Marbling

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Marbling

 

The application of an aqueous surface design onto paper or other items, which can produce patterns similar to smooth marble or other kinds of stone. This entry refers to the making of extremely complex repeatable patterns which require very high levels of skill.

 

Status Endangered
Craft category
Historic area of significance
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK 17th century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 6-10
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
6-10
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
23
Current total no. of leisure makers
51-100
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Marbling consists of floating ink or paint on a surface to create a pattern. The colour may be simply dropped on to create random blobs or the ink/paint may be blown or swirled using an implement to create a pattern. A sheet of treated paper is then carefully placed on the paint and the pattern transfers to the paper. The process was first developed in China and Japan, before travelling to Central Asia, India, Iran and Turkey, before reaching Europe in the seventeenth century.

In Europe, marbled paper was used both for book covers as well as for the endpapers. The patterned paper ensured that slight damage due to constant or rough handling wasn’t so obvious than if the cover had been plain.

Marbling became popular as a handicraft in the nineteenth century after the publication of the The Art of Marbling by Charles Woolnough in 1853.

 

Techniques

Each sheet of paper produced by marbling is unique and workshops developed a number of different patterns.

The tools and materials used for paper marbling are relatively simple. A watertight tray is filled with a substance that will hold the ink on the surface. Water will do this, but to control the marbling effectively, something more viscous is better. Irish carrageen moss produces a gel which is ideal. One or more colours of paint is then dropped on to the surface and allowed to spread for a random pattern, or combed or twirled to produce more controlled patterns. Paper which has usually been treated with alum is gently laid on the surface and the pattern on the gel transfers to the paper. The paper is then carefully lifted and washed to remove excess colour (Lovett, 2015). See here for an explanation of the process by Jemma Lewis for the Folio Society.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

  • Marbling of book edges – Commonly seen on large format ledgers which were handmade in 18-19th centuries. They are still made but not with hand-marbled edges but transfer printed. Some of the older, time served apprentice bookbinders are teaching these specialist marbling techniques.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Rise of digital printing
  • Fewer traditional bookbinders
  • No big marbling houses left to train apprentices
  • Costs of raw materials, specifically the Carragheen moss
  • Marbling from developing countries (India, Malaysia etc) entering UK market at lower prices (fairly recent development)
  • Interest has been/is still increasing due to social media (visual nature of craft helps here) and publicity (Red List), but ultimately if marbling can’t find a more sustainable niche than book-related arts, it may wane again. Especially as digital printed reproductions and cheaper alternatives enter the market in response to interest.

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

Individual makers:

Chris Rowlatt has retired in the past three years.

Businesses employing two or more makers:

  • Marshall and Fuller

Cockerell and Son were well-known for their marbled papers, but their studio closed in 2012.

 

Other information

There now seem to be more workshops available on marbling than in the 1980s. In those days practitioners were very secretive about their methods so you had to teach yourself. There is not one set recipe for marbling so different practitioners will use different methods.

 

References

  • Nevins, Iris, (1985) Traditional Marbling (Alembic Press), practical guide
  • Maurer, Diane Vogel, and Maurer, Paul, (1991) Marbling (J B Fairfax), practical guide
  • Schleicher, Patty, and Schleicher, Mimi, (1993) Marbled Designs (Lark Books), practical guide
  • Medeiros, Wendy Addison, (1994) Marbling Techniques (Watson Guptill), practical guide
  • Schmoller, Tanya, (2008) The Schmoller Collection of Decorated Papers (MMU), descriptive with some history
  • Wolfe, Richard J, (1973) Marbled Paper (University of Pennsylvania Press), as above
  • Loring, Rosamund B, (1973) Decorated Book Papers (The Harvard College Library), as above
  • Wolfe, Richard J, (2009) The Mysterious Marbler (Oak Knoll Books), historical
  • Haptmann, Joseph, The Art of Marbling (Atelier de Distelkamp), historical
  • Easton, Phoebe Jane, Marbling a History and a bibliography (Los Angeles: Dawson’s Book Shop), encyclopaedic
  • Loring, Rosamund, (2007) Marbled and Paste Papers, Rosamund Loring’s Recipe Book (Harvard College Library), historical
  • Chambers, Anne, (1991) Suminagashi, The Japanese Art of Marbling (Thames and Hudson, practical guide
  • Chambers, Anne, (1986) Marbling Paper, the Practical Guide (Thames and Hudson), practical guide
  • Miura, Einen, (1989) The Art of Marbled Paper (Zahensdorf Ltd), practical guide
  • Patricia Lovett (2015) Marbling paper
  • Bedfordshire County Council, The Art of the Marbler (film)
  • The Folio Society, The Art of Marbling (film)

Reverse glass sign painting

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Reverse glass sign painting

 

The making of signs by painting and applying metal leaf to the reverse of glass panes.

 

Status Critically endangered
Craft category Glass
Historic area of significance UK
Area currently practised
Origin in the UK 19th century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 1 craftsperson able to teach all of the processes
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Around 20 sign writers in the UK practice the skills as part of their signwriting businesses, but not to the extent they could teach all the skills
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Around 10
Current total no. of leisure makers
Around 30
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

At one time every town in the UK had around three cut glass and brilliant cut artists and gilders and at least 30 signwriters, if not more, in every town and more in the cities.

 

Techniques

  • French embossing (most endangered)
  • Acid etching (most endangered)
  • Brilliant cutting (most endangered)
  • Water gilding
  • Silvering
  • Angel gilding
  • Verre églomisé
  • Graining (related to marbling)

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • The craft is labour intensive which puts people off learning it. It takes dedication and a lot of time to hone your skills.
  • The paints aren’t as good as they used to be which is becoming an issue.
  • The grindstones used to brilliant cut glass are principally of aluminium oxide and are hard to source. Historically they were made of sandstone from Craigleith in Edinburgh. The same beds from Cullaloe quarry may be suitable. Diamond impregnated wheels can be useful for roughing out. It is now necessary to scour the country to find old cutting wheels from a cottage industry of previous brilliant cutting craftsmen that have passed away.
  • The high cost of the materials and lanour compared to the low cost and high speed of computer designed vinyl graphics reduces the number of clients willing to commission work.

 

Support organisations

 

 

Craftspeople currently known

 

Other information

 

 

References

 

Paper making (commercial handmade)

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Paper making (commercial handmade)

 

The hand-forming of paper, often using a mould and deckle to gather and form the sheet (see also studio papermaking).

 

Status Critically endangered
Craft category
Historic area of significance
Area currently practised
Origin in the UK 15th Century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 6-10
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees 1 (see ‘Other information’ for further details)
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

The first paper was made around 150 AD in China from plant fibres which were beaten in a pestle and mortar. Papermaking spread to the Islamic world in the eighth century AD, and the earliest use of water-powered pulp mills date from this time. The technique gradually travelled towards Europe providing a substitute to animal skins for writing. Literacy was poor and mainly restricted to religious organisations and the legal profession. Imported paper from Europe, and later the early production of paper in England coincided with Gutenberg’s invention of moveable printing type.

The beating process could be mechanised using redundant water-powered corn mills which were converted wherever the mills were near to towns for easy transportation. Clear spring water was a necessity for making white paper. By this time cotton and linen rags were being used as raw material (re-cycling). In the mid-1700s a new improved method of beating the rags into pulp was introduced from Holland improving the beating process, from days, to hours whilst also improving the pulp quality.

The size of the hand mould limited the size of sheet produced unless sheets were glued together. Many people tried to improve the quality and size of paper produced but it was not until 1803 that this was successfully achieved at Frogmore Mill. That first machine was rapidly improved and enlarged so that within a few years machines were being sold so that hand papermaking had almost ceased by 1900.

Machine made paper was more consistent and much cheaper. Being made on a roll it could also be used in the new printing presses so that newspapers and books became readily available leading to improved education and literacy. The world of postal communication developed too so that the need for hand-made paper became restricted to speciality papers for artists and for special uses like certificates.

Before World War II there were 5-6 small commercial paper mills around the country, making batches of hand-made paper. Their main market was to produce ledgers for double-entry book keeping. These ledgers were unique to each counting house or company, with their own marbling and watermarks for security. Because the runs were in the hundreds of sheets, rather than the tons, it suited small enterprises. However, electronic banking has changed everything and removed this market. Today, the main market for batch-produced hand-made paper is for fine art and use by artists.

 

Techniques

Making paper by hand is not that different from making paper by machine. In this context, both commercial and studio paper making is done by hand; the processes of commercial and studio making are largely the same, but the scale of making is different.

Paper is primarily made from cotton and linen flax, but other materials such as hemp, seeds, petals and recycled rag are used to add texture and character. The fibres are first beaten in water and internally sized (to reduce the paper’s tendency when dry to absorb liquid, providing a more consistent, economical, and precise printing, painting, and writing surface.). For coloured paper, lightfast and permanent pigments are added at this stage. The sheets are formed individually using hand moulds and deckles, and then each sheet is laid onto cloth felts and pressed. The paper is then surface sized and left to air dry.

Cellulose fibres are softened and refined to make a paper stock (or stuff) which is added to a vat in a consistency of 1 per cent (- 5 per cent) fibre to 99% water. The vat is stirred and using a wire mesh covered mould, with deckle on top, fibres are scooped from the vat, levelled and gently shaken to form a sheet. This sheet is then couched (a rolling action) onto a felt. The sheets are then placed in a press and once a full post has been transferred, the post is wound down and the sheets pressed to extract water. The sheets can then be handled and are air dried. Sheets may be hand dipped into a further bath of gelatine size if a surface sizing is required. The sheets are the dried again.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

Allied crafts:

  • Paper mould and deckle making – now extinct in the UK.
  • Studio paper making

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Loss of skills: The difference between a hand-made and a machine-made product is perfection. But the measure of craftsmanship is how little variation there is within the imperfection. In a commercial setting/batch-production setting there is very little variation, which takes an enormous level of skill that comes from practice and repeat-making on a larger scale. Furthermore, the treatment of the fibres is all-important in papermaking, but this is a skill that a lot of studio makers do not have because they haven’t been trained in it.
  • Contraction of the mainstream industry: Smaller enterprises rely on the mainstream industry for raw materials such as acid free sizes and cotton lint for pulp – the manufacturers only sell in extreme bulk so smaller enterprises cannot buy materials directly from the manufacturers and instead buy from the mainstream industry (smaller enterprises may then sell materials to studio paper makers who require even smaller quantities). The contraction of the domestic mainstream industry therefore has a knock-on effect on the smaller enterprises.
  • Contraction of the mainstream industry: In the mainstream papermaking industry, people were promoted through the mill and learned from the poeple they were working under and progressed. They were also offered training, e.g. City and Guilds, HNC, HND, and a degree in paper science. However, that infrastructure was dismantled about 25 years ago because the industry couldn’t support/afford it. As the mainstream industry has matured, fewer people are employed, so the pool of talent in the industry is much smaller and many technicians increasingly come from abroad. This also means there are fewer people with the skills who may wish to set up in a more handmade setting.
  • Market issues: Paper is proverbially cheap (‘not worth the paper it’s printed on’) and you are therefore producing something for a market in which people are used to paying very low prices. Most people are not prepared to pay £4 or £5 for a sheet of handmade paper.
  • Market issues: While in some cases you might be making a product that is not available by mass manufacture, in many cases you are not creating a new product or a new market and instead have to convince an artist that handmade paper is better than mass manufactured paper. The market is there, but the challenge lies in reaching it.
  • Market issues: Marketing is a big issue. The market could probably support another 2-3 businesses of 2-3 people around the country, if you were able to market well enough to reach both the domestic and export markets. However, marketing is expensive – but social media is making a noticeable difference.
  • Market issues: demand (painters and textile artists), willingness to pay the price of a handmade sheet, as opposed to machine made watercolour (requires appreciation of the skilled handmade paper process and the impact of quality on users work)
  • Loss of associated crafts: paper mould making is now extinct in the UK, so it is difficult to acquire moulds if you are setting up a new. Lower quality moulds are available, but they don’t compare with the real thing. There is a new maker in France but no one appears to have taken up the craft in the UK yet. Similarly, wool blankets are the best for transferring marks but it is getting harder to find the right type of blanket.
  • Cost of equipment: To make paper on a commercial basis, you need a Hollander beater – these are very rare second hand, and very expensive to buy new – which poses a challenge for anyone setting up in the craft.
  • Supply of raw materials: The price of fibre has increased.
  • Cost of premises: Anyone wishing to set up as a commercial paper maker will require suitable premises, which would be prohibitively expensive for anyone learning the craft.
  • Lifestyle: Paper making on a commercial scale is hard physical work, which many people aren’t prepared for nowadays, and often involves subsistence living.

 

Support organisations

 

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • Two Rivers Paper Company, Somerset. The only full-time commercial handmade paper makers, with two craftspeople, Jim Pattison and Neil Hopkins, and one apprentice, Zoe Collis.
  • Frogmore Paper Mill, Hemel Hempstead. Working museum, education and heritage centre, with an archive, makes hand and machine made paper on a 1902 Fourdrinier Machine, with two craftspeople, Gary Fuller and Luke.

 

Other information

An accredited UK paper industry papermaking apprenticeship has been introduced under the Government’s ‘Trailblazers’ initiative. While aimed at the mainstream industry, rather than at hand-making, many of the skills are transferable, and Two Rivers’ Zoe Collis is currently on the scheme. Zoe was recruited through the Heritage Crafts Association’s 2017 pre-apprenticeship pilot programme funded by the Ernest Cook Trust.

 

References

 

Industrial pottery

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Industrial pottery

 

The skilled hand processes required at various stages of the pottery industry (see also studio pottery).

Note that the HCA is currently undertaking a survey with Dr Neil Brownsword of Staffordshire University to ascertain the number of practioners of each of the industrial pottery sub-crafts.

 

Status Critically endangered
Craft category Clay
Historic area of significance Stoke-on-Trent
Area currently practised Stoke-on-Trent
Origin in the UK 17th century
Current no. of professionals (main income)
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

The Staffordshire Potteries is the industrial area encompassing the six towns – Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton – that now make up the city of Stoke-on-Trent. The Potteries became a centre of ceramic production in the early 17th century, due to the local availability of clay, salt, lead and coal. Hundreds of companies produced decorative or industrial items.

 

Techniques

 

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

  • Mould making – 1 maker at Wedgwood
  • Modelling – 3 makers at Wedgwood
  • Throwing – 1 maker at Wedgwood
  • Turning
  • Press moulding
  • Slip casting
  • Pressure casting
  • Jiggering and jollying (turning flat and hollow forms respectively using jigs)
  • Figure making and sprigging
  • Flower making
  • Sagger making – 0 makers
  • Ground laying
  • Copperplate engraving, tissue transfer and printing – 3 makers
  • Gilding – including raised paste and jewelling
  • Engine turning (including dicing and rouletting) – 1 maker at Wedgwood
  • Piercing – 1 maker at Wedgwood
  • Patésurpaté – 0 makers
  • Agate marbling – 0 makers
  • Acid etching

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Ageing practitioners – many are beyond retirement age.
  • Some of the potteries employ a token workforce to demonstrate the heritage of the skills while outsourcing the majority of their production to low-wage economies in other countries. This can give a misleading sense of the health of the crafts.
  • Some of the current practitioners have been kept on as demonstrators by the Gladstone Pottery Museum, keeping the skills alive but in a precarious state due to reliance on public funding in place of a sustainable market.

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • Wedgwood
  • Spode
  • Middleport Pottery
  • Royal Stafford

 

Other information

 

 

References

HCA teams up with AirBnB Experiences

We have linked up with AirBnB Experiences, to offer a range of heritage crafts experiences from tassel making to building your own cart wheel. The Experience workshops will be led by craftspeople from the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts, and guests will be able to learn about these crafts and the skills that are required. The following workshops will be the first to be hosted:

Hadi Moussa, AirBnB General Manager for Northern Europe said:

We’re delighted to work together with the HCA and enable craftspeople to offer these unique workshops through our platform, connecting travellers and locals to authentic historical crafts. We’ve seen a growing appetite for Arts & Crafts Experiences on our site, with an increase of 180% in bookings to this category of Experiences in 2018, making it a powerful platform to raise awareness about teh crafts in danger of dying out.