The Art of the Marbler: An Enchanting Film on the Centuries-Old Craft of Making Handmade Marbled Paper

The cur­rent mode of scan­dal in busi­ness and pol­i­tics involves email and tweets rather than mem­o­ran­da. But we do not yet live a paper­less world, even if you haven’t dust­ed your print­er in months. Book pro­duc­tion and sales con­tin­ue to rise, for exam­ple, defy­ing pre­dic­tions of a few years back that eBooks would over­take print. Even if we have to some­day make paper in lab­o­ra­to­ries rather than forests and mills, it’s hard to imag­ine read­ers ever let­ting go of the plea­sures of its tex­tures and smells, or of sim­ple, yet sat­is­fy­ing acts like plac­ing a favorite paper book­mark in the creas­es.

We do, how­ev­er, seem to live in a large­ly sta­tion­ary-less world, and we have for some time. As the fine art of mak­ing arti­sanal papers recedes into his­to­ry, so too does the print­ing of books with mar­bled cov­ers and pages.

Yet, if you have on your shelf hard­back books any­where from 30 to 130 years old, you no doubt have a few with mar­bled pat­terns on them or in them. And if you’ve ever won­dered about this strange art form, won­der no more. The 1970 British edu­ca­tion­al film, “The Art of the Mar­bler,” above, offers a broad overview of this fas­ci­nat­ing “mate­r­i­al which has cov­ered books for many cen­turies.”

Pro­duced by Bed­ford­shire Record Office of Cock­erell Mar­bling and direct­ed by K.V. Whit­bread, the short film is a mar­vel of quaint­ness. It effort­less­ly achieves the kind of quirk Wes Anderson’s films strive for sim­ply by being itself. We learn that every mar­bled paper, unlike Christ­mas wrap­ping paper, is a “sep­a­rate and unique orig­i­nal.” And that the process is pre­cious and spe­cial­ized, and near­ly all done by hand. Lest we become too enam­ored of the idea that mar­bling is strict­ly a his­tor­i­cal curios­i­ty these days, the mes­mer­iz­ing video above from 2011 by Sey­it Uygur shows us up close how his par­ents per­form the art of Ebru, Turk­ish for paper mar­bling.

Mar­bling, the “print­mak­ing tech­nique that basi­cal­ly looks like cap­tur­ing a galaxy on a page,” as Emma Dajs­ka writes at Rook­ie, became quite pop­u­lar in the Islam­ic world, where intri­cate pat­terns stood in lieu of por­traits. But the process orig­i­nat­ed nei­ther in Eng­land nor Turkey, but in Chi­na and, lat­er, Japan, where it is known as Sum­i­na­gashi, or “float­ing ink.” The Japan­ese tech­nique, as you can see in the video tuto­r­i­al above from Chrys­tal Shaulis, is very dif­fer­ent from British Mar­bling or Turk­ish Ebru, seem­ing to com­bine the meth­ods of Jack­son Pol­lack with those of the Zen gar­den­er. How­ev­er it’s done, the results, as “The Art of the Mar­bler” tells and shows us, are each one a “unique orig­i­nal.”

“The Art of the Mar­bler” will be added to our list of Free Doc­u­men­taries, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Mak­ing of Japan­ese Hand­made Paper: A Short Film Doc­u­ments an 800-Year-Old Tra­di­tion

The Art of Col­lo­type: See a Near Extinct Print­ing Tech­nique, as Lov­ing­ly Prac­ticed by a Japan­ese Mas­ter Crafts­man

How Ink is Made: The Process Revealed in a Mouth-Water­ing Video

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.