North Texas Daily

Library showcases art form

Library showcases art form

Library showcases art form
November 14
15:16 2013

Elvia Limón and Brittany Costello / Contributing Writers

The crowd gathered around a silver pan half-filled with water. Leslie Couture, an archives librarian at the Emily Fowler Public Library, kneeled in front of the pan as she slowly dipped two paintbrushes into red and blue marbling paint. As she approached the pan with the brushes, the crowd inched closer, awaiting her next move.

Once the paintbrush touched the surface, a faint blue ripple appeared. Couture repeated the movement several times with both paintbrushes and within a matter of minutes created both red and blue circles on what had previously been clear water.

Couture manipulated the design by blowing on the water, and then placed white rice paper in the pan, quickly removed it and set it on top of a newspaper. The crowd was in awe by the design left on the paper from the painted water.

Suminagashi marbling is an ancient Japanese art created by placing paints in water. This produces patterns that can be transferred to absorbent surfaces. The creation of this art form has been around for more than 800 years, but not many people know about it. Now Denton residents are able to learn about Suminagashi and create their own marbling without having to go far.

Couture began marbling eight years ago after discovering the art form at a book binding class at Southern Methodist University’s Bridwell Library. The only marbling class near Denton was in Dallas. She thought the distance was far, so she decided to teach marbling in Denton.

“Unless the University of North Texas art department offers a marbling class this is the only one in Denton,” Couture said.

Couture said that the class is offered once or twice a year.

“I’m just really busy,” she said “I do the class when I can.”

She has experience in purchasing materials to create her own designs. In previous classes, Couture has used different paints but she chose special marbling paint for this session.

“This is the simplest – that’s why I chose this, this time,” Couture said. “Last time I did traditional watercolor or acrylic, but that’s harder to do and takes more experience. This is easier to do and not as expensive.”

Each class participant had their own pan and paintbrushes and was able to create their own designs. The sizes of paper varied from bookmark sizes to large squares, and everyone was able to create as many designed papers as they could within an hour and a half.

Jay Whitney and Jane Piper, participants from the class, said they loved the experience and would like to continue the art of marbling.

“I had a great time,” Piper said.

Still, other participants wanted more from the class.

“I just wish the class was longer,” Whitney said. “I was also hoping she would have included more history.”

Suminagashi’s history goes back to about the 12th century, and others believe the marbling of paper goes back even further. According to, artists dropped circles of black and indigo blue ink into the water, then blew in the surface of the water to produce “smoke-like patterns.”

Paper marbling eventually moved into Central Asia and the Middle East.  The name for this type of Islamic and Turkish marbling is Ebru.

Unlike Suminagashi, Ebru uses a gum called tragacanth, made from dried legume sap. Tragacanth is dropped into the water and insoluble paints are applied in the water with horsehair brushes to create a design. Herbs can also be used to create the sap.

The marbling class at the public library is free but a reservation is required.

“It is a very popular class,” Couture said.  “There are always a bunch of people that come to this class.”

Dori Hutchins, a UNT sophomore entrepreneurship major, said she has heard about marbling before and would like to try it.

“That’s sick,” Hutchins said. “I would go to a class if I lived in Denton.”

Feature photo: The art of Suminagashi “floating ink”, is a meditative art process that involves the Japanese art of marbling. The Denton Public Library is offers marbling classes at the Emily Fowler Central Library. Photo courtesy of Denton Public Library

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