Re: [Marbling] Beware = Being Aware....
- Dear Marbling Enthusiasts...
I agree that someone who has just learned how to marble should not go out
and offer their services as a marbler instructor. It takes quite of bit of
experience to pass on the art of marbling. The biggest asset is knowing
what to do when things "just don't work" and how to correct and solve the
numerous marbling quirks.
I also have been fascinated by the history of marbling as much as the
execution itself. When I first started (1976) there was next to nothing
written about the process, no "how-to" books available. You learned from
someone else and then tried to perfect the methods yourself. I was
fortunate enough to be working in a college library and had access to inter
library loans. I borrowed every book I could find (there weren't many) and
one that had been written in the 1800's gave a recipe for oxgall. I can't
remember the exact quote, but it started with the statement that "you should
find yourself a friendly butcher who would save you the gall bladder of a
recently butchered steer..." I could just see me going into my local
Safeway store and making such a request!
This brings up the next point. How authentic do we need to be to preserve
the true art of marbling? For years I boiled and strained Irish Moss to
make my size. Authentic, yes, but straining through panty hose (very
effective, by the way) is hardly historically correct! Needless to say,
once blender carrageen became available I never boiled another batch of
Irish Moss. Early marblers grinded their own pigments, I purchase marbling
inks already made. I also use acrylics, which are not historically correct.
If someone out there wishes to make their own colors, there is a store in
San Francisco which sells pure pigments. You can view their web site at
In 1984 I was in London and went to the Victoria and Albert Musuem. In
their rare book department they had listed marbled papers from Douglas
Cockerell. I asked if I could see them, and was surprised when I was given
permission. All I had to do was provide identification. For some reason my
California driver's license was sufficient! Anyway, they brought out a box
with about 10 samples. At first I was disappointed because the colors were
so dull, as compared with current marbling. But then I realized I was
holding history in my hands and was a bit overwhelmed. It was at this point
in time I began to appreciate the traditional marbling patterns and not be
dazzeled by the wild colors and abstract marbling patterns that some people
do. These modern patterns have their place, and I appreciate their
creativity, but I am still drawn to the traditional. I love creative
marbling, I just hope that the traditional will always be around as well.
It was also on this trip that I contacted Sydney Cockerell and he generously
allowed me to visit him at his home/studio outside of Cambridge. I was
still rather new to marbling and didn't realize what an honor was bestowed
upon me. I watched one of his assistants marbling (the French Boquet
pattern) and afterwards I bought a set of his marbing inks and he personally
wrote up the receipt, which I still have (I keep meaning to frame it!).
Well, I'll get off my soap box for now. I'm glad we have this forum to vent
- Thanks for the post, Dolores.....I too remember those days. I had NO ONE to
teach me in 1978 and would have appreciated ANY instruction no matter how
crude. I had a xerox of that same book,(think it was Woolnough) and DID go
to my local butcher and got a quart of bile....he thought I was mad!
I nearly blew up the bottle of gall ....it builds up gases, and the load
pop I heard when I opened the jar two weeks later, not to mention the
stink....well, just a funny memory now.
I get my best Stormont using plastic sqeeze bottles....very traditional,
right? To give them up would be like going from a washing machine back to a
scrub board. The old timers would have jumped at the chance to have our
modern materials and methods.
The part of maintaining tradition I do feel is important, is to arrive at
the same look, as closely as possible, not matter how you get there. The
old papers were amazing....and my main thing is the period from the 1600's
though late 19th century. I come to this from a love ob books, so what was
seen on the bindings is my orientation. I do artwork too with marbling, but
just love getting the room filled with papers that look like the 1820's.
The bulk of my work is recreating these papers for book restorers, matching
as well as possible, the old papers.