Culture Kick # 2: Turkish Paper Marbling

in Art, Crafts, Dance and Music

Turkish traditional marbled paper with tulip motif

Photo by Orhan Cam

Ever seen those lovely book covers and stationery that look like marble?

That’s paper marbling (ebru in Turkish), a centuries-old art form with roots in ancient China and Central Asia.

Ebru means “cloud paper” and, when you see someone create one of these swirling designs, you’ll understand why.

On a recent trip to Turkey, we stumbled on a live demonstration of Turkish paper marbling. Watch the video to see how easy and fun paper marbling is.

In the Turkish marbling method, you use special tools to sprinkle, drip and swirl paint onto a floating surface (usually plain water or a viscous solution known as size or sizing). Then, ever so carefully, you transfer the design onto paper or fabric.

So how did paper marbling get from China to India to Persia to Turkey?

No one knows for sure but it’s a safe bet to say that, like many other aspects of culture (food, customs, language), the art of paper marbling crossed geographic boundaries via the Silk Road trade routes.

Many Europeans first encountered marbled paper in Istanbul which is likely the reason it’s commonly referred to as “Turkish” marbling today.

Modern-day Turkish marbling artists still favor the traditional floral designs — tulips, especially — first introduced by the master teacher Necmeddin Okyay (1885-1976) and then later codified by Mustafa Düzgünman (1920-1990).

What can you do with marbled paper? Here are some ideas:

    wrapping paper – Since each sheet of paper is a one-of-kind design, you can jazz up gifts with a unique look.

bookmarks – Simply cut 2 inch by 6 inch strips of the paper and glue them to card stock of the same size.

art work – Have fun creating your own design and then frame it.

drawer or shelf liners – Make your own or look for scented papers.

placemats – Cut rectangular pieces of marbled paper and laminate them.

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What is the “Culture Kick”? Culture’s all around us but sometimes you need a little reminder of that. That’s what the “Culture Kick” is all about. Join us here every month for more fun and low-cost ideas for playing around with culture.