A History Of Marbling
The earliest records of marbling are from the 12th century, in the form of Suminagashi (literally 'floating ink' in Japanese) marbling by monks in Japan, made by suspending inks on water.
Marbling in India and Central Asia through to Turkey is first recorded in the late 15th century, where the use of other mediums upon which to float pigments (called the 'size') such as psyllium, linseed, fenugreek and even orchid roots were used, with gum tragacanth becoming the most common. Marbling has established itself in Islamic art for centuries since, and the Turkish traditional art of 'ebru sanati' marbling (meaning 'clouds on water') is a national craft.
Marbling reached western Europe during the 1600s where size made using carrageen seaweed was common, and patterns such as 'antique spot', 'french curl', 'stormont', 'gloucester' and 'shell' were popular. Waved, non-parreil and other combed patterns became popular during the 1800s. These papers were most commonly used in bookbinding, and you can find examples of marbled end papers in many historic hand-bound books.
Nowadays marbling has found its way onto many different mediums aside from paper, including ceramics, wood and fabrics, and is even used for body decoration at festivals. Nevertheless, it remains a red-listed craft by the Heritage Crafts Association, with very few full-time marblers remaining.