Marbling Tray – This is your work surface.
Painting Liquid & Powder – Plant-based, thickens water so paint floats.
Art Paper, size A5 – To preserve the final designs.
Painting Tools – For manipulating the paint to make patterns: plastic needles, multi-use comb, pipettes.
Display Gear – Use these to display your art or gift it or to dip into the marbling paint themselves: wooden tag, wooden clips, jute string.
Subscribe to Craftsman Crate to have one of these amazing crates delivered to your house every month complete with the tools, supplies, and lessons to learn the skills of an artisan! Use Craftsman Crate as a gift, a hobby, or a curriculum – it’s fun, it’s rewarding, and it’s authentic. Click to learn more!