Today my 6 year old daughter (DD6) and I had a great homeschooling field trip–to learn about Ebru, or Turkish marble painting. It is one of those arts that is simple and quick to learn the basics and takes years to learn to be a master. The preparation is also quite complicated, but our instructor, Hülya Özyıldız, did that for us ahead of time.
The group watched our teacher do two examples where she showed us how to make basic backgrounds and then how to add flowers and leaves on top. Then DD6 started and she did great! Initially Hülya guided DD6’s hands, but quickly she learned to do it on her own. She even enjoyed experimenting and figuring out how to make different types of flowers and hearts. She really, really loved it!
Ebru (pronounced Eh-brew) is old and believed to have started in the 13th century in Central Asia, perhaps Turkistan. It spread through China, India, Persia, and Anatolia. Many official documents, such as imperial decrees and official correspondence, had it on it. The Ottomans created new techniques and designs.
Ebru starts with creating the right water mixture–pure, clean drinking water is mixed with tragacanth, a gum from a local plant. This gives the water some viscosity. The artist makes colors by crushing earth-based dyes into a powder and mixing with water and ox-gall (typically comes from bile from cows, though can also be made synthetically). This prevents the colors from mixing and lets them spread on the surface of the water.
With the water in the tray, you dip a paintbrush into your color and then smack the handle on your palm to flick the colors onto the water. The paintbrushes are preferably dried rose stems (thorns removed, and dried for 1 year) and horsehair (does not cause drips). You’ll often use 1-3 colors for the background, layering from darkest to lightest. The flicking is a lot of fun!
Once you have your colors, you take a small tool that looks like a very skinny metal straw and you drag in various ways. Simple options include back and forth lengthwise, up and down width wise, or both. If you have ever made a marbled cake, it is the same technique. There is also a tool that then drags multiple lines like a rake. You can also do swirls and combinations.
To create the top designs, you use the straw tool to dip into colors and then gently touch the top of your background. The paint goes out in a circle. You can layer your colors by picking a new color and touching the center of the first circle. This then spreads out a new concentric circle that does not blend with the old. You can alternate colors, use many different colors, or use the same color repeatedly to make bigger circles.
For leaves, we made two green circles and then used a clean straw tool to move through the circles to change their shapes. Starting in the circle and moving out makes points going out. Doing the reverse makes the shape point inward.
Flowers and hearts are similar and you can draw lines in or out of the circles to make them turn into different shapes.
When you have finished your designs, you carefully lay a sheet of paper on top and then pull it off and over the edge of the tray (scraping off excess water) and let it dry. They can be ironed once dry as they wrinkle as they dry.
What is neat is how you can clean the water after using by putting on another piece of paper to soak up excess color because the color floats on top rather than blending with the water.
For more info and more detail on Ebru, check out these links. Ebru has been named on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List for Turkey!
If you are in Ankara, Hülya Özyıldız does classes and workshops. She was AWESOME with my daughter and with the 2 adults. Good English and very personable and good at teaching. She can do classes or 1 time workshops and can do small groups of kids (what a cool birthday party idea!) Ours was arranged as a group event, so I didn’t do the set up. But our cost was 70 tl a person (about $12) for a 2 hour workshop where we each made 2-3 pieces. I imagine group size would change that amount.
She is located at 1550. Cd. No:19, Çiğdem, 06530 Çankaya/Ankara and her number is +90 532 217 92 82. She is on Whatsapp. I had a hard time finding her building as it wasn’t labeled. This is it. Go up the stairs on the right side to the door on the side. You can park directly in front, or there is street parking available nearby. It is across the street from a large park (uphill side)
This is the pin drop https://goo.gl/maps/YSMwdNQ8uYKtwGff8