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THE ARTISAN

Chemistry of Color by
Alessia Bianco Dolino

Piedmont, Italy | Artist & Designer

Alessia went looking for the right medium to express her creativity, and what she found was the enchanting, seemingly-impossible art of Ebru, or painting on water. Today, each of her stunning silk scarves is created using the same techniques that have captivated patrons for centuries.

What I realized was that Ebru is as much chemistry
as it is artistry.

– Alessia Bianco Dolino

I have to admit that, before we met, I was completely unfamiliar with Ebru. Can you tell us a bit about this art form’s history and describe the general technique?

Ebru, or marbling, is the art of spreading and shaping paint on the surface of water and then transferring the design to another material by gently submersing it. A number of different artistic styles have been developed over the centuries and Ebru artists have been known to use a variety of tools to create their designs, ranging from small rakes and awls to even a human hair.

Ebru was primarily used to decorate paper, which was then used by book binders as illustrations and embellishments. As best we can tell, the art form originated in China around 1,000 years ago but it was taken to a new level during the Middle Ages in Persia and Turkey, where it was given the name Ebru.

It seems that Ebru made its way to Italy via the Silk Road, the famed East-West trade routes of Marco Polo and the Venetian Republic. Venice quickly became a center for the technique in Italy but it spread to other commercial centers, like Florence, which still has a number of artisans who practice the art form today. Unfortunately, there has been very little written on the history of paper marbling in Italy. Perhaps because the artisans were hesitant to reveal their secrets.

So how did you get started? Did you find Ebru or did it find you?

Perhaps a bit of both. I started looking for a creative outlet while I was working as a postdoctorate researcher in the social sciences. I was open to ideas, but I knew that I didn’t want to take up one of the traditional art forms. I was looking for something different, something unique. One day, I came across Ebru and was mesmerized by it. 

Looking back, it makes sense: I come from a family of women who are accomplished in knitting, crochet, and tailoring, so I think my creative spirit was always there. I just needed to find the right medium to express it.

Who taught you the fundamentals and what was the learning experience like?

I’m self-taught so my education consisted of a ton of research and an intense, two year period of trial and error. To be honest, at times, it felt like a nightmare: what would work perfectly one day was a disaster the next.

What I realized was that Ebru is as much chemistry as it is artistry. For example, temperature variations in the water and the environment make a huge difference. Also, the consistency and ingredients in one type of paint, or even an individual color of paint, impact how it behaves in the water and interacts with other shades.

It was definitely a process; I think it’s fair to say my friends and family have a lot of silk scarves. But I learned from my mistakes and eventually found the right balance.

In order to adapt Ebru to fabric, what type of silk and paint do you use?

I experimented with a number of different silks in varying weights and, in my experience, Pongee works best. It’s smooth, shiny, and light as a feather. It also drapes gracefully around the shoulders. What’s critical for me, though, is that it has a plain weave and has sufficient space between the threads for the paint to cleanly transfer. Lightweight Pongee ticks all the boxes, both in terms of its specifications and beauty.

As for paint, I only use water-based. Oil-based paint isn’t ideal for fabrics, like silk, for a number of reasons. For example, it tends to dry much slower than water-based. Plus, water-based colors are more stable and they’re a lot friendlier to the environment and the skin than oil-based paints.

Where are you looking to take your work in the future?

I’m always trying out new designs and techniques but my broader goal is to create larger pieces, like a kimono, for example. The challenge is figuring out a way to smoothly and uniformly transfer the paint to more expansive pieces of fabric that aren’t flat. I’m definitely making progress but I’m not there yet. But I’m ok with that: innovation is earned, not given to you.

THE ARTISAN

Chemistry of Color by
Alessia Bianco Dolino

Piedmont, Italy | Artist & Designer

Alessia went looking for the right medium to express her creativity, and what she found was the enchanting, seemingly-impossible art of Ebru, or painting on water. Today, each of her stunning silk scarves is created using the same techniques that have captivated patrons for centuries.

“What I realized was that Ebru is as much chemistry as it is artistry”.
– Alessia Bianco Dolino

I have to admit that, before we met, I was completely unfamiliar with Ebru. Can you tell us a bit about this art form’s history and describe the general technique?

Ebru, or marbling, is the art of spreading and shaping paint on the surface of water and then transferring the design to another material by gently submersing it. A number of different artistic styles have been developed over the centuries and Ebru artists have been known to use a variety of tools to create their designs, ranging from small rakes and awls to even a human hair.

Ebru was primarily used to decorate paper, which was then used by book binders as illustrations and embellishments. As best we can tell, the art form originated in China around 1,000 years ago but it was taken to a new level during the Middle Ages in Persia and Turkey, where it was given the name Ebru.

It seems that Ebru made its way to Italy via the Silk Road, the famed East-West trade routes of Marco Polo and the Venetian Republic. Venice quickly became a center for the technique in Italy but it spread to other commercial centers, like Florence, which still has a number of artisans who practice the art form today. Unfortunately, there has been very little written on the history of paper marbling in Italy. Perhaps because the artisans were hesitant to reveal their secrets.

So how did you get started? Did you find Ebru or did it find you?

Perhaps a bit of both. I started looking for a creative outlet while I was working as a postdoctorate researcher in the social sciences. I was open to ideas, but I knew that I didn’t want to take up one of the traditional art forms. I was looking for something different, something unique. One day, I came across Ebru and was mesmerized by it. 

Looking back, it makes sense: I come from a family of women who are accomplished in knitting, crochet, and tailoring, so I think my creative spirit was always there. I just needed to find the right medium to express it.

Who taught you the fundamentals and what was the learning experience like?

I’m self-taught so my education consisted of a ton of research and an intense, two year period of trial and error. To be honest, at times, it felt like a nightmare: what would work perfectly one day was a disaster the next.

What I realized was that Ebru is as much chemistry as it is artistry. For example, temperature variations in the water and the environment make a huge difference. Also, the consistency and ingredients in one type of paint, or even an individual color of paint, impact how it behaves in the water and interacts with other shades.

It was definitely a process; I think it’s fair to say my friends and family have a lot of silk scarves. But I learned from my mistakes and eventually found the right balance.

In order to adapt Ebru to fabric, what type of silk and paint do you use?

I experimented with a number of different silks in varying weights and, in my experience, Pongee works best. It’s smooth, shiny, and light as a feather. It also drapes gracefully around the shoulders. What’s critical for me, though, is that it has a plain weave and has sufficient space between the threads for the paint to cleanly transfer. Lightweight Pongee ticks all the boxes, both in terms of its specifications and beauty.

As for paint, I only use water-based. Oil-based paint isn’t ideal for fabrics, like silk, for a number of reasons. For example, it tends to dry much slower than water-based. Plus, water-based colors are more stable and they’re a lot friendlier to the environment and the skin than oil-based paints.

Where are you looking to take your work in the future?

I’m always trying out new designs and techniques but my broader goal is to create larger pieces, like a kimono, for example. The challenge is figuring out a way to smoothly and uniformly transfer the paint to more expansive pieces of fabric that aren’t flat. I’m definitely making progress but I’m not there yet. But I’m ok with that: innovation is earned, not given to you.

Imagination is the Limit.

Unique design? Different color? Personalization? Our relationship with our artisans means anything is possible.

Questions? Let's Talk.

[email protected]
Launch Chat
We are here to help you 24/7/365

Stress-Free Shopping.

Stress-free shopping is our priority. Free shipping on all items to over 60 countries and 15 day no-hassle returns.

© 2018 Quattro Momenti. All Rights Reserved

Imagination is the Limit.

Unique design? Different color? Personalization? Our relationship with our artisans means anything is possible.

Questions? Let's Talk.

[email protected]
Launch Chat
We are here to help you 24/7/365

Stress-Free Shopping.

Stress-free shopping is our priority. Free shipping on all items to over 60 countries and 15 day no-hassle returns.

© 2018 Quattro Momenti. All Rights Reserved

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