Paper marbling (‘ebru’ in Turkish) is a method of water-based surface design, which can produce patterns similar to smooth marble or other stone. The patterns are the result of color floated on either plain water or a viscous solution known as size, and then carefully transferred to an absorbent surface, like paper or fabric. Throughout centuries, people have applied marbled materials to a variety of surfaces. It is often used as a writing surface for calligraphy, and especially book covers and endpapers in bookbinding and stationery. Part of its appeal is that each print is a unique monotype.
No one knows for certain when the art of ebru began, but there is some evidence that it was practised in Samarkand in the 13th century. As information was exchanged between cultures, the art of ebru spread east to west along the Silk Road trade routes. The roots of the word ebru are thought to come from either ‘abru’ (a watery surface) or ‘ebri’ (cloud-like). As the art spread through Anatolia, it eventually became ebru. Ottoman sultans and court officials used ebru as the background for state documents partly due to its beauty, but also as a way to detect falsified documents.
In the sized-based method, colors made from pigments are mixed with a surfactant such as ox gall. The colors are then spattered or dropped onto the size, one color after another, until there is a dense pattern of several colors. Once the colors are laid down, various tools such as rakes, combs and styluses are often used in a series of movements to create more intricate designs.
Paper or cloth the same size as the basin is then gently laid onto the water. The colors are thereby transferred and adhered to the surface of the paper or material. The paper or material is then carefully lifted off the size, and hung up to dry. After the print is made, any color residues remaining on the size are carefully skimmed off of the surface, in order to clear it before starting a new pattern.
In Kapadokya Ebru Sanat Evi you can first watch Göler Somtürk, who has been practising this art for 14 years, make ebru both on paper and silk. Later you can try making it yourself and become an artist.