The technique of marbling involves sprinkling or dribbling paints on a ‘marbling ground’ which consists of water with an additive to increase viscosity. Formerly natural ingredients were used like Irish moss, carrageen or tragacanth gum, but nowadays also synthetic ingredients are used. Spread agents are added to the paints to decrease the surface tension, so that the paint does not sink to the bottom of the tank, but spreads over the surface of the marbling ground. In the past ox gall, saponified methylated spirit and alcohol were used as spread agents, but nowadays synthetic products are also available for this purpose.
The patterns arising from the sprinkling of paints on the marbling ground resemble the rock structures in nature, hence the overall name of marbles. It is also possible to work on the spontaneously formed pattern, by drawing a small stick or comb through it. Another possibility is adding other chemicals besides the spread agents to the paints, which create special effects when the paints react with the marbling ground. Finally the paint pattern on the marbling ground is transferred to paper by carefully putting a sheet of paper on the surface and allowing it to absorb the paint.
The Dutch bookbinder Karli Frigge makes marbled paper for her own use, for other bookbinders and for collectors of decorated paper. For marbled papers that are used and not only collected she uses classical, combed, marbled patterns. All her marbled paper is characterized by a sophisticated use of colours and colour combinations. The marbled paper reproduced here is part of a volume of Codex Purpurus, a series of workbooks, bound by herself in purple vellum, in which she has described the marbled patterns she made, her experiments with colour and the technical details. As only original marbled papers are used the volumes appear in very limited editions.
Marbled paper with ‘wave’ pattern in red, yellow and black.Karli Frigge. 210 x 195 mm. Codex Purpurus, volume IX: De Pauwstaartmarmers, 1992. PC SIEMA FR107