Marbling on paper and silk

About four years ago I did an evening workshop on marbling paper. It was fun but the results were not fantastic. So I thought I’d give it another go on a three-day workshop at City Lit with Royston Haward.

marbled paper

We started by learning about the history of marbling and saw examples of different patterns.

Then we started to get our hands dirty with suminagashi, a marbling technique used in Japan. This uses sumi calligraphy ink or other permanent inks, just floating on water, no size. These are some of the small samples I did.

suminagashi samples

We also tried it on rice paper.

suminagashi on rice paper

And I’d read that it works on silk too, so I took some unmordanted fine habotai silk in to try – it worked beautifully.

suminagashi on silk suminagashi on silk suminagashi on silk

Then we moved on to Western marbling. Unlike suminagashi, this mixes carrageen moss (a kind of seaweed) with the water to thicken it and support the colour. Patterns are created with toothpicks, combs or spatulas – sometimes a combination.

We tried with acrylics and gouache – most people seemed to get better results with gouache. The colour of the paper also affected the final result. Below are some combed patterns.

Below left is another combed pattern; on the right is a freeform pattern.

Below left is an antique straight pattern; right is a freeform pattern.

Below left is Spanish Moire pattern, made by rocking the paper as you place it on the size – close up it looks like folds of fabric. On the right is Italian pattern (nearly! – I should have added more wetting agent).

Below left is ghost marbling – one pattern marbled on top of another. On the right is a combed pattern.

I did have a go at marbling silk with gouache, but this came out very faint. It may have been better if I’d mordanted the silk first. (Paper for marbling requires mordanting with alum, unlike suminagashi.)

We also learnt how to make our own brushes and combs, as well as about polishing the paper afterwards, so it was a busy three days!

I have since washed the suminagashi silk and the pattern remains very clear. Could be another new product line? 😉

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Flextiles

Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

11 thoughts on “Marbling on paper and silk”

  1. I love the patterns you created. Amazing results of your experimentation. Yes, definitely a new product line. The question is, I think, finding a container long enough to fit in a silk scarf!

    1. Funny you should mention that Doris – I’ve just spent the morning trying to find long narrow trays online! But I also think I would need at least one extra pair of hands to help lay the fabric down. 😉

  2. Ooooh they are gorgeous. I had exactly the same experience trying to do it at home by myself. Looks like you’ve mastered it!

  3. Great results Kim! My friend does a lot of marbling and had to have her trays built specifically for scarves. And four hands is definitely a must. I had never heard of the Spanish Moire pattern, very interesting.

  4. Kim, I’m glad you enjoyed the marbling. I haven’t done it for a couple of years but it is great fun creating formal and informal patterns. I love your Moiré pattern I’ve never created this repeated fold design only a single fold as a ‘mistake’.
    Have you thought about the long trays used for multiple potted plants, sold in garden centres….probably still not the right size for a scarf but worth a look perhaps.

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