Artful Behavior

Artdeco ebru paints can be used on fabric, ceramic, wood, paper and more. In Turkey, the company conducts custom sneaker how-tos.
by Tina Manzer
photos by Amy Colburn

Mesmerizing Marbling

If you’re like me, you never get tired of watching master marblers practice their craft. It’s a true visual-ASMR experience. Just head to YouTube and search “Marbling with Jacquard” to see what I mean. Try watching the videos on mute.

At NAMTA’s show in Orlando, marbling demos conducted by Artdeco, a brand of Lisans Kırtasiye Ofis Gereçleri San. ve Tic. A.Ş– a first-time exhibitor from Turkey – held people in thrall. Artdeco sells the ingredients and tools used for ebru, the Turkish version of marbling, but it also sells all-inclusive kits in a variety of sizes.

“Ebru is not new in the U.S. market, but ebru art made with our functional, high-quality kitre and vibrant colors amazed visitors at our booth at NAMTA,” explains Tulay Spicker, Artdeco representative. “Paints from Artdeco were developed in Istanbul and have been sold in every city in our local market for almost 30 years. NAMTA was our first-ever tradeshow in the U.S., and our kits will be available in the U.S. market soon.”

The Turkish technique dates to the Ottoman empire at the beginning of the 16th century, according to Much like they do today, artists would paint with colors floating on the surface of a shallow pan of water, and then transfer the design to paper, fabric or wood. Traditionally, ox gall was added to the marbling bath to prevent the colors from sticking together. Kitre, “the magical pre-mixed solution that comes with Artdeco kits,” says Tulay, does the trick, and more.

“An artist can create up to 100 different designs with one liter of concentrated kitre,” she adds, emphasizing that an advantage of their products is their staying power. “Kitre can be stored and then reused at the next session.”

While other cultures have marbling techniques that date back centuries – Japanese suminagashi is one – artists from Turkey are probably the best at it; good enough for the U.N. to add ebru art to its World Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Marbling masters like Dan Tilstra, the American artist, educator and instructor who did Artdeco’s demonstrations, make marbling look easy. Tulay says that Artdeco kits are easy to use right out of the package. Until I try them myself, I’ll just continue to watch how it’s done. Apparently, one of the reasons it evokes an autonomous sensory meridian response is the hands. “We are hard-wired to respond to hands,” says Craig Richard, Ph.D., a professor of physiology at Shenandoah University in Virginia, founder of ASMR University, and author of Brain Tingles. That’s because hands are a primary driver of survival, he explains in an article for Real Simple magazine. “If someone is manipulating something in their hands, they might be making a tool. They might be picking berries. They might be creating something that can help you find resources, so you shouldn’t run away. In fact, you should relax and stay there, and stare at their hands to see what you can learn from that process.”

Watching someone paint on water is not going to aid our survival in the wilderness, but our brains don’t know the difference. “Watching hands, especially if they’re working gently, predictably and with expertise, is soothing and relaxing,” Richard concludes.


A Real Corker

The booth of Belagio Enterprises and its display of a zillion things you can create from cork fabric – even quilts – was also an attention-getter in Orlando. Belagio, based in Los Angeles, has been a specialist in decorative trims and specialty fabrics for home, fashion, craft and art for more than 40 years.

Its cork fabric is a laminate – thin sheets of real cork from the evergreen oak tree, species Quercus Suber are fused to a polycotton fabric for durability, flexibility and support. The cork is harvested responsibly and in an environmentally sustainable fashion. Belagio cork fabric is a lighter weight compared to others like it on the market, making it easier to machine sew. Its seams can be ironed flat with a pressing cloth between the iron and fabric.

The cork fabric is very versatile, as the samples of purses, quilts, wallets and home décor items at the NAMTA show illustrated. It can be painted, stenciled, die-cut, stamped, wood-burned and colored with pencils or permanent markers. When it’s die-cut, the edges self-heal and are smooth.

It’s perfect for covering three-dimensional pieces like boxes, books, and home-décor items, wrote designer Eileen Hull, who collaborated with the company two years ago. “This fabric lives up to the Belagio motto: ‘You are only limited by your imagination,’” she said.

Karen Bearse, another designer and collaborator, wrote: “It was really hard to just pick out one print as the options are pretty cool.”

Belagio cork fabric is available in rolls and in yards off the bolt. It’s biodegradable, anti-static, and hypoallergenic.

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