History of Marbling, Part 2


The article has long been submitted – but here’s the rest of it!

Turning fabric into art was a long time coming. Dean and Linda worked initially to perfect their marbling skills on fabric, experimenting with tools to create patterns, as well as refining the pretreating process. Like the Middle Ages guilds that would keep marbling techniques secret, it was very difficult to get accurate information about tools, combs, and patterns. They learned the basic patterns of nonpareil, bouquet, stone, and chevron and experimented with free-flowing patterns and swirls. They started selling to crafters, quilters, and sewers interested in wearable art.

Marketing was originally limited to local groups, but after hearing the price to set up a website of their own, Linda undertook the steep learning curve of html in order to get their product out to the world. After 10-plus years on line, they worked with a web designer who also was a quilter and digital artist. Linda discovered the need for a more professional online portfolio that emphasized the artistic end of marbling, as opposed to the more commercial one of just selling fabric.

Linda stumbled into “fabric as art” at a meeting of a local critique group. She felt there was more that could be done with a piece of marbling. She and Dean loved creating new fabric, but they wanted a way to enjoy the truly great pieces. One new friend bought some fat quarters and came back to brunch the following week with a quilted and embellished wall-hanging – exactly what had been in the back of Linda’s mind but unable to exactly see. She started cutting and quilting strips and weaving them into unusual forms, leading to their first trunk show at Textures Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.

EBay provided an unexpected outlet of getting fabric out into the hands of fabric artists over the last three years. Blogging became a way of recording progress on art pieces, as well as musing about the artistic process. The realization that they wanted to do more than just create fabric to sell to others was no longer what they wanted to do. Dean joked that no fabric was safe from marbling – they would try to marble just about anything to see what would happen. Forget lace, velvet, nylon in favor of linen, velveteen, organza, brocades – and, yes, polyesters.

Now Dean and Linda have a dedicated studio space where potential half-yard pieces hang on the design wall, waiting for discussions about the stories they will tell. One of the most wonderful moments in learning marbling was realizing that a piece of fabric could tell an amazing story through simple lines and spaces of paint and color. One series is called Gaia, and the weavings focus on the abstract beauty of the planet, told through color, line, and shape, accented with quilting and embellishment. Another series explores the power of the mandala, the circle of life. Yet a third takes on the small beauties of everyday nature: the simple rock garden, the quiet pond, the rough water. Then there are other pieces that just have to be: a detailed rock, a comfort quilt for a friend, a stream for a geologist, a tide pool for an environmentalist. Using environmentally safe products and processes, it was a natural leap to develop series based on nature.

This art form has become a major part of their lives. It’s not only a chance to share their creativity with each other, but the two are able to bring different styles to the marbling. Dean is more studied in the dropping of paint, working very methodically. Linda likes the randomness of the paint globs and the unexpectedness of new designs. They love the study of a good piece of fabric to decide just what the finished story will be. They spend weekends when they are not marbling scouring galleries to breathe in art and look for interesting subjects and techniques that could carry over into the marbling process.

They experienced a two-year period where nothing about the marbling process worked. Fabrics from overseas were treated differently and it was harder to remove chemicals. Paint formulas changed, and certain colors were no longer bright and distinct. The local water wasn’t conducive to the marbling process. The worse part was feeling like they would never be able to marble large pieces of fabric again. They would take out special pieces and moon over them, wishing they could create again. One by one they eliminated problems and were finally able to marble once more.

There was no question that this was what they were meant to do together. Facing the two years without their marbling sessions was very difficult. For Dean especially, coming to marbling after years in wholesale/retail, this art form brought out hidden skills. For Linda, this was recognition that she could be an artist in a medium of her own, without criticism from others.

Sharing their art pieces with others still brings a thrill, especially when visitors watch the marbling process. The oohs and ahs as the patterns develop are like notes of joy from others as they see new beauty. One gallery owner, in jurying some pieces, said the work was amazing, gorgeous, and too high-end for her gallery. Feedback is important, and the list of accepted jury shows continues to grow. But for Dean and Linda Moran, and Marble-T Design, it will always be about the creative process.

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