Custom marbled paper is an old art form which remained relatively unknown for centuries. First found during the Ming dynasty in China, marbled paper was said to represent the flow of Vital energy. At that time, common writing paper was colorfully dyed with tree saps but mainly to prevent insects from eating it. Over time, artisans began decorating paper for purely artistic reasons.
As trade routes opened, custom marbled papers migrated from Asia to book binders in Europe. Travelers to Turkey, Persia and the Near East delighted in the varied patterns and colors found in marbled papers and sent home samples. Collectors felt the “colored and veined” papers possessed mysterious and even magical qualities, a sentiment still held today. Originally held in strict secrecy, the formulas for making marbled paper were closely guarded.
In time, a true marbling technique, where layers of paint are floated on water, replaced dyed paper, and the techniques and materials were shared widely. The floating patterns, printed on large sheets of paper, were trimmed for a myriad of uses. Later, Japanese artisans developed a simplified paper marbling technique called suminagashi. Suminagashi means ‘floating ink’. The circular patterned papers made with blue and black ink are still highly prized.
Marbled Paper In The Modern Era
Over the years, as bookbinding techniques were streamlined and industrialized, hand marblers were no longer highly valued. The last generation of commercially viable hand marblers practiced til about the middle of the 19th century. Custom marbled paper survives to this day but just barely. Currently, both paper marbling and book binding are considered critically endangered crafts. In the last 50 years, we’ve witnessed a revival in both arts. Bookbinders still feature custom marbled papers on book covers and as end sheets to beautiful effect. It should be noted, moreover, very few binders make custom marbled papers for an individual client as is offered at Azalea Bindery.
Luckily for those interested in the craft, a cadre of marblers remain in business today. We learn the most about our craft by studying samples that survive in thousands of books in Asian, European and American libraries. There’s a great desire among those of us practicing the craft of paper marbling to share our skills. This effort allows books binders to continue to embellish their best work with this beautiful tradition of the past.
Making Marbled Paper at Azalea Bindery
The process begins by filling a large shallow tray with thickened water then lightly dropping paints on the bath with a whisk or small dropper. The paints fall in droplets which spread across the bath. The result is a Stone patterned marbled paper, named because the circular shapes partitioned by veins resemble the stone, marble. The Stone pattern can be printed as is or rakes and combs can be drawn across the bath to create any of 50 classical marbling patterns. The final design is printed on archival paper and hung on a clothesline to dry. Then, the newly marbled papers are put under weight for several days to become perfectly flat once again. Voila!
Although many types of paint can be used, Azalea Bindery uses acrylic and watercolor paints. Marbled paper made with acrylic paint is bright, solid, and robust in appearance. Watercolor paint appears softer and subtler giving these papers an old world feel. We can create custom color palettes to match the mood of your piece whether it’s used to enhance the cover of a baby book or the end sheets of an old family bible.
Why Use Our Marbled Paper in Your Book, Album, or Box?
Handmade marbled paper uses include greeting cards, framing, and collage. However, their traditional inspiration and purpose is to enhance the beauty of handmade books, albums and boxes, a specialty at Azalea Bindery. Very few book binderies offer to create custom marbled papers for an individual project. The expertise involved in mastering the art form can be daunting. Every custom paper marbler possesses a rare and hard won skill.
Our custom marbled paper is available in full or half sheets, for book, album, frame, and box covers, and end sheets. This is a classic pairing of book and paper arts. We can marble identical sheets in a volume sufficient to meet any order. By blending colors and patterns, we can create your desired aesthetic. The result is original, unique and highly prized. Imagine the organic nature of flowing paint delicately moving across a pool of water. The subtle, rich patterns that emerge are magical.
Are Other Custom Decorative Papers Available?
Thousands of different decorative and art papers are available these days. Perhaps you already have paper on hand you’d like to use in your book? Azalea Bindery can source handmade botanical papers, natural dyed paper, Japanese rice paper, Italian Letterpress paper, and many more selections. We always keep a supply on hand of art papers in white, ivory and black. We source these from noted manufacturers, Arches, Ingres, and Hahnemuhle. These elegant papers work exceedingly well for plain text pages and end sheets.
Available Products in Our Marbled Paper Line
Custom Marbled Paper Book Covers
Custom Marbled Paper Album Covers
Custom Marbled Paper Photo Frames
Custom Marbled Paper Note Pads & Portfolios
Custom Marbled Paper Print & Presentation Boxes
Custom Marbled Paper End Sheets
Decorative Printed Paper End Sheets
Custom Full Sheet Marbled Paper, 19 x 24
Custom Half Sheet Marbled Paper, 9.5 x 24