Jul 20 | 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Cost// $55
Date// July 20th
Registration Deadline// July 17th

Introduction to Turkish Style Paper Marbling Our workshop is intended to be an introduction to the Turkish style of paper marbling. This variety of marbling is different from most marbling done in the world today. Historically appropriate materials and techniques of the paper marbler will be the foundation of this class. Instruction will include discussion and application of basic tools, materials, and technique. There will be plenty of time to create a variety of patterns. It is important to wear clothing that can become stained with paint. This warning applies to shoes, also. 

What is Paper Marbling? Paper marbling is the art or process of staining paper with paint or ink. Patterns are achieved by floating and manipulating paint on the surface of water, vegetable gum or the combination of each. This surface is called the Size. Turkish marbling uses finely ground pigments in water as its paint. Bile, a natural detergent from animals, is added to the paint. Bile changes water’s behavior by decreasing its surface tension. The vegetable gum will draw back from the paint as it contacts its surface and the paint will effortlessly spread until it reaches an equal surface resistance. A difference in surface tension between the gum and the paint allows the paint to expand and remain separate from the gum. At this point the paint can be distorted. Distortions in the paint can be achieved by moving the paint over the gum’s surface. A variety of tools can be used to distort these surfaces. These include tools with one stylus, or multiple tooth bearing rakes and combs having teeth of various diameters and spacing. Each tool will produce specific effects. Distortion is considered a pattern. Once a pattern has been produced, paper is then carefully laid on the paint where it is transferred from the gum’s surface to the paper’s surface. This is due to attraction of the paint to the paper, or through the papers inherent absorbent nature. In most cases, its a combination of both. This is especially true with papers of traditional composition. Ebrú, as Turkish marbling was originally called, is believed to be the first marbling to use vegetable gum and water based paints with ox gall. Gum tragacanth is the sizing used as a base to apply the bile and water color paint. Examples of ebrú date back to the mid fifteenth century. A strong association exists between books and marbling, due to the long history they share. Many historical pattern examples survive today because of the protection afforded between the covers of old books.

About the Artist:  John C. Bielik is an itinerant artisan, instructor, and historic trades interpreter. He received a B. F. A. from Missouri State University (Springfield) and an M. F. A. from Virginia Commonwealth University. Creative influences have been through experiences as a teacher, student, graphic designer, and artist. John combines these experiences with an interest in history and the historic trades of papermaking, bookbinding, and paper marbling. He has held classes in Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. John has performed his historically inspired demonstrations at Historic Deerfield, Massachusetts, the Harvest Celebration at Dollywood, Tennessee, Boone Home in Missouri, Lincoln Log Cabin historic site in Illinois, Shelburne Museum in Vermont, the New York State Fair in Syracuse and, County Fairs in New York, Minnesota, Nebraska, Virginia, Vermont, and Massachusetts. John’s paper and products are featured in the shops at Colonial Williamsburg, as well as other retail venues. John is published in Early American Life Magazine and has been selected for inclusion onto the Directory of Traditional American Crafts.


The Des Moines Social Club is passionate about creating accessible arts and culture opportunities for all members of the Des Moines community. For a scholarship application, please email education@desmoinessocialclub.org.