Teaching Astrophysics with marbling art? Why Not?

Ebru is a wonderful medium to teach children different executive function skills.  Patience (sustained attention), precision, planning ahead and following instructions are some of them. Especially in the fast paced technology age, children rarely slow down to focus on the task at hand. When you do water marbling, the process allows you to see the direct consequences of your actions. If you are too harsh at sprinkling the paint on the surface, the paint falls on the water too fast and it immediately sinks to the bottom without being able to float and spread.  Then you won’t be able to manipulate the paint. Apparently, there is more to ebru than teaching soft skills. I came across with a study where water marbling was used to teach children about Astrophysics.  Here is the summary of the study conducted by N. Yigit and M.S. Bulbul.

They believe that there is a connection between art and science and marbling technique serves as a great medium to model how galaxies or block-holes formed in the universe.  This study is carried out to transfer ebru art to the
area of physics education. They teach that topic visually by using ebru art. Stars take shape with slack dispersion of nebulas through intensification with the effect of gravity. First they took some images to illustrate the similarities between marbling art images
and real photos of the formation of galaxies, galactic black holes, galaxies helical construction and nebulas. They say, one of the reasons for the similarity between these is the mechanism of Ebru. Due to use of water, dye spreads like free movements of clouds. Creating images of galaxies which have been formed in billion years, in the ebru pool helps students to learn it through hands on experience.

In their activity in order to obtain nebula figures, they dropped the paints randomly on to the water and spread them by using some tools. To obtain helical galaxies , they dropped the paints inside one another and moved from the centre towards outside to make helical shape in a way that all drops came to each others’ centre. After that they created a whirlpool in the centre using the stylus.  The mix of the paints creates a dark shade of black colour at the centre color and this is used to describe the black holes of galaxies. The densest place in a galaxy is the centre of it. Black holes are also very dense astrophysical objects. What shapes galaxies are size of black holes and their rotation. Therefore, the modelling provides you a great opportunity to discuss all these topics and illustrate them on the aquous surface where you have little control on the result just like the outer space conditions without gravity.

I believe teachers can use ebru to teach their students about chemistry, physics and other subjects. It just brings an enthusiasm and excitement to any lesson. 

Beginner’s Kit

If you would like to start Turkish marbling at home, here is a list of materials needed.

An A3 size stainless steel tray. I normally fill the tray with 4 litres of size. It just seems enough to produce around 100 marbled sheets. Of course it depends how much size you take out with the paper each time you marble a sheet. If you are able to scrape the excess size off the paper well while you are pulling your sheet out, you do not finish the size quickly and can make more paper marbling with the size.

1 package of Carrageenan. 1 packet includes 250gr. of extra carrageen powder. It is a very high quality product and gives you the best results when you do Ebru. It dissolves perfectly and does not create any particles that sticks on your paper. I usually use 10grams of carrageen powder for 1 litre of water.

Mineral pigment paints (105cc jar) of various colours. To begin with, you can choose to buy red, green, blue and yellow. They are concentrated and come in a heavy paste/thick cream form.  You need to get only a small amount (i.e. a teaspoon) from them and dilute the paste in a baby food jar. You also need to tune each paint with ox-gall. This is how they get to stay on the surface. Paints contain no acid or casein. The paints last for a reaaallyy long time as they are concentrated.

Ox-gall. Genuine bovine animal gall liquid prepared with traditional method (250 ml). Ox Gall makes the paints float and spread on carrageenan solution. Use Ox gall drop by drop. Store ox gall in the fridge for longer life.

Brushes. They are specifically designed for sprinkling small dots paints on the size. Natural horsehair bound on straighten rose stem.  You need to use a separate brush for each different paint.

Stylus Set : Traditional Ebru Styling tools. Solid metal tips with 6 different thicknesses.

For the guidance about how to get started I recommend you buy Ebru Art Instructions Booklet (17 pages), prepared by me. Booklet is sold separately.

 

When you buy the beginner’s kit, you will probably have enough materials to produce 600-800 sheets before you run out of the carrageenan. Carrageenan will most likely be the first of the supplies that you will run out of as it is perishable. I can tell from experience that by the time you need more supplies, you will be acquired with the basic understanding of the mysterious dynamics between water, ox-gall and paints. Ebru is all about trial and error as the materials are purely natural and highly sensitive to the external factors such as temperature, humidity and cleanness of air. So lots of fine-tuning is needed before it starts to show its mesmerizing beauty to you. But believe me, it is worth it!!!

 

Winter lights festival

2 years ago, Garip Ay and I made a joint application for the Winter Light Festival in Perth.  The festival, which runs in July  transforms Brookfield Place into a journey of art and light comprising a host of eye-catching events and installations. A captivating  and luminous series of projections transform the heritage façade of the Royal Insurance and WA Trustee buildings in sync with a luminaire extraordinaire light display on the adjacent Newspaper House and Perth Technical College. Sadly, our application was not successful at that time. When I saw this project of Garip on the web, I just rememered how wonderful it could be if they accepted our application and we had this on the walls of a historical Perth building.

 

Marbled products

When I was in Australia, I loved op-shopping. It was my favorite activity and I could spend hours there. The pleasure of finding something unique was so exciting. One day, something very funny happened! I had been doing a lot of experiments with the 3-D objects. I bought a bunch of lampshades and I tried to marble them. Some of them ended up well and I sold them online but some of them did not work out that well. The paint smudged or I just could not cover all parts of the lampshade. In the end, I had around 5 marbled lampshades sitting around the house. When my mum came from Turkey to visit me, she started to clean and organize my stuff- just like all Turkish mums-!!! She just could not find a place for those lamp shades. She put them here, she put them there and one day when I came home, they were gone! I did not ask much. I though she stored them in the shed. Couple of weeks later, when I was browsing Salvos which was close to our house, my marbled lampshades were there, right in front of the window!!! They were placed onto the bases and paired up with some lovely vases. Moreover, the price tag on them was much higher than the one that I sold them for. I felt a strange jealousy mixed with pride and happiness. When I came across with this marbled lampshade on the web, I remembered that instance and wanted to share it with you. I really liked the deep blue (lahore indigo) and balanced distribution of the cream drops on the lampshade below. Also, the veins are beautifully made. Well done to the artist!

What is the difference between Turkish and European paper marbling?


The first marbling methods were developed in the East when Chinese and Japanese artists began to decorate paper. The form of marbling that was first discovered by Western travelers to the East, is called “Ebru” paper marbling and was developed in Turkey between the 15th and 16th century during the Golden Age of the Ottoman Empire. Historically, the Turkish stone pattern is the oldest of Western marbled patterns. Scholars maintain that this pattern had reached Europe as early as the 1400’s, although there are no known dated Ebru works. One of the earliest documented sheets of marbled paper dates from 1447 and comes from Turkey (see Historical Book Arts). A well-known Ebru, dated 1539, is in the collection of the Topkapi Palace Museum, and is presented in Arifi’s “Guy-i Cevgan.”

Not many people are aware of the role that Turkish Ebru marbling played in the everyday lives of  Europeans, and later in the Western world. After this form of art was discovered by Europeans in Istanbul (previously Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium) during the 1500’s, the immense contribution that Ebru marbling made to the overall history of the book has often not been fully appreciated, except by individuals who are active in the antiquarian book trade, or involved with research libraries.

Paper historians maintain that European marbling seems to have begun as early as the 16th Century, although Turkish papers were being imported before that time. Because the history of European marbling consists of  individual countries and individual masters, it has been said that “attempting to reconstruct European marbling history is very much like working an old jigsaw puzzle, some of whose pieces are lost, some disfigured, some misplaced, and others still not turned right side up.”* The 1604 German Album Amicorum is one of the earliest known examples of European marbling.

In England, marbling was spurred by travel. In A Relation of a Journey Begun in 1610 by George Sandys, the author describes the marbling process that he observes in Turkey. This book first appeared in 1615. In Sylva Sylvarum published in 1627, Sir Francis Bacon also mentions Turkish paper marbling. Sir Thomas Herbert, a diplomat observed the marbling process in Persia and wrote about Ebru in Some years travels into divers parts of Africa, and Asia the Great: Describing more particularly the empires of Persia and Industan, which first appeared in 1634.

In addition, the unique methods of marbling attracted the curiosity of early scientists during the Renaissance. While the earliest published account was written in German by Daniel Schwenter, it was not published in his Delicæ Physico-Mathematicæ until 1671. A brief description of the art, which rapidly spread throughout Europe, was published in Rome in 1646 by Athanasius Kircher, inArs Magna Lucis et Umbræ. A thorough overview of the art with illustrations of marblers at work, and images of the tools of the trade, was published in the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert. The art became a popular handicraft in the 19th century after the Englishman Charles Woolnough published The Art of Marbling in 1853. The author describes how he adapted a method of marbling onto book-cloth, which he exhibited at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851. Further contributions to the art of marbling were made by Josef Halfer, a bookbinder of German origin, who lived in Budakeszi, Hungary. After the publication of his book Die Fortschritte der Marmorierkunst, translations were made into many languages, and his work reached the U.S. It was Halfer who discovered a method for preserving carrageenan, and his methods superseded earlier ones in Europe and the U.S.

The first book to provide a history of marbled paper in Europe is Decorated Book Papers by Rosamond B. Loring, published in 1942. Loring was a paper scholar, a skilled maker of marbled and paste papers, and a collector. Having trained as a bookbinder, Loring experimented with making decorated papers for her own use and received early instruction in the art of marbling from Charles V. Saflund (a distinguished teacher of marbling and paste paper techniques). Loring’s personal collection now resides at the Rosamond B. Loring Collection of Decorated Papers in the Department of Printing and Graphic Arts at Houghton Library, Harvard University.

It should be noted that other forms of paper decoration include paste papers and printed papers. In the former, binders paste is mixed with color and then paper, or the edges of books are brushed or daubed with paste. Designs in the paste are created by drawing with a tool or a finger through the paste, or using a variety of tools pressed into the paste. (Note: printed papers consist of printed images on paper—the one form that produces papers that are identical. All other processes mentioned above are done by hand and are, therefore, unique)

*Source: Lib.washington.edu
Wolfe, Richard J. Marbled Paper: Its History, Techniques, and Patterns: With Special Reference to the Relationship of Marbling to Bookbinding in Europe and the Western World. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990.

Diderot, Denis, and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, eds. “Marbreur de papier”. L’Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers.” University of Chicago: Collaborative Translation Project

 

The most prominent difference between European and Turkish marbling is the materials that they use. Turkish marblers use natural mineral pigment paints and ox-gall that are chemical free and organic. Secondly, Turkish marblers do not treat the paper with alum prior to marbling. Ox-gall works as an adherent and the paint sticks to the paper without any special preparation.  Due to the natural and organic qualities of paints and ox-gall, it becomes very difficult to give exact proportions and formulas for preparing the paints. It takes time to understand the complex interaction between the ingredients. Turkish marblers need to fine tune and adjust their paints each and every time before they use. Therefore, if you are planning to start learning Ebru, you need to be ready to do a lot of experimentation in order to get things right. Ebru seems too easy when you watch at Youtube but one should be aware that it takes time to get there. The preparations and knowledge that it takes to bring paints to that condition so that they float on the surface without any issues is the most difficult part of Ebru. Once you master the alchemy of Ebru , the rest is just a manifestation of your creativity and artistic skills.

Below is a combed Ebru from Garip Ay, my favorite Turkish Ebru artist.

 

WELCOME !!!

I am thrilled to announce that we are now officially American residents !!! We moved to Brookfield, WI. on the Christmas Day. So, a new year, a new country, a new job (that is for my husband though) and a new life…

I have mixed feelings about it! It is very cold in here but when you look out of the window, the scenery is just like a fairy tale. I had always thought I could never get enough of those beaches and the warm sun in Australia but now I realize that we have truly missed snow. It is so beautiful! Also, working full-time in Australia and studying part-time,  with two children, all on my own for the last 6 months, I was exhausted! I could not really find any time to update my web-site! Now, my husband goes to work, kids go to school and I stay home!!!! After 16 years of full-time teaching, I could finally take some time off and focus on what I have always wanted to do : Spread the joy of EBRU!

I am hoping to get to know more people in America, teach them Ebru and learn different forms of art from them. Get inspired, share the wisdom, discuss the possibilities and experiment with various artistic methods, techniques and make new discoveries.

My Australian customers, do not worry ! My Australian office is still open.  You can still have your orders shipped to NSW, QLD, SA, WA , NT or TAS. It MIGHT take a bit longer than usual, but I still supply Ebru materials to my loyal Australian customers. Ebru enthusiasts who live in America, you can get in touch with me if you would like to learn more about Traditional Turkish Water-Marbling art. I look forward to hearing from you! Let`s get the ball rolling!!!:)