{ feuilleton }


• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


Marbled papers


left: Serpentine pattern; right: Bouquet pattern, both 19th c.

Regular readers here will have seen a number of posts recently concerning psychedelic culture, a perennial fascination/obsession of mine. One of the notable qualities of movements such as psychedelia or Surrealism is the way they highlight what seem to be previous manifestations of themselves which, until their emergence, lacked a specific label. Borges examined the literary version of this phenomenon in his 1951 essay, Kafka and His Precursors. In art and design, the vivid and chaotic appearance of psychedelic visuals cause us to class certain products of earlier centuries as psychedelic even though they were never intended as such. The Victorian era is especially rich in this regard with its proliferation of Paisley textile designs—which saw a resurgence in the 1960s—the fractal cats of artist Louis Wain, and incredible marbled papers such as these, the samples above being from a University of Washington collection. Of particular interest is the details of their creation; the look is familiar enough but one rarely sees any mention of how paper manufacturers went about designing or even making new works. I selected a red and black marbled paper for the endpapers of The Adventures of Little Lou which we produced at Savoy Books in 2007. The sheets used for that book were handmade, not printed copies, and had to be ordered from a specialist supplier in Scotland.

Via Design Observer.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Paisley patterns
The Adventures of Little Lou



Posted in {books}, {borges}, {design}, {psychedelia}.

Tags: , , , , .




8 comments or trackbacks

  1. #1 posted by Nathalie


    Strangely enough, I went into one of the Il Papyro shops last week and they had a guy demonstrating how their famous marble paper is done (I think it was a good selling point for the tourists, who love the idea of unique design but balk a bit at the prices quoted in that shop).

  2. #2 posted by John


    Italians seem to care more for such things, unless that’s just my inverse snobbery at work. On the other hand, books in Italy were a lot more expensive than they were here.

  3. #3 posted by Wiley


    Thank you for mentioning Louis Wain, like the guy who wrote the blog entry, I had seen his paintings, was very intrigued but shortly thereafter forgot his name.

    I remember reading that, as a child Jhonn Balance was diagnosed as schizophrenic. Whether that diagnosis was accurate (since I’ve never thought of psychology as an exact science the way, say, geology or basic physics are) isn’t that important for me. I’ve read of other artists in the more abstract arena, not that movement mind you, which i’ve never liked, who were diagnosed as the same or similar and wonder if its not just the gross misconceptions of a very superficial society.

  4. #4 posted by John


    I probably would have featured Louis Wain here if I didn’t consider him “well known”. I have to remind myself sometimes that what seems very familiar to me is often fantastically obscure to nearly everyone else. If you like Current 93 you could have probably traced him through their site since David Tibet is a great Wainophile. Some C93 releases feature his cats on their covers.

    I’ve not heard of John B being schizophrenic, not to say he wasn’t, of course, since there’s different degrees of these things. But we did speak on the phone a couple of times and he struck me as more balanced (so to speak) than genuine schizophrenics I’ve met.

  5. #5 posted by Wiley


    I am picky when it comes to Current 93, I either love Tibet’s output or can’t stand it. I did know, even while having forgotten his name that he had an association with Current 93 though.

    I have long frequented a site dedicated to Thomas Ligotti because they have one of the more interesting forums I’ve seen online, and as you probably know, these two have collaborated on more than one occasion.

    I may have first been introduced to him through a video I saw on the site.

    As for the schizophrenia allegation, I find this just as odd, simply from what I’ve heard from him in song form alone. I just found an obituary on the Lashtal archives – http://www.lashtal.com/nuke/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=355

    If the link even works, notice how it simply says he was ‘diagnosed’ as such. Once upon a time he may have been regarded as a shaman, and the additional support may kept him from drinking himself to death, the modernized world is not a very kind place to those guilty of being unique.

  6. #6 posted by John


    I agree about Current 93′s musical output, and I always feel a bit guilty about that since I respect David Tibet’s taste and general attitude. I enjoyed Nature Unveiled but have a hard time stomaching many of his songs or, for that matter, his voice. Every now and then I think I may have changed my mind but it’s not happened so far.

  7. Loving that marbling. Bought the Chronicle Books “Do Your Own Marbling” book+paints box for my six year-old this year and blew her mind.

    While on the subject of book endpapers, I was reminded by your post of this great heap of loveliness: http://drawger.com/show.php?show_id=27

  8. #8 posted by John


    Hi Steve. Fantastic endpapers, thanks for the link!

    I tried some marbling of my own years ago using the old oil-on-water technique. An interesting experiment but the paints weren’t right for the kind of rich effects you get with proper marbled paper.






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