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Drawn to Nature - Journal Making with Esther McManus (Part 3)

Posted by Emma Hughes on

The third in our series of posts on the making of our 'Drawn to Nature' Journals is here! Esther has written about the final task - hand marbling the end papers of these beautiful books and her thoughts on the process and its relevance to what we'll be teaching at the workshop. For more details about Drawn to Nature and to book a place (bagging yourself one of these handmade journals as part of the deal) head over to the store now.
Over to Esther:
After the thoughtful, repetitive processes of stitching, folding and trimming, we’ve finally reached the unpredictable and ungovernable process of paper marbling! Being fascinated by books, I have always been drawn to the mystic beauty of marbled endpapers of books, but learning more about this process made me realise how much it relies on the natural properties of the materials and produces results which are always surprising.
Previous posts have reflected on the sensitivity to materials that each stage of this process requires, and this stage is no different. Paper marbling takes place in a shallow tray of gloopy water, thickened by a seaweed powder called carrageen to create a gunge-like base for the inks to float on. The temperature of the water, thickness of the solution and consistency of the inks all impact on the final results, and as a novice I find that the materials behave slightly differently each time I marble. As I learn more about the process, it feels more like a collaboration between myself and the materials - there is only so much control I can impose on them, and they seem to have a will of their own. 
When dropping inks into the tray of gungy water, they spread and seep around the surface, the colours staying separate and rich. Before the paper is placed onto the surface, taking the ink with it, it’s hard to know just what your pattern will look like. Various comb-like tools and chopsticks can be used to swirl the surface of the water, making shapes and patterns through the inks in sequences that can be replicated again and again - in theory, leading to reproducible patterns. Even so, I’m always surprised with the final image on the paper - always brighter, more intricate and beautiful than it looked on the water’s surface. 
This relationship is similar to our thoughts for the Drawn to Nature workshop - we can approach a task or exercise with a goal in mind, but it’s often impossible to know in advance how rich and far-reaching that experience might become. The desire to stop and draw a budding leaf can lead to a much deeper awareness of the specimen you’re drawing, the atmosphere around you, your internal thoughts and a feeling of being alive in the world. The things that you didn’t seek out can be as rewarding (if not more so) as the things you did. Through the Drawn to Nature workshop we hope to collaborate with each other - and the world around us - to learn and develop our skills of drawing and observation, which we can take back to our daily lives and enjoy wherever we find ourselves. 

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