Graphic Design Communication Students Experiment with 15th Century Turkish Art Form, Ebru

Richard Aldorasi scarves made using the ebru marbling technique.

Graphic Design Communication students in the package design course practiced a 15th century Turkish art form called ebru, a marbling technique using a rectangular bath and special acrylic paints to create a design on water.

Ebru expert Richard Aldorasi of Ebru Richsilk Designs gave a guest lecture on Aug. 15 and taught students how to create silk scarves using the ebru technique.

“I invited Richard to do a workshop because it is important for the students to develop an understanding of ancient techniques and consider, through firsthand experience, how these methods could be relevant to their own work,” said Maribeth Kradel-Weitzel, assistant professor of graphic design. “In the context of a package design course, it also provided a unique experience to not only convey a marketing strategy through packaging, but to also create the product itself.

As part of the assignment, students were asked to create a packaging proposal for their scarves using the Philadelphia Museum of Art gift shop as the ideal retailer. The packages must be able to sit on a shelf, but also display the unique silk product in a way that is visible and enticing to, as well as protected from, the consumer.

Richard Aldorasi uses a rectangular bath of water and special acrylic paints to practice the 15th century art form of ebru.

Ebru has roots in a Chinese art form dating back to the first century, Aldorasi said. Historians have studied records of an art form that incorporated five hues of ink floating on water. In the 15th century Turkish and Persian muslims practiced the predecessor to today’s form, using a marbling technique—drawing paper or silk over colors suspended in water—to create elaborate designs.

Aldorasi uses a rectangular bath of water to suspend paint for his designs (pictured above).

The paint used in ebru is engineered to float in small dots on water.

The practitioner then chooses a color palette with which to work by selecting a few bottles of acrylic paint. The paint is specially engineered so that it does not spread much when it is dropped into the bath, but instead pools into small dot-size shapes.

The paint is then dropped into the water in a scattered pattern, creating the base for the design. Aldorasi had the students sprinkle the paint in a specific sequence, darker colors first and then brighter colors layered on top.

Paint is sprinkled onto the water to create the design.

The result is a bath full of colors that can be drawn on with a pointed tool, creating shapes and swirls in the water. When the design is set, Aldorasi and a student drew a piece of white silk over the bath and lowered it in. The paints immediately bond on impact, infusing the silk with the colors and patterns floating on the water. Aldorasi said that the design will never wash or rub off as soon as the silk touches the bath.

Using a drawing tool, the artist creates swirls and patterns in the layers of color floating on the water.

As soon as the scarf touches the water, the colors and design floating on top bonds to the material.

The finished product is pulled off the bath and dried.


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