Thursday, November 4, 2010

Marble-ous Weekend

The Newberry Library in Chicago is a fabulous resource for study in many areas of the book arts, including decorative papers. Their first floor gallery is currently showing the work of local artist Norma Rubovits, with about 60 examples of marbled paper and 17 books she has bound, taken from their larger collection of 4,000 (be still, my heart!) marbled sheets. You can preview the exhibit here; it will be on display until the end of the year, and I highly recommend it as a field trip.

Norma, who is now 92, donated much of her work to the Newberry when she downsized her home and no longer had a laundry room to serve as a marbling studio. She is particularly noted for her marbling vignettes, tiny manipulated images in the vein of Turkish Ebru marbling, and they are exquisite. How small are they? Let's just say there is a bowl of magnifying glasses available at the door with which to look at the images in detail. So much to see in so little space!

In conjunction with the exhibit, the Newberry scheduled a lecture and a demonstration by well known marbling artist Steven Pittelkow on Saturday afternoon a few weekends ago. My friend Leslie and I attended the event as a kind of preview of things to come. As we waited in the meeting room for the lecture to begin, in walked Norma Rubovits to attend the lecture. What a treat! She is sharp as a tack and a really lovely lady. Another role model for how to do your 90's in style!

Pittelkow is also pretty amazing; he works at an incredible rate of speed, using acrylic paints applied mostly with eye droppers and corn broom whisks. Keep in mind that he was marbling in a lovely library type lecture room; if you have made any marbled papers, you know how slimy a newly marbled sheet can be, and that of course comes after the flinging of the paint onto the surface ahead of printing the paper. Somehow he managed to just keep on producing one beautiful sheet after another (those are snippets of one of his papers, above) despite the challenge of his location. Amazing!

We returned to my studio inspired to make tools, and so went to Lowe's and bought a corn broom to dismember, and to JoAnn's for hundreds of long straight pins to fashion ourselves a Norma comb with a book board handle just like we saw at the exhibit. Although it is quite a task to take apart a broom, the whisks came out terrific; we wrapped the handles with thick waxed polyester thread in different colors. Today I finally began the task of gluing straight pins onto the book board, one eighth inch apart. This one is going to take some time to complete!

All this in preparation for taking Galen Berry's marbling class at Hollander's the following weekend. More about that in the next post!

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