The Art of the Marbler

This old-timey UK film about marbled book covers has a peculiar quality to it, like a particularly sleepy episode of Look Around You or the video to some spooky electronica. It's "A Bedfordshire County Council Film" from "1970" and a completely wonderful how-to guide to a beautiful art form. [via r/videos.] 4 1 2 books

Notable Replies

  1. One way that this principle can develop in the future:

  2. I so expected Scarfolk Council there.

  3. My dad can do that, and did for a while between a redundancy & a new job teaching art. I remember him having to bring me along to work one summer to some horrid faux-Roman villa that belonged to the owner of a huge mall he was marbling the columns for, and I set off their fancy intruder alarm system. Never tell a kid not to touch the Big Red Button...

  4. I was a paper marbler for 4 or 5 years. What a finicky, temperamental craft. It takes enough equipment, supplies, and practice that it's not easy to enter into casually. I really miss it, though.

  5. I like it better as endpapers rather than book covers. Though I've done cover runs, my little Ren Faire business cut the sheets into stationery sets (good vellum painstakingly picked to take the paint and sizing). I also marbled silk scarves and wooden Shaker boxes. Calligraphers would trade with me; they got nifty writing papers, and I got awesome hand-lettered initial caps on sonnets I would laser print on marbled paper. Also laminated marbled bookmarks are quite pretty.

    Inevitably when I demo'd (I'd do 80-100 sheets a day outdoors with a big crowd around; we called it "stunt marbling"), someone would say, "This seems like a lot of work -- why don't you just scan the patterns and print them?" The idea that it existed to be the opposite of a mass-produced item seemed incomprehensible to some people.

    Which is why the documentary contained some eyebrow-raising moments for me. We always used whisks to shake the paint onto the tray. The uniform dot-dipping gizmo they use is ingenious and weirdly disheartening. I see why it's needed to produce cover runs that are closely similar, but it takes some of the art out of the craft. Or maybe I'm just jealous that I never thought of it.

Continue the discussion

16 more replies