"The Art of Ebru Paper Marbling"

Patterns, Designs & Techniques
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Pattern Examples  |  Floral & Calligraphy

Flowers have been a favorite motif in Ebru marbling, including tulips, carnations, hyacinths, roses, violets, pansies, and daisies. For these lifelike floral designs, a light colored background is usually created. Upon this background, drops of paint are applied from which the shapes of flowers, stems and leaves are made with a tool by dragging the paint on the surface of the size, and manipulating the water. The success of the technique depends not only on a steady hand, but also on a sound understanding of fluid dynamics, in addition to basic artistic ability. Applying the paint, carefully manipulating the size, and placing the paper on the surface to pick up the paint, requires skill and experience.

The most well-known Turkish Ebru patterns are created from Battal, Gel-Git, Tarakli, Hatip, Şal, Bülbül Yuvasi, Çicekli, and Akkase. Another popular design is Kaplan Gözü, which is the famous Tiger's Eye.

Battal (known in the West as the Turkish Stone pattern) is the oldest known pattern in Ebru. There are variations of battal designs, where colors are applied with a brush without using a comb, rake, or any tool. The name of another widely admired old pattern is the Turkish Gold Vein.

The Hatip (Preacher or orator's marbling) consists of placing concentric shapes of several colors formed one inside the other on a light Ebru background. A thin implement, stylus, or dropper can be used. The first color is usually dark, and is followed by a second, third or even fourth color. The design is formed by using a fine point, or needle, after the colors have been applied.

The Gel-Git pattern (come-and-go), from which many patterns are developed, is created with a Biz tool by drawing parallel lines in a back-and-forth manner on a Battal Ebru. This can be done either vertically or horizontally. The Gel-Git pattern is sometimes called a Chevron because the design may appear to be similar. These two names have been used interchangeably, just as the Bouquet and Peacock. 

Learning about and researching historical marbling patterns can sometimes be difficult because there is no single, agreed-upon lexicon for describing the patterns.

Taraklı refers to the technique when a comb is used to obtain a pattern. 

The Shawl (Şal) pattern arises over a Gel-Git Ebru by using a Biz tool to draw wavy or diagonal lines to achieve a shawl design.

The Nightingale's Nest pattern (Bülbül Yuvası) is designed upon the Battal pattern. Spirals are drawn in a circular motion, beginning from the outer edge and continuing toward the center. The spiral designs are repeated across the tray in rows and columns. These designs can also be applied on combed or Gel-Git patterns.

The development of marbling throughout the world has led to patterns known as the old Dutch Placard, the French shell or curls (snail pattern), the Spanish Wave or Moiré, the Italian Vein, the Feather, Bouquet or Peacock (a.k.a. Waterfall). Despite the lack of authoritative marbling terminology, the variety of patterns also includes descriptions such as: Antique Straight, Gloucester or Stormont, Cathedral, Fountain, Thistle, Bird Wing, Whale Tail, Frog Foot, Zebra, Dragon, and the complex Fantasy Moiré. Many of these patterns and fanciful names emerged after the 1600's in Europe. There are many other terms such as Nonpareil, Fishbone (Sand marbling), Oversized marbling, Serrated, and Tidal.*

The Wavy pattern (Dalgalı), also known as Spanish marbling, is a technique that involves moving the paper back and forth as it is placed on the size (instead of laying it down smoothly) so that the design has the effect of shaded lines.

The Sandy pattern (Kumlu) is obtained by dropping the paint at the center of the tray, and by repeating the same process until the entire surface of the water is covered and the paint is squeezed upon the surface appearing to crack.

Additionally, a drop of "negative" color made of plain water with the addition of a surfactant can be used to drive the drop of color into a ring. 

In order to acquire a "Light" (Hafif) pattern, the size must be less concentrated and the colors must contain more water and ox- gall. 

Double-Overmarbling (Çift Ebru) is created by applying a different Ebru pattern over a marbled paper.

"Written marbling" (Yazılı Ebru) has a special place in Islamic art because calligraphy, or beautiful writing, is the most revered form of artistic expression in the Islamic world. This is one of the most difficult of all the Ebru art forms because it requires a skilful calligrapher. Traditionally, Ebru assumes the form of the calligraphy itself (when a reed pen, dipped in a glue-like substance is used to write on blank paper so that when immersed in the tray the paint is not absorbed). Using this technique, a rectangular section in the center of a light-marbled Ebru is coated in glue. After marbled with darker colors the center offers an area where calligraphy is presented. Akkase, two-toned marbling, stenciled Ebru, and decoupage are popular with calligraphers. Patterns can also by obtained with several imprints on the same background. There are numerous techniques that use different glues, modern adhesive binding, and brushes or pens with a special fluid prepared with gum Arabic. Many of these beautiful works also use Ebru as a border to decorate the calligraphy.

* A number of books can be found on the history of marbled paper, techniques and patterns, as well as on the traditional art of Turkish marbling. For beginners step-by-step instructions and guides are also available, in addition to marbling kits.

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