Paper marbling is a type of aqueous surface design, which can produce patterns that look like marble or other kinds of stone. The patterns are the result of colour floated on top of either plain water or a thickened water-based solution known as size, or kitre in Turkish. The design can then be carefully transferred onto an absorbent surface, such as paper or fabric.
Commonly referred to as “Turkish” marbling, or Ebru in modern Turkish, ethnic Turkic people were not the only practitioners of this art and The term “Turkish” is most likely as a result of the fact that many Europeans first encountered the art in Istanbul.
The word “Ebru” is either derived from the Persian word “Ebru” meaning cloud (or “Abru” meaning water surface) or from a Turkic word related to abreh, meaning “colourful”.
In Turkey, Ebru continues to be very popular. The use of this term first appeared in the late 19th century. The earliest examples of Ottoman Ebru are thought to be a on a manuscript by the poet Arifi. The text of the manuscript was written in delicate calligraphy by Mehmed bin Gazanfer. It was completed in 1540 and features many marbled and decorative paper borders.
Another famous 18th-century master of this art, called Hatip Mehmed Effendi (died 1773) is ascribed with developing motif and early floral designs, although other sources seem to contradict these claims. Despite this, marbled motifs are commonly referred to as “Hatip” designs in Turkey today.
The current Turkish tradition of Ebru dates to the mid 19th century, with a branch of the Naqshbandi Sufi order in Üsküdar. Şeyh Sadık Efendi, who was the head of the Uzbek Lodge (died 1846) taught it to his sons Edhem and Salıh. Based upon this, many Turkish marblers believe that the art was practiced by Sufis for centuries.
The son, “Hezarfen” Edhem Effendi (died 1904), is recognised with further developing the art to supply Istanbul’s burgeoning printing industry. And his student, Necmeddin Okyay (1885–1976), was the first to teach Ebru at the Fine Arts Academy in Istanbul. He is famous for developing floral styles of marbling, in addition to “yazılı ebru” method of writing traditional calligraphy in conjunction with ebru. Finally, it was Okyay’s student, Mustafa Düzgünman (1920–1990), who is said to be the teacher of many contemporary marblers in Turkey today.
Here is a video I found on YouTube to show you how it’s done!