Watercolor Marbling with Handmade Paper
Our project studied the effects of sizing and texture in paper on the marbling process. We used three different types of paper: Esparta* pulp, Pinewood pulp, and a mix of Abaca* pulp and Esparta in a 1:1 ratio. We also used different amounts of sizing in stages throughout the three pulp sets. This experiment aimed to see if the amount of sizing in the paper had an effect on the "marbleability" * of the paper. We began with commercial marbling watercolors and later incorporated commercial acrylics at the suggestion of Annie Armour (Library Archivist).
We based our project on a former project done by Erica Black and John Wallace in 1998. They tested different types of paints ( oil-based, commercial and handmade watercolor, and gouach) and media (for example: Xerox paper, 100% cotton paper, 50/50 cotton/ polyester blend fabric, and glass). They found that the commercial watercolors and paper worked the best consistently. Thus we took this finding as our control and changed our media to handmade paper.
Papermaking Materials: (starred items, *, can be found in the Terms section at the end of this report)
**Note on Sizing: We decided to use the sizing in increments of drops. With every sheet we added the appropriate number of drops. The first three sheets of each pulp had no sizing. The next three sheets of each pulp type all had one drop added. Then the next three sheets had two drops added. The final three sheets had three drops added. However, we assumed that at least a little bit of the sizing would come through the paper and end up in the bath each time. So, although we continued to add one, two, or three drops, we labeled the sheets like this: 1 drop, 1+ drops, 1++ drops, 2 drops, 2+ drops, and so on up to 3++ drops. This attempts to account for any sizing that may stay in the water between sheets.
***Note on Water: Between each set of drops (i.e. 1, 1+, 1++) we changed the water in order to have a completely clean bath. We also cleaned the deckle-box of any leftover pulp sticking in the edges.
21. Repeat with other papers.
Papermaking Results and Observations:
We found that the amount of sizing changed the behavior of the paper. Paper with no sizing tended to rip easily and was generally more fragile and difficult to work with. It was also hard to couch these sheets, as they tended to ripple and rip easily. We also found that paper with an extreme amount of sizing (4 or 5 drops) was also difficult to couch. This, however, is based on limited observations and may not be accurate.
Sometimes the drainage time of the abaca pulp would increase dramatically after sizing had been added. We are not sure why this occurred or if it was a fluke observation.
We found that a moderate drainage speed produced the best sheet of paper. Too slow, and the pulp would form clumps, not covering the whole mould. Too fast, and the pulp would be pulled by suction into small veins of thick pulp on the otherwise smooth surface.
Typically we stirred the pulp and water with a wire screen with about .25" spacing. This worked well with all but the mixed pulp. The screen would catch too much of the pulp to be an effective stirring device.
The pulp types all dried differently. The esparta dried quickly and perfectly flat. We were delighted at this. The pine wrinkled badly and needed to be ironed and pressed between boards to get it even remotely flat. The mix was variable, some dried flat and others wrinkled.
We liked the results we got from all the pulp types, but we found that the pine had the smoothest finish. The esparta and mixed pulp paper both had lumps and clumps in them that made their texture bumpy. We thus theorized that the pine would yield the best marbles. We were told that the esparta/abaca mix would produce really nice paper, so we made several extra sheets of this type. We experimented with 4,4+,4++ and 5,5+ drops of sizing with these "extra" papers.
Marbling Results/ Observations:
We found that paper with no size ripped easily during the marbling process. Also during the application of the alum solution we found that the paper with no sizing soaked up the solution very quickly.
The watercolor paints were pretty easy to work with. If they did not spread enough we added ox-gall one drop at a time. We had to add ox-gall periodically due to evaporation of the paints. The acrylic paints needed larger and more frequent additions of ox-gall because they tended to sink badly. These paints were overall more trouble than the watercolor paints. The acrylics need to be stirred like the watercolors, but too violent stirring (i.e. shaking) will cause the paints to get frothy and bubbles to form which will mar the finished marble. We also found that the acrylics tended to result in a more grainy finish. This may be due to the texture of the paints themselves or something else. We found that the acrylics tended to wash off the paper during the rinsing process more frequently than the watercolors. We are not sure why this occurred but it is linked to the grainy finish previously mentioned. Acrylics were brighter, but the watercolors were smoother and more subtle.
Many of our finished marbles show scraggly lines between the colors. Our research tells us that this could be due to dust or another contaminant in the bath, but we are not sure. It seemed to happen with the watercolors more than the acrylics. It occurred regardless of the tools used. We are still unsure as to why this occurred.
We found that marbling works best if the caragheenan bath is at least 2" deep. This allows the paints that do sink to stay well away from the surface and not interfere with other marbles. It also helps prevent the tools from touching the bottom of the tray, as this will disturb the delicate floating paints.
We were very pleased with our marbling results. We found that the acrylics were brighter but harder to work with. The Colophon watercolors were more subtle in color, but they were dependable and we could rely on them. The many variables present in the marbling process can make it frustrating at times, and despite our experience there is still much that is unclear.
Type of pulp has a big influence on the marbleability of paper. The smooth-finished esparta and mix paper made the best marbles, which strongly contradicted our hypothesis. We suspect that the shorter fibers in the esparta gave it this smooth finish, and thus its great marbleability.
The presence of size in the paper directly affects the strength of the paper, making it easier to marble. Size is not necessary to the adhesion of the paint to the paper. In fact, we wonder if an excessive amount of size in the paper might negatively affect the marbling process by not allowing the alum solution to penetrate the paper. Under these conditions the paint might not bond to the paper because the alum did not effectively soak into the paper. We thus think that a moderate amount of sizing (1 or 2 drops) will produce the best marbling paper.
Abaca a type of pulp made from the leaves of a pineapple
Agitation the amount of stirring or disruption of the paint while on the Caragheenan bath
Alum Aluminum Sulfate, coated on paper to be marbled, causes paint to bond permanently with paper
Caragheenan Moss a powder, mixed with water it increases the viscosity and surface tension of the water allowing paint to float on the surface of the bath
Clear Spot- a portion of the marbled paper that did not take the paint. Can be caused by improper alum coating or a bubble caught between the paper and the bath.
Comb Very finely toothed tool (resembling a hair comb) with which designs can be made in the paint
Couching transferring the newly drained pulp (paper) from the mould to a damp pelon
Deckle-box basically an automatic handmade paper maker. Consists of a Plexiglas and steel box that clamps to a wood and steel base, sealing the mould inside. The base is equipped with a drain pipe and valve. The mould is sealed in the box, the pulp, size, and water are put in the upper box, and the drain is opened, forcing the water to drain through the mould and the pulp to be deposited on the mould.
Esparta a type of pulp made from grass
Feathered Chevron A marbling pattern that requires a precise and steady hand, very intricate and difficult.
Felts thick pieces of felt used to absorb water in several stages of paper making
Freehand and Freehand swirl Marbling patterns made with no planned pattern and with only a single stylus tool.
Getgel- A marbling pattern that results from careful back and forth raking of the paint.
Hesitation Line an error in the marbling process that results in a smudged line in the paint. It happens when one hesitates when laying the paper down on the caraghenan bath
Marbleability a term coined by Jim Brantley that describes the ease with which a particular piece of paper (with a particular pulp and size combination) is marbled.
Mould a plastic screen framed in wood, used in the deckle box to make paper
Overtoning- An error in the marbling process that results from over agitating the paints before the paper is laid down. The colors are spread out so thinly that the contrast is lost and the marble looks washed out. This term is subjective, its definition may change from person to person.
Ox-gall a harmless protein substance taken from the gall bladder of a cow. Ox-gall is mixed with the paints to control their floating and spreading characteristics.
Rake a marbling tool consisting of a piece of wood with pins sticking out of it at regular intervals.
Sizing a substance that is used in the making of paper to make the paper resistant to water penetration and absorption.
Stones The drops of paint spreading on the bath are called stones. A marbling pattern that uses no agitation is called a stones pattern
Zebra Typically a striped horse-like mammal from Africa. In marbling it refers to a pattern that is a getgel with spots.
Suppliers/Information on Marbling: