Meet the Maker: The Whimsical Marbler
Are you just as obsessed with marble print as us? Meet Jessica Goulty, the owner of The Whimsical Marbler, who makes original hand marbled paper with a modern twist, created to complement the artistry of bookbinders and creatives. As well as her papers, Jessica also makes her own range of ready-made marbled products like ceramic Christmas baubles, gift tags, greetings cards and even marbled jewellery. With bold colours, intricate pattern detail and uniqueness built into the process, paper marbling is a fascinating craft.
Jessica talks to resident Folksy intern Charlotte Dobson about the marbling process, the relationship between colour and pattern, and why the thrill of watching a beautiful sheet of marbled paper lift off the tray never gets old.
To celebrate being Folksy’s Featured Maker Jessica is offering 15% off across her Folksy shop with the code THROWPAINT until Sunday 8th of November 2020. Shop The Whimsical Marbler on Folksy – https://folksy.com/shops/thewhimsicalmarbler
My foray into marbling started when I attended a workshop in marbling a silk scarf. From that moment on I was completely hooked!Jessica Goulty, The Whimsical Marbler
Hi Jess. I love the beautiful textures and colours of paper that you create. Could you start by introducing yourself?
Hello everyone, I’m delighted to be Folksy’s featured maker! I’m Jess and I’m a paper marbler living and working at the southern edge of the Lincolnshire wolds with my husband, two-and-a-half year old daughter and two very cuddly marmalade cats called Eddie and Monty.
How did you become inspired to create marbled paper pieces?
My foray into marbling started in early 2017 when I attended a short workshop in marbling a silk scarf. From that moment on I was completely hooked! I was working as a freelance historic objects conservator at the time, so I marbled in my free time, creating little sheets that I turned into greetings cards. I had my daughter in April 2018 and marbling took a back seat until I started again in earnest in January this year.
As a former historic objects conservator, I love finding examples where what we perceive to be a ‘modern’ colour combination has, in fact, been around for decades or even centuries.Jessica Goulty, The Whimsical Marbler
Each of your designs is unique and original – how do you sustain that diversity? What inspires you?
I take inspiration from lots of sources. Mother nature provides plenty, of course – rocks, leaves, feathers, flowers and fossils being some of my favourites – but I am also inspired by humans’ historic use of colour and the effect that colour has on us psychologically. I love finding examples where what we perceive to be a ‘modern’ colour combination has, in fact, been around for decades or even centuries in some cases.
I’m inspired by humans’ historic use of colour and the effect colour has on us psychologically.Jessica Goulty, The Whimsical Marbler
I try to not intentionally repeat colour and pattern combinations, unless I need to for a client or as part of a product range. I do keep records of certain colours and combinations but in most cases I mix up my paints by eye and that means there will always be variations in batches. When I’m marbling I tend to choose 12-15 colours at random to have out for a session and then pick combinations on a whim.
When I look at your Turquoise, Green and Cream Marbled Note Card, I feel like I’m at the seaside – it’s free and peaceful. What were your intentions when you created this design?
This card is actually one of my earliest pieces and I was still very much learning the process of marbling and how the paints acted on the bath. Marbling is one of those crafts where you learn as you go. Everyone’s set-up works slightly differently and you have to learn the nuances of how your paints and size react to your atmospheric conditions. Creating this design would have been more about experimentation rather than intention, but then that’s the fun of abstract art: everyone is free to interpret what they are looking at however they wish.
How do you create the marble effect? What processes are involved?
Thinned paint is dropped or sprinkled on to a tray containing water thickened with carragheenan (Irish moss seaweed) or methylcellulose powder. This is called size. If using gouache, then ox gall (real or synthetic) must be added to help spread the paint on the surface. I use acrylics, which only occasionally needs flow improver added, in most cases water works just fine.
We need to treat the paper with alum solution to help the paint stick to the paper and stop it from washing off when the sheets are rinsed.
The first pattern created is called a stone pattern as it resembles marble (where the term marbling comes from) and what is surprising is that, rather than mixing and becoming a muddy mess, each colour sprinkled from a brush stays pure and successive colours ‘push’ the earlier ones into veins.
A stone pattern can then be manipulated using a stylus (or in my case a bamboo kebab stick) to create what’s known as a ‘gelgit’ pattern. Turkish for back and forth, the name accurately describes the motions required to create the pattern. The stylus is moved back and forth across the tray pulling the spots of paint into lines. It’s usually done twice, the first movement perpendicular to the first as this creates finer lines. From this stage a myriad of different patterns can be created with different rakes and combs, in some cases there can be another three, four or more steps before a pattern is complete.
Concentration is paramount as forgetting a step or doing it incorrectly can result in messing up all your hard work! Sometime, though, it can lead to unexpected discoveries, but the challenge is remembering what you did differently so you can repeat it.
Now we need to lay our prepared paper on the surface of the size. This must be done in one smooth motion, otherwise you can trap air bubbles, or get hesitation lines where the pattern gets interrupted. Then comes the exciting part: the reveal! This is where you peel the paper off the size and get to see what you’ve created – is it a delight to the eyes or more of a disaster? Lastly our newly marbled sheet needs to be gently rinsed and hung to dry. This removes any excess paint and size and makes the paper dry much faster.
The thrill of seeing a beautiful sheet of marbled paper come off the tray never gets old.Jessica Goulty, The Whimsical Marbler
What’s your favourite part of the paper making process?
It has to be that moment of revealing the sheet, even if it’s a colour combination and pattern I’ve done before, the thrill of seeing a beautiful sheet come off the tray never gets old. I started filming and posting them on Instagram when lockdown started as a bit of joy and colour to help take some weight off people’s minds. They’ve proved really popular!
What is relationship between surprise and control in your work? How much control do you retain over the final marble print outcome?
There can be quite a lot of control if you want it, but you have to be consistent. In that case, paints need to be mixed to recipe. Applying the same colours in a certain order and doing the same patterns creates ‘families’ of sheets where they are all closely related but each one is unique.
I have purposely chosen to not go down this route, so I actively encourage surprise by mixing new colours and doing off-the-cuff combinations. My control comes through the pattern creation part of the process, which can be very ordered, although there are more ‘freestyle’ patterns, where a design is created by moving a stylus through the paint freehand usually involving swirls and waves.
Beautiful colours work with any pattern, but unattractive combinations don’t work no matter what the pattern is.Jessica Goulty, The Whimsical Marbler
How important is colour in your work? Do you aim to balance colour and pattern or does one often dominate more than the other?
For me, colour is a very important part of what I do. Finding colour combinations that I think work (and that can sometimes be totally unexpected) is a joy but balance is important too. Pattern creation is such a fun part of the process that I wouldn’t want to leave it out, but I probably spend more time thinking about colours.
Sometimes a colour combination works much better as a certain pattern but my personal feeling is that beautiful colours work with any pattern but unattractive combinations don’t work no matter what the pattern is. It’s different for everyone and I’m always finding that sheets I don’t really like find favour with others! This is why I don’t limit my palette to only what I love – I want others to get lots of joy from my work too.
Do you have a favourite paper, pattern or product that you’ve created?
I have a new favourite almost every marbling session! My current favourites are my rainbow sheets because it’s taken me a while to find colours that work and achieve the right balance.
The first sheet I ever marbled (pictured above) has a special place in my heart. It’s a reminder to myself that beauty can come from adversity and to keep persevering.Jessica Goulty, The Whimsical Marbler
Overall though the first large (70x50cm) sheet I marbled has a special place in my heart. It’s actually been marbled three times, as the first two marblings were a disaster! It’s a reminder to myself that beauty can come from adversity and to keep persevering.
Lastly, are there any new pieces in the pipeline and how you feel your style has evolved or changed over time?
I’m currently working on an exciting festive product that will be launching soon, as well as more gift tags, bookmarks and baubles ready for Christmas. It’s a busy time of year!
I’m not sure my style has evolved much but my products certainly have. I now have some cards printed from my designs, and I also sell my marbled sheets directly to customers for them to work with. I love seeing their creations and what they make with my paper.
A huge thank you to Jess for taking the time to answer my questions. If you’re like me, Jess’ stunning papers are sure to have inspired you with ideas for new projects! Be sure to follow her on Instagram @thewhimsicalmarbler for more photos, videos and clips showing the marbling process and her Monday paper reveals!
Don’t forget to use the code THROWPAINT for 15% off all her hand marbled papers and products until Sunday 8th November 2020.