In Which I Marble Paper and Make a Mess of My Kitchen

12:49 PM Posted In Edit This 1 Comment »
Yikes! What is becoming of my summer?

It has been very busy around here with getting GoblinsMarket up and running, feeding my kids, finishing the homeschool year (ya, right!) and trying not to neglect my creative instincts completely. I'm learning a lot about how to manage an online store, how to mail orders quickly, how to manage money online, how to price items, etc... It is good for me but I wake up feeling like I have to hit the ground running and fall into bed late at night aware that there are about 500 things that I didn't get done while I was running.

I'm hoping that I can make lots of money to afford a quicker computer - this one is wonderful and our connection is speedy but the machine itself is old (about 7 years) and is a bit pokey plus the monitor is too small (old, square, energy sucker model) to read a lot of the new webpages.

But you don't want to hear all that. You want to hear about my paper marbling adventures yesterday. What a great day it was - even though I had to throw a bit of a hissy fit about not being able to find and clothespins for half an hour in the morning. Marbling paper is fun and simple but it does take some practice to get good results and there are some practical safety considerations. When I say good results, I mean paper that has a smoothly marbled surface with no white spots from bubbles, gaps in the application or streaking from uneven placement.

Here's what I know:

First, you need a size - or a liquid that you can float your paint on. There are many options available but I use Methylcellulose. Methylcellulose is a very fine powdery substance that is commonly used as a food additive for stuff like ice cream or other things that need to stay gooey. It is safe to eat in ice cream but it is not safe to inhale.

Let me say that again.

It is NOT safe to inhale. this stuff could clog up your sinuses and cause you to suffocate. Wear a Mask when you work with the dry powder! It is also listed as an explosive because if you open your bag near a flame and some of it puffs out, it can ignite like a little explosion. Scary. No candles!

To create the size, you gently and gradually stir one ounce of Methylcellulose into a tray containing one gallon of cold water. Then you add 1 tsp of non-sudsing, clear household ammonia and wait 20 minutes. After 20 minutes are up, stir the size gently again and it is ready to use. I use a shallow dishpan. I know that I would have better results with a wider, shallower tray and would be able to do larger sheets of paper, but I haven't felt like making that investment yet.

The next thing you will need is paper ready to be marbled. To prepare your paper, you need to mix 1 Tablespoon alum with 1 cup cold water and brush it onto one side only of several sheets of paper and let it dry. I place a little "B" on the non-alum side (or Back) of the paper so that I will know which side to marble. When the paper is dry, iron it flat to avoid wrinkles and bubbles in your marbling. i get both my alum and my Methylcellolose from ProChemical & Dye.

Now you need paint that will float and disperse on your paper. I have had tolerably acceptable results with plain old craft paint watered down to the consistency of cream. Liquitex soft body acrylics also work fairly well if watered down. Different colors will yield different results and you will quickly discover which ones will work and which don't work as well. Yesterday I used chroma airbrush colors. The interference colors were amazing! They dispersed well and left the paper all shimmery . Very cool.

The last thing you will need are some combs. You can buy expensive, fancy combs or you can make our own by taping toothpicks at regular intervals between two pieces of cardstock. These work just fine and are quick and inexpensive to replace when they get gunky. You want to make at least one comb that is almost as wide as your tray so you can make rake in one single, smooth motion along the entire length of your size and you will want some that are shorter so that you can wobble the comb back and forth to create ripples.

You'll also want some newspaper, a trash can, strings or laundry line to hang the finished paper on, clothespins, a bucket of clear water or a nearby sink with a sprayer and some time to get messy. Some Van Morrison helps, too.

Now you are ready to experiment! Here's the procedure - sprinkle little bits of your paint onto the surface of the size, let the colors spread, rake them back and forth or swirl them with a single toothpick or, if you like the blobby globule look (which I do) you can just use it as is. Once you are happy with your paint, Lay your paper carefully on the surface of the size, alum side down and lift it off again. Rinse the excess goo from the paper and hang it to dry. You will get better at placing the paper after you have made several attempts. My experience is that even with the most dismal prints, there is always enough good marbling to make a bookmark or a small note card. There are great instructions and some historical information to be found on The Ancient Art of Marbling website

Once your paper is dry, iron it again and it is ready to use.


Living in Luxembourg said...

Maybe you have already tried it but I thought I'd share another way to make marbled paper. Put a large dallop of shaving cream on a plate, drop a few different colors of ink (I use ink pad reinkers) onto the shaving cream. Swirl as much or as little as you want although swirling too much can make you lose your distinct marble effect. Lay your paper on the shaving cream making sure to cover it all over, lift it off, wipe it off with a paper towel and you're done. It probably works better for smaller pieces of paper. I've also reversed it by taking a knife and smearing the shaving cream on the paper once I'd put the ink in it. Works just as well and covers the paper more easily. Overall it's cheap, little investment, and the paper smells good too!! I love the marbled look.

Jocelyn Duffort
Living in Luxembourg

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