Saltie Crafts - With Jemma Lewis
Date Updated: 21/11/2022
We welcome marble maker Jemma Lewis to the first of our #SaltieCrafts series.
Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be shining the spotlight on our favourite makers and crafters. Celebrating their talents, sharing their stories and bringing you some beautiful tutorials to try.
First up, Jemma shares her magical world of marbling with us, and also steps you through not one, but three egg-cellent Easter tutorials to try At Home.
How did you get into the magical world of marbling?
I worked for bookbinders for several years which is where I first became aware of marbled papers. Sadly the bookbinders went into administration, so my Father suggested we set up a marbling studio in my back garden which is where I marble from now. I love the variety of marbling. There are so many different combinations of colour and pattern. It’s also instant gratification, being able to turn a blank sheet of paper into colourful pattern design in a relatively short space of time really does seem like magic!
You have 63 standard hand marbled papers in your range. Do you have some personal favourites?
I personally love the papers that are a bit more contemporary so might be more abstract and feature metallic paints on coloured base papers.
Colour is an important part of your collections. Do you have a favourite colour combination, at the moment?
I think my colour preferences change quite a lot with the seasons! At the moment I'm producing lots of bright and spring-like colourways featuring yellows, fresh greens and floral pinks and purples.
What would your dream commission be?
We have been lucky enough to already work on some dream commissions including a custom paper for a book associated with Prince Charles and another project where we made a special marbled paper for a Folio Society book with David Attenborough. We also produced several custom designs for the Florence Welch book 'Useless Magic' and this was a great project as each design we created had its own brief and inspiration in line with the sections of the book. We would love our marbling to be used in some kind of big art installation.
Tell us more about the various marbling techniques in your collection.
'The Turkish Spot' is one of the most classical marbled paper designs and often forms the base of many other patterns. We can add individual curls or we can swirl our stylus all over the spots to create a psychedelic fantasy-style pattern. We also have a series of combs which are needles fixed into a piece of wood with different spacings between them. These create some of the more well-known patterns, for example, the 'peacock' design. We love to produce the Spanish Ripple designs which are the ones that although flat look 3D or like folds of fabric. These are created by laying the paper down in a rocking motion.
For first-time marble-ers, where should they start?
The key is to have space to marble and the right materials. The rest is the fun part - practising, experimenting and seeing what styles and colours you enjoy. Don't be put off that it sometimes doesn't work - marbling can be very frustrating even for professional marbler's, but it’s very satisfying when it does cooperate.
If people need to turn to ‘at home’ supplies then can you suggest some materials that can be used for marbling?
With the exception of the Carrageen Moss and the Alum (if you use Gouache) many things around the home can be employed for a marbling session... a cat litter tray makes a great marbling tray, knitting needles make the best 'stylus'!
Do you find marbling a calming experience?
I do yes, it’s very therapeutic and a great way to focus the mind. Even if you don't fancy trying marbling yourself take a look on YouTube or my Instagram for some videos as marbling is also really calming to watch.
Marbling Tutorials For Easter Crafts
Now over to Jemma for her step-by-step guide on Easter egg marbling. Enjoy!
Traditional marbling is fun for all ages and is a great therapeutic and relaxing craft. Whilst a few of the materials you will need are quite specialist many of the pieces of equipment can be easily sourced or even found around the home.
This is what you will need to undertake any of the following projects:
- Plastic tray to marble in (cat litter trays are perfect!)
- Newspaper cut into strips to skim the ‘size’ frequently
- Alum crystals (these act as a mordant and make the paint stick to what you are marbling – these dissolve with hand-hot water) *
- Latex or washing up gloves should be worn throughout
- Sponge to apply the Alum (keep this sponge just for marbling)
- Selection of papers to experiment with - any quality paper around 120gsm is worth trying but it must not be coated
- Carrageen Moss ‘Size’ – this is an Irish Seaweed Moss in powder form. When mixed with water (24hrs in advance using a non-food blender) it forms a thick and viscous substance that your paints will float on *
- Paints, either Gouache Watercolour or Acrylics. If using Gouache you will need some Ox Gall which you can purchase from art shops which help the Gouache paint to float on the surface rather than sink in the tray
- A few jam jars to mix your paints in (paint + tap water + drops of Ox-Gall)
- A few fan style paint brushes to flick your paint on to the surface. You may also like to experiment with using pipettes too
- Somewhere to hang marbled papers
- Lastly, you will need to work in a room with a sink as each item marbled will need a very light rinse with some cold tap water to remove excess ‘size’
Please note that marbling is very messy and paint splatter can travel so please make sure you clear a good area around your work station, cover areas with newsprint and wear old clothes or an apron.
The specialist supplies marked with an asterisk can be purchased via Jemma’s website.
Choose your paper stock and coat this fully with your Alum solution using your sponge (as a guide 30g of Alum to ¾ of a pint of water). The paper then needs to be pressed for 5-10 minutes. Some heavy books or a piece of MDF would work. Alum is invisible so you may wish to make a note on the paper which side has been treated. Using an “x” on the side that has not been treated works well. As you pace your sheet down onto your created pattern ensure you can see the X and you know you are placing the paper the correct side down.
Fill your marbling tray with your pre-made ‘size’. As a guide approx. 50g of carragheen powder will give you 4 litres of ‘size’ which suits a cat litter sized tray and will give you a good weekend of marbling.
Select your mixed paint colours, anything from 2 to 5 colours works well.
Apply your first colour using your fan brush, ensuring that the paint spreads and covers the entire surface (if the paint does not spread enough add a few more drops of gall).
The next colours when applied will build up as a series of spots, each colour pushing the previous colour/s closer together into veins.
This is a traditional pattern called a ‘Turkish Spot’ and forms the basis of all the other patterns.
From this pattern, you can create other designs using knitting needles or tooth-picks to create swirls, stripes and other more intricate designs - wherever your imagination takes you.
When you are happy with your design, lay your sheet of paper down then pick it back up to reveal the marbled design which has now magically transferred to your sheet of paper. After a light rinse, this can be hung to dry on your clothes airer or if it’s sunny hang on your washing line.
Marbling is the perfect activity to do in the garden on a sunny day.
Paper Mache Hanging Eggs
These brown paper mache eggs can be found in local art and craft shops.
Dab them thoroughly with the Alum solution and hang to fully dry.
Instead of using your tray, you will now need a bowl or jug as the eggs will be dunked.
Apply your paints to the ‘size’ and swirl into your preferred design then gently submerge your egg. It can then be lightly rinsed and hung up to dry. Once fully dry you may wish to add some varnish.
Marble Clay or Cardboard Decs
Create some hanging clay decorations for your Easter Tree using DAS air dry clay, or by simply cutting out the marble print paper you now know how to make.
Print out (from the internet) or draw an egg shape and use this to get the correct egg shape. Allow 2/3 days for the clay to dry and then Alum one side. Once dried lay down flat into your size. Do not wash too hard/much as you do not want the clay to soften. Once dried we hand glossed and threaded with a ribbon.
For cardboard eggs, Jemma marbled 350gsm cardboard and once dried used a similar template to mark out an Egg shape on the reverse. Cut 2 eggs out. Punched holes at the top of the eggs and backed them together using double-sided tape. Reinforced the hole with an eyelet and tied with thin ribbon.
Hang all your marbled creations on your Easter tree. Have fun, get messy and create some wonderful patterns.