I’ve always been passionate about marbled and hand-printed papers: I can vividly recall attempts to transport multiple rolls of the stuff intact in an over-stuffed rucksack on my very first trips to Italy two decades ago (yes, others brought back wine, I brought back sheets of paper). Back then, I would painstakingly cover sketchbooks, photo albums, boxes etc. with the least crumpled bits of my treasures once I’d returned home; these days, I send them off to bookbinder and marbler Christopher Rowlatt to be made up into gorgeous sketchbooks to my own spec or simply buy my art books from his range of hand-marbled cartridge paper filled works of art. Whilst I still have a compulsion for buying other kinds of sketchbooks whenever something catches my eye, they remain largely unused as I just love these marble-covered books and fill one after another with my sketches.
One of my all-time favourite marblers is Jemma Lewis who has a marbling studio down in Wiltshire where she is busily pushing the boundaries of what the skill can be used for and with an ever broadening range of base papers and finishes. From her Spring Newsletter, I have learned about a number of recent projects that she has undertaken, one of which was to design a poster for the Leeds Print Festival which involved the text of the poster being printed to a sheet of marbling paper before it was marbled to reveal the resist print beneath: you can watch a video, here, of how this was done. Another project saw one her marbles being used as a headboard by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen for the “This Morning” programme, which just goes to show how versatile marbling can be!
I, for one, have been using marbled paper and other hand-made prints in my home interior for years: here are a couple of lampshades that I covered some time ago using paper brought back from Venice. The more muted marble patterns work well in a living space such as mine which is straddled somewhere between vintage and contemporary, injecting something of the smoky essence of a reading room from a bygone era to any scheme where books are a feature, as they are in my home. The second paper mimics the Piazzetta facade of the Doges Palace – the strong monochrome reproduction of the gothic loggia works perfectly in my living environment amidst a variety of other textiles and colours. Both lampshades were straightforward to make, starting from bog-standard fabric shades and using water-based glue (to avoid creating a fire-hazard!) to attach the paper. The resulting lampshades have provided me with years of enjoyment in a way that I doubt anything mass-produced for the high street would have done and I find my eyes are constantly drawn to the pattern in these papers and the multitude of other marbled books that are strewn around my living space because they really are a thing of beauty.
At heart, I’m basically an avid collector of these unique and beautiful sheets of paper which, for the most part, are intended for some future project or other that is yet to be conceived; and, frankly, it matters not to me whether I have anything particular in mind when I add them to my collection as I just have to have them! Here’s a selection I brought back from Florence last year – two of which are probably destined to be used to cover a large portfolio for storage of my drawings and Limited Edition Prints. Below are two complimentary papers in neon brights sourced from Marbled Goods on Etsy and which came to me all the way from Indiana – the sheets are much smaller than average but they are sooo stunning that I expect to have them made up into a sketchbook (one design front, one on the back) very soon. The neon colours of these give them a slightly more contemporary feel but I, personally, regard all marble patterning to be as contemporary and fresh today as it has ever been and it is great to see it regaining some popularity and exposure.