Yearly Archives: 2015

Update on “How to Marble Paper” page

Three years age I wrote a “How to Marble Paper” page. Since then I have had lots of questions and and I have changed several of my methods. I am currently updating the page. Here’s the first part. You can see the whole thing HERE.

Update to How to Marble

The most frequent questions I am asked are about the basic physical components of marbling – alum, carrageenan, paint and paper.  I haven’t changed the first two at all. Marbling carrageenan (not the food variety) mixed at 2.5 Tablespoons per Gallon of water (I use distilled, bottled) and marbling alum (again, not the food kind) mixed at 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup of water. I mix my alum a bit stronger than some recommendations just because I find it works better for me. The carrageenan is mixed in a high-speed blender and allowed to sit overnight.  I usually mix the alum at the same time just because it’s one less step to do in the morning! The alum just needs to be stirred a bit to dissolve.

Paint
Paints can be tricky and you need to be willing to play a bit to find the brand and type that suits you purposes best. I have been converted to Golden’s Fluid Arcylics. I think they are easier to balance, have great pigment integration and provide intense colors. However, like all paint, they can be highly individual in the way you mix them. I start my paints with 1 part paint to about  1/2 part water and add water gradually to find the right balance. Colors vary a lot – blues & greens need more water, reds and yellows need less.  Unlike the paints I used to use, even the toughest of the Golden colors needs only 20 to 30 stirs to create a good suspension and most need way less.  I took a class where the paints had been pre-mixed and even though they were the same base paint that I use all the time, the water ratios were very different and it took a few papers for me to adjust my style to the paint. The moral is play, test, try and play some more until you find what suits you and how you plan to use your paper.

I use a piece of dowel to mix the paint.  It’s tempting to just use the eyedropper, but not wise.  I used to use plastic spoons, but find that the dowel provides a better surface for reintegrating pigment that has fallen out of suspension. Some paints, especially yellows and reds, rarely fall, but blues and ultramarines have to be stirred frequently.  Metallics need stirring before almost every drop and the dowel provides a pestle-like action that works well. I much prefer using cups to leaving the paint in the bottles. Bottles will develop a thick sludge of pigment on the bottom, but with the cups you can see and control the sludge formation. I’ve used both snap lid and twist on cups and prefer the twist closure. It gives a tighter seal and avoids the splash episodes when I try to open a stuck snap-on lid! You do have to take care that the twist is fully sealed if you are leaving the paint for any period of time.

Paper

What paper you use depends entirely on what you plan to do with your marbled paper.  Always keep end use in mind.  Most of my paper ends up in my books; that’s why I started marbling in the first place.  Therefore, I use a lot of drawing weight paper (70-80lbs, 100 – 130gsm). I also use a lot of card stock (65lb., 167 gsm.) for cards and for some book uses, but it is too heavy for endpapers.  I have some beautifully marbled sheets of very heavy weight paper and even watercolor paper (400 lb.) that I love, but have yet to figure out what to do with them.  Many marblers love Texoprint paper, but I am not a fan, partially because I don’t like the way it pastes down.  I have tried marbling everything from paper napkins to mat board. So try, experiment, play!  If you are just beginning, I suggest either a 70lb. drawing paper or card stock as they are both easy to handle and have many uses.

Fun sources of marbling paper are everywhere – discarded books, maps, old magazines, sheet music,  junk mail, community flyers.  Just look around.  Slick and glossy papers are harder to marble since both the alum and paint tend to slide off, but you can have fun trying!

…. Continued on THIS PAGE

 

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Fox Boxes

About a month ago I was working with Sam Castner on his Etsy page and found that we couldn’t list his stainless steel fox ring because there had been a glitch in production. These foxes and Sam’s other candle holders are part of his design for a spectacular set of gates for the Fox Run Vineyards as seen on his FaceBook page.    This is the steel version of the fox ring.Fox (1) I asked Sam what he was going to do with the unusable rings and he wasn’t sure.  Three days later I suddenly realized that the foxes were just the right size for some of my boxes and books, so I asked Sam if he were willing to snip some off and let me play with them.  He did and this is the rest of the story.

I started with some lidded boxes.  These boxes are constructed  in two parts, a bottom tray and a top. The top has a plinth attached that fits exactly into the mouth of the bottom tray.  It’s a faster and easier construction than the clamshell preservation box.  I had made the five bottoms before I started taking photos, but that process is straightforward and is just like the clamshell bottom tray shown in the second group of photos.

Design work is always fun and I tried to find pieces of my marbled paper that felt a bit like fox habitat, had lines that would flow with the shape of the fox and colors that showed off the stainless steel. After choosing the materials, I decided to make all these boxes the same size, which I rarely do, but it does make cutting easier.  I don’t like things that are just stuck on the top of boxes, so I carved down into the binders’ board to recess the fox pieces.  They aren’t quite flush with the top, but rest about half way in.  The exception is the light green box where I made a frame the same thickness as the fox.  I tried different shapes for the insert and found it didn’t matter much since there was so much pattern in the paper under the fox. The wooden lion was added in, as it was something I had been meaning to try for a while.  Seemed like a good time.  The plinths under the tops were covered with a variety of decorative papers that complimented the marbled paper and the bottom trays were lined with black velvet.

I was pleased enough with these results to move on and make some clamshell boxes. The design is based on the preservation box used by archives, rare book libraries and museums.  When I was working as an archivist, I made hundreds of these, not as artistic and not nearly as much fun!

First step is always design – choosing size, shape, colors, and materials. I never make it through in one go!  This time it was the dark brown bookcloth. It was perfect, until I discovered that I was down to my last piece and it was an inch too short for the box I wanted!  This was an easier problem to solve than when it’s my marbled paper that is in short supply.  Bookcloth can be ordered, my paper can’t be reproduced, even by me!

There are three separate components in a clamshell box: the inner or bottom tray, the outer or top tray and the case.  When making a box for a specific item, the inner box must exactly fit the item. I didn’t make these boxes for any specific measure.  The square boxes are almost the same size, but because I misread some numbers, the two long boxes are different sizes. The inner box is made first, then the outer box and finally, the case. The case is constructed just like the covers of a book with two boards joined together with a spine strip.  The inner tray is mounted on the inside of one cover and the outer tray on the other. I have to be careful that they are aligned correctly and the outer tray fits snugly right over the inner tray.

No matter how carefully I cut, there are always some pieces of board that aren’t quite right.  Sometimes they are too short or too long, but most frequently, they are not exactly square.  At least that used to be the problem.  I have three cutters that I use all the time: one I use to cut the big sheets of Davey board into manageable size, the new fancy one is for most of the paper, especially when I need 30 or 40 sheets cut the same size, and the last is an ancient Milton Bradley school cutter that I use for small to medium pieces of board.  I have known the Milton Bradley since the early 1950s and I’m pretty sure it’s at least ten years older than that. I was about to get rid of it when I realized it was the only cutter I had that could cut board exactly square and it was especially good on board that was under two inches wide.  So three cutters and I need them all!

After making and covering the trays, I move on to the case. When I am using an insert, the first thing is to decide on how it will be mounted. With these boxes, I cut down about half the thickness of the board and excavated an area for the fox. The case is then covered with bookcloth or paper and the trays attached to the inside. The final steps are mounting the fox on the top cover and lining the bottom tray with black velvet.

My fox boxes will be available in my Etsy shop and at ACYC very soon.

You can read more about Sam Castner’s metalworking and the future gates for the Fox Run Vineyards on his FaceBook page.

Direct link to Etsy shop

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Addendum: More Mini Books from Folk School Class

I knew I had more pictures of the mini-books and boxes made by others in the class I talked about in my last blog.  Here they are:  Enjoy the variety and colors. All of these are 3″ x 3″

Great books,  great class.  Fun times.

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Miniature Marbling, Miniature Books

Last July my granddaughter and I attended the Intergenerational Week at the John C. Campbell Folk School as we’ve been doing for four years now.  It’s always great fun and great learning experiences.  This year, we changed it up a bit and also went to a weekend session (Friday evening through Sunday morning).  The topic was “Miniature Marbling” and it was taught by Pat Thomas. I’d taken another course from her and just couldn’t resist this one. She was gracious enough to let my granddaughter take the class with me in spite of her age. It was fun to concentrate on tiny marbling patterns, but what really clicked for me this time was the small 3″ x 3″ book and box.

I was very busy during the summer, but that little book was always in the back of my mind.  It was a quick binding – perfect bound with thread laced into  kerfs.  I, of course, wanted a “real” binding sewn over tapes and all.  I’ve done small books before, but have never quite thought miniature.  About a month ago, I finally had some play time in the studio and I started working with this idea. Here are a bunch of photos of the first batch with narrative captions.

Because of cutting errors and some sloppy measuring, I ended up with a few extra cases.  I didn’t want to waste them so reverse engineered books to fit.  Harder than I’d imagined just because I’m used to making the case to fit the book, not vise versa.  More photos of the second batch of books.

I had great fun making these even though they take almost as long as a normal sized book.  I hope I sell lots, so I can make more!

See them on Etsy in a few days.

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A Tale of Boxes: Wedding box, Guest Book & Portfolio

It’s Labor Day and summer is over.  My black walnuts are beginning to drop their leaves. They are always the last to leaf out and the first to fall. My summer was busier than usual with a bit of Folk School, a bit of family a bit of garden, a bit of travel, and too much teeth.  I’ve been composing blogs in my head all summer, but never quite enough time or energy to actually write them out.  This blog is really left over from last winter and spring.

As most know, last winter was too cold, too snowy and much too long.  I had several special orders that kept me sane, especially through February.  Special orders usually present challenges and learning opportunities, as they are never quite what I would choose to do if left on my own.

My first customer wanted a guest book in her wedding colors with a small metal plaque on the cover.  After talking, well actually messaging, about it, she decided that a clamshell box made to fit the book with a matching  insert on  its cover would be perfect.  We chatted some more about other wedding memorabilia she would have that might also fit in the box or that might be better in a matching portfolio.  The first idea was to use the invitation as a frontispiece for the book, but it was the wrong size and orientation. The outcome of our discussions was that she sent me the selection of materials and mock-ups of items that hadn’t been printed, like the menu.  As soon as I saw them, I knew what I had to do.  It’s amazing how talking, and even sharing pictures, isn’t anything like having the stuff in your hands.

The answer was to put a drawer in the box under the book.  Since the ephemera was slightly larger than the book, I was able to add a small box for a pen next to the book. I was very pleased with the result, especially since it has been years since I have built a box with a shelf or drawer.  I had my trusty Library of Congress manual right at hand during the entire process.  Lots of pictures:

This was a long process since I had to make all the paper first. After the pieces for this project were used, I had a lot of purple paper to sell on Etsy.  Fortunately, purple is popular! This customer was  a delight to work with and there were many other custom touches to the book that are not shown.

My next special order was challenging in a totally different way.  A student was presenting her fashion portfolio her professors and wanted a clamshell box that reflected her vision and her creations. Working to complement someone else’s artistic creativity is not easy. To make matters worse, she was working under a tight deadline.  Sending actual samples of papers or materials back and forth was out of the question, so we took to messaging images and descriptions back and forth, sometimes five or six times a day.  Of course colors vary according to cameras or monitors.  Fortunately, her palette was black, white, gray and a bit of red.  I don’t know what I would have done if it had been green!  I’m never able to get a good match for greens with my camera and monitor.  The actual construction was straight-forward, but all the decisions leading up to it were hair-pulling at times.  It was fun working with another artist and we were both pleased with the final result.

Her portfolio was selected to be submitted to a competition!  I hope my box helped.

The last box was the most fun.  I was working with friends for a surprise for another friend, best of all worlds.  Everyone was nearby so we could all see the materials and the process and no second guessing.  The gift was being made to someone who was retiring from the board of a local non-profit. She had been instrumental in the creation, organization and managing a concert series in local venues.  She is also very active in local winery and grape growing organizations, so music, grapes and wines were the themes. It was decided that a boxed guest book would be the perfect gift.  I’ve been working with metal artist Sam Castner a lot recently and he was delighted to be able to help another good friend celebrate.  He created two stunning brass plaques for the book and box. I was inspired by his work and had fun choosing just the right materials for the set. Taking a note from the wedding box I had made previously, I left room for a pen in this box and the Board added a hand-crafted pen by a local woodworker. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the pen.

Unfortunately, for my best box set, the photos are the worst, especially on the true colors.  Since everyone could see the work in progress, I didn’t have to send photos and hence don’t have a good record.  I need to remember this and take lots of photos when I work on anything really special.

I hope to get my next blog up soon.  It’s all in my head!  I also have new pictures to update my How to Marble blog.

If you are interested in working with me on a special box or book or set, leave a comment here or contact me on Etsy, Losing Her Marbles.

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Marbling with a Double Rake or Bouquet Comb

Just a few weeks ago I finally decided to buy a double rake or marbling comb so I could create a proper bouquet pattern.  Last week I carved out some time to set up the trays and try it out. Here’s what it looks like:

Regular comb on top, single rake, and double rake on the bottom

Regular comb on top, single rake, and double rake on the bottom

First I’ll show you the results of my play and then talk about it.

I had fun playing with the bouquet pattern in various sizes but I was limited in what I could do by the size of the comb in my tray.  There wasn’t much leeway for the comb to go back and forth across the tray as it would hit the sides pretty quickly.  I just now realized I should have tried it the other direction in the tray.  Maybe next time!  I like the results on a fine-combed nonpareil pattern, but not over a wider nonpareil, like the red and yellow piece in the middle above.  The spikes of the ” wrong way” bouquet (raked from the bottom up instead of the top down) are interesting, but not spectacular.  I tried “tying” the bouquet by running a wide rake horizontally across the pattern.  I liked the contrast of a straight line against the multiple curves of the bouquet, but it only worked with some of the color combinations.  I’ll definitely have to play a bit more.  Over all, I don’t think it’s going to become a favorite pattern. I like the way it looks, but it’s rather boring to make, a little like the nonpareil.  Except with the nonpareil there’s always the challenge of getting it perfect because any minor flaw, like a caught hair or paint fleck, really stands out.  The nonpareil can also go in so many different directions: It’s just the beginning point of so many patterns.  I thought when I started this session, I would only do bouquet patterns, but as you can see from the photos, other patterns kept creeping in.  Certain color combinations just demanded a different treatment!

Had an interesting thing happen near the end of the session.  I was using the eyedropper to apply the paint and one of the colors suddenly went spiky on me.  This usually means something is contaminated. I usually find contamination in the carrageenan and it is normally confined to one area of the tray, but this was definitely the dark blue paint. I think it was Prussian Blue.  Instead of stopping and trashing that tray, I kept on going.  The next colors dropped in perfect circles.  I wish I’d taken a picture – perfect circles except for the dark blue spikes.  As soon as I started working with the stylus, the contamination spread and all the colors went crazy.  I played with it and printed it anyway. I skimmed the carrageenan well and produced a perfect nonpareil. The next tray after that was rubbish!  You can see the sequence of papers on the line from right to left.  I was working with smaller paper so there were two sheets laid down per tray.

Something like this always tells me it’s time to stop.  The only solution to bad contamination is to throw out the size or the paint and start again. Neither can last forever!

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Animals Always at the St. Louis Zoo

Two weeks ago I spent a few days with some friends in St. Louis.  I liked the city a lot.  One of the highlights of the trip was the spectacular “gates” to the  zoo by sculptor Albert Paley.  Last year I had seen the scale models while they were on display at the Corcoran in Washington, DC.

Here are my photos:

Back to marbling and books next week!

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