A few weeks before Christmas I spent a most exhausting but very enjoyable day marbling with children at a local heritage field day. I belong to the Ray Park Heritage Group, formed to celebrate and preserve the old farming memories, knowledge and photographs of a part of Sydney now very suburban. Each year we hold a themed open day, the latest one being on Farming and Orcharding. We had many agricultural activities as well as old fashioned crafts for children to enjoy and I volunteered to set up a marbling table. I also volunteered my friend Nerida, who knew nothing about marbling in the morning but by the end of the day could answer any question put to her.
I normally marble on carragheen (or carrageenan) but some years ago I did a workshop with Marianne Peter, a Belgian marbler who had us marbling on guar gum. I decided to use the guar gum with the children and found it easy to prepare and it worked reasonably well. I used acrylic paints thinned with water and with a drop of ox gall to make them spread. I alumed 80 sheets of cartridge paper the day before and prepared the gum and the paints on the day. As we were marbling in the Boy Scout Hall there were many restrictions and I had sheets of protective plastic for metres around the work table in case of splashes; just as well because the children loved spattering the paint with the whisks.
Most of the children were aged between 4 and 10 but there were a few 3 year olds and a few mothers who couldn't resist having a go. We started at 9am, finished at 5pm and had a 30 minute break in the middle of the day. There was such a constant queue of children that Nerida and I didn't get outside to see any other activities; in fact we didn't have time to eat.
Because we were so busy helping the children to marble their sheets of paper neither Nerida nor I managed to take any photos of the children's work. I feel rather sad about this because there were some really lovely papers and it's a shame no one took a photo of the colourful hanging racks. I know the children were delighted with their efforts and after hanging them to dry they very proudly took them home. The next day when we were cleaning up (and what a huge clean up it was) children were coming in to ask when could they marble again. Maybe next year, though I rather think I'd like to make books with them next time.
Certainly I wouldn't have been able to get through the day without Nerida and my willing helpers for setting up and cleaning up, Jacqui and Rosemary.
I do have two pieces of marbling I produced at Marianne's workshop, illustrated here. These were done on guar gum, with printer's inks and onto shiny white paper. Marianne is a stunning marbler and her workshop was an eye opener for me, being used to water colour marbling. As I've said before, I'm only a dabbler when it comes to marbling, so it was a great thrill to produce these two pieces.
learning life lessons
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