While this may look like yet another hobby it is, in fact, ancillary to one of my main hobbies, which is medieval islamic bookbinding (hey – I do have some normal hobbies, like knitting and comic books). I’ve been working for a while on recreating the Islamic classical codex, more specifically Turkish book bindings. Through my research, I have also learned that the Turks were (and still are) very accomplished paper marblers, and often used these papers as end sheets in their books. While I wait on some sources on leather gilding and stamping, I am learning marbling.
Which is sort of the truth, but the real truth is that the CG knows how to do it, and had this great idea about Apprentice Day (TM), and since none of us were organized enough (or brave enough) to teach the first one, we tapped her, as organizer and general arts-guru. Mostly that meant that we asked for paper marbling, because it is the least intimidating of the things she knows how to do.
Anyway. On Saturday we mordanted a whole sheaf of paper with alum, then let it dry a little, and then I did some frantic house-cleaning, and then Sunday the CG brought all her nifty tools over. We quickly learned two things: (1) marbling is AWESOME (2) remember to stir the alum as you mordant your paper.
Marbling is a task in which it is easy to achieve mediocrity. Behold, my first paper:
See? Looks fairly professional. Is vibrant. Hooray! And in actuality, all the patterns we made were like this; lovely, skillful, sharp. That is, until we put them on the paper. We discovered that the alum settled as we mordanted, and so the papers on the top of the stack, which we did last, were far better mordanted than the papers at the bottom. As we went through the stack, the paint began to rinse right off the paper, or be left in the marbling trays, leaving us with things like this:
Which, while blurry from the camera, is actually also blurry from some of the paint soaking into the paper and some washing right off, as though we didn’t use any alum at all. Behold the others:
Not too bad, and you can see the spots where the paper was prepared correctly. The rest looks like what happens if you lay the paper on the ink untreated-side-down.
The very last one I did worked well, too:
Ultimately, this has given me a sort of stubborn resolve, and I will be working on perfecting this later. We had some Dye-Na-Flow paints that worked well, so I forsee yet another art supply trip in my future, to procure marbling stuffs.
And if you’re B, one of the ladies learning this? Well, you have the unfortunate luck of finding the perfectly mordanted papers in the stack, never having problems with paint sticking, and having your fellow marblers sort of loathe you in a good-natured way for the duration of the workshop. Seriously, though – she’s sweet and only probably sacrificed a couple of goats for her bizarre good fortune.
T didn’t have any better luck than I did, which made me secretly happy in a sick, malicious sort of way. She’s such a good friend.
(And the day before? With the alum? I had put on a sari because the party was an SCA thing, and therefore a place where it is not weird to wear a sari. I spent a good half hour ironing and pleating and draping and re-pleating, and got the sari just right, and then the CG called and said that we were aluming, so I should not wear nice clothes. I took a photo of the lovely, perfect sari before putting on jeans: