Saturday, November 28, 2009

marbling marvels

I've been trying to gather together a few moments to write a fitting post of my time spent in a marbling workshop with the delightful Joan Ajala last weekend (but it's been one of those weeks....)

(my favourite marbled paper from the w.e. -
joan called this pattern 'flame' - and in margo's pattern book it was named 'wavy dutch cockerel')

I did a quick think and realised that its been almost 15 years since I spent a glorious week studying watercolour marbling with Margo Snape (where HAS that time gone?!!!) I always had visions that I'd hopefully continue to fiddle with marbling from the comforts of my rustic little Sams Creek studio – but the reality has been that I've had difficulty finding the resources, confidence or time to have a go.

So I was peachy-keen to really throw myself at the opportunity to spend a weekend reconnecting with the craft

The workshop has held in the small but sweet headquarters of the NSW Guild of Craft Bookbinders which shares space with the NSW Writers Guild in the parkland grounds of Rozelle hospital. It's a funny space – and I was strangely always aware of its past history as a psychiatric hospital (the staircases gave me the heebie-jeebies!)

In the Ralph Lewis Bindery, where we set up our trays, we were surrounded by all the paraphernalia of bookbinding – bookcloth, millboard, presses, type, letterpress.... I wish I could have had a really good look around....

(from my little corner of the room - there were many distractions!)

Oops – mind on the job Ronnie!

Apart from gaining access to specialist equipment the other (and greater) advantage of attending the workshop was gaining access to Joan's wealth of experience – and the first thing I noticed (after I stopped eyeing off all the booky stuff) was a magnificent booklet that had been produced for all the workshop participants – pages and pages of notes (paints, size, patterns, suppliers...) it is without doubt the BEST handout I've ever seen!

(paints and whisks... ready to go!)

Oops get the mind on the job – don't get distracted by the good looking notes

My marbling partner for the weekend was our ASC Guild Secretary, Vicki – and I couldn't have picked a better person to team up with – we rather quickly developed a supportive rhythm

There was only one fly in the ointment of a wonderful weekend of marbling:

The Weather

I've got to tell you right now the weather last weekend in Sydney was appalling – I mean really really really really YUCK! It was horribly hot (in excess of 40 degrees in parts of the city) Marbling in hot weather is NOT ideal – aside from almost dying of dehydration there's all the technical hassles....

our alum water kept evaporating …. our paints kept evaporating... our size kept evaporating.... our alumed papers kept drying out and buckling (despite that they were stacked under boards) and this made them crispy dry (not great for trying to smoothly lay in a marbling tray)... our completed marbled papers dried as we tried to hang them on the line..... whine whine whine...

still, when I watched Joan in action all this seemed also to evaporate!

(laying paint on the size with the whisk)

(using the 1/4" comb - first combing)

(2" bouquet comb pulled in a zig-zag motion)

(behold the results! - rinsing the marbled sheet)

Ooooo and to top off a wonderful w.e. My dear friend Julie (who graciously gave me a bed and delicious food for my visit) sent me home with her marbling tray, rinse board and combs.... I see marbled papers at last being created at Sams Creek.....

stay tuned....


  1. Hang on a minute while I get a napkin....ok, drool mopped up now!
    Weather aside, that must have been a fantastic time, Ronnie.And I may be wrong, but the teeth on the comb look like those spikes we used to hold our hair curlers!(reaches for napkin again...)

  2. well spotted! the green spikes of the combs ARE indeed hair roller pins! - apparently they are perfect for the big combs - the little combs use insect pins (but Joan prefers the tines on these to be a little heavier weight than insect pins.....)

    All the combs were made by a very dedicated calligrapher/bookbinder - Glenda.... as was the printed booklet - and I reckon her blood's worth bottling!

  3. WOW! That looks like SO much fun! Note to self: try marbling. I'm looking forward to seeing more of this in due course. Glad I wasn't working in that heat... Sara

  4. Envy, envy, envy! Seeing those photos made me wonder why I didn't put my name down for the workshop. If you were going to be in Sydney suffering the heat then being in a marbling workshop has to be as good way as any to take your mind off it.

  5. Lucky girl....and beautiful paper. Thanks for sharing. Cheers Jane A


thanks for all your lovely comments - your words are greatly appreciated xx