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Art of the Book, Vol. 2

Freya Scott of Paperwilds - Marbler


We are delighted to have the wonderfully talented Freya Scott as part of our series as she has been an important part of some of our favorite small/fine press productions in recent years. From her consistent presence with Lyra's Books and Arete Editions, to other more sporadic partnerships with imprints like Amaranthine, Conversation Tree Press, and Curious King, her work is always inspired and enhances every production she is a part of. The trajectory of her career has been an interesting one, filled with unexpected obstacles and times requiring perseverance, but eventually leading to the incredible work that so many of us appreciate in our limited press books. We learned so much from our time with her and hope that you enjoy this conversation with one of the most talented marblers in the fine press world.


Q: We appreciate you making the time for this interview and are huge fans of your work over here at Collectible Book Vault. Tell us about the evolution of your career and what led you to focus on marbling. Was this a specific interest early on or did it grow from your overall interest in creating books in general? How did your time at university and the unique challenges you faced during this period shape your career?

 

Thanks for taking an interest in me and my work!

 

“Evolution” of my career is an appropriate term - it’s been very organic. Challenging, yes; chaotic, at times; but it’s not been boring.



Books seem to have been there my whole life. My mum maintains that ‘book’ was my first word (I had one of those waterproof storybooks that you can play with in the bath, which I clearly adored) and the written word was definitely my first love. I was the typical creative child, growing up doing all sorts of art-based things, but I eventually went on to study photography and English, and then an MA in Writing and Publishing. It was my dream to write books, to edit books, fill my house with books…but life is never a predictable straight line, is it?


An illness during my university years eventually brought me to a complete standstill. What started as a virus became post-viral syndrome, and eventually M.E. or CFS. No one really knew what to call it, or what to do about it, and it changed my life. It affected me physically, cognitively, and emotionally. From reading constantly I was suddenly struggling to read and understand a sentence. I’d mess up words when I spoke, as if the connection between brain and mouth had been damaged. Comprehending other people could be difficult, as if I knew they were speaking English but I just couldn’t make it make sense. I didn’t know it then, but I had ADHD traits too and that contrived to make all my symptoms so much worse, including problems with short-term memory. Then there was the physical side - some days I could barely move. I spent most of my days housebound, and on the occasions, I managed to get out and about, I’d pay for it for days or even weeks afterwards. This was long before COVID so no one really had much of a frame of reference like they do now with long COVID. A lot of people didn’t believe it was a thing, even doctors. It felt like my life was falling apart.


I sometimes joke that art saved my life, but there’s a kernel of truth to it. Two things had to happen - a physical recovery, and an emotional recovery. My own research and help from a local clinic (which closed within a year of my being referred) helped with the first, though it took me about four years to go from walking two minutes a day to being able to run for ten minutes a day. Art took care of the second. There’s something oddly healing about the act of creation, whatever the creative approach or technique. It was certainly true for me. Making, painting, creating; these things used a part of my brain that for some reason seemed less affected than the part that was needed for reading or conversation. Over the years I found myself doing short courses in writing, sewing, photography, and bookbinding, and I’ve made a very patchwork career out of all of them. All of them touch on the things that I love most in life - words, form, colour and pattern. And all these things feed back into each other. I think that’s what I love about working in the arts; it’s not actually a job. It’s just a way of doing life.


Marbled Papers for Coraline Standard by Lyra's Books

You asked me about marbling though right?! Here’s where it finally makes an appearance…

 

So, bookbinding eventually overtook everything else, and I ended up working for various binderies and conservation departments over the years. I learned my binding skills on the job, from books, trial and error, and through the generosity of other binders. I ended up teaching for Bound by Veterans, a charity that used bookbinding and art techniques as a sort of craft therapy/rehabilitation for sick and injured veterans. It’s them I have to blame for making me into a marbler. We invited Jemma Lewis to come and run a workshop for us, and it was fantastic. Something I had always admired but never wanted to do was suddenly the most addictive thing I’d ever done. When we realised that this was something that the veterans wanted to learn and do more of, I realised I’d better get good quickly. I grabbed the materials and a book by Charles Woolnough from 1854 and figured I’d give myself a few weeks to nail the basics.


Cut to two years (of obsessive trial and error and ADHD hyperfocus) later and I finally felt like I really had a handle on this craft. I could imagine something, and then create it. I could make my own paint. I could troubleshoot. Everything else had taken a backseat by this point. What could be better than making patterns and playing with colour and paint and paper and books? I’d accidentally splattered my way into building a small business, and there was no going back.

 

Q: You were formerly running your studio in south London, but have more recently moved out to a more bucolic setting and are collaborating more closely with the folks at Ludlow Bookbinders, working with Paul, Rich, and the rest of the talented team over there. Why did it feel like the right time to make this move and what led up to this decision? Do you feel like working with a dedicated team has brought more consistency and inspiration and is there anything you miss about working on your own?

 

Moving out of London was always on the cards at some point. I’m a country girl at heart; I grew up in the countryside and always knew I’d return there. Never imagined it would be Ludlow though! I can’t say I’m in any way disappointed, it’s a stunning part of the world. I do miss London sometimes though. It was a great place to start my business. I met some of my best friends and collaborators while I was there, and it’s a time I’ll never forget. But COVID hit hard, as it did everywhere. My retail clients declined, and I couldn’t teach anymore. I had to move out of my big shared studio and had to find somewhere new. Luckily, I did and had a great little space all to myself for a while and began to expand into new areas. But space in London is expensive, and I couldn’t grow in the way I needed to. I’d been working with Paul and Rich at Ludlow for a few years at a distance, and it was a bit laughable at first when Paul told me I ought to move to Ludlow. I didn’t even entertain it. I can’t even remember what happened now, but in the space of six months I went from dismissing the idea out of hand to saying, “Actually, yeah, ok!” I have my own studio which is next to but separate from the bindery, and have been able to expand in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d stayed in London.


Marbled Papers on Stardust by Lyra's Books

It’s been a big learning curve too. There’s definitely a level of consistency that I didn’t have before - so much of my work now is creating papers and patterns for fine press publishers, whereas before my projects would be jumping around lots of different industries: interiors, fashion, bookbinding, film props, retail, and product designs. I love the briefs I get for fine press books. Some of them are quite bizarre, but I love hearing about their concepts and getting to play with new techniques or paint types or additives. I’m an artistic alchemist really.


It’s really great to be working alongside such talented people as those at Ludlow. Not only do I get to see where my work ends up, but I get to be included in the design process. Also, I get to be around people who respect and appreciate my skills! Only other artists will know how much that means! It’s so easy to doubt yourself and feel like you aren’t producing work that is good enough when you are on your own. My thoughts get confined by my little paint-splattered four walls every day, and I look at everything with an overly critical eye. However, when someone pops their head around the door and looks at what is hanging up on the racks and opines of the little practice scraps I’ve been playing with, “Wow, I love what you’ve done here,” suddenly I register that I have more than an iota of skill and it’s worth carrying on.  

 

The only thing I miss about working on my own is being on my own! My studio is now blessed with two other sets of hands besides mine, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a joy heading up a little team. But every creative needs a room of their own if they are to keep evolving, to paraphrase Virginia Woolf. 


Q: Maybe I’m giving myself more credit than is due, but I often feel like I can recognize your designs and that there is a uniqueness to your marbling, though I wouldn’t pretend to be able to articulate it well. How would you describe your own style of marbling and are there certain aspects that you would consider hallmarks of your personal aesthetic? How did you begin to develop this style and how have you refined it over time to get it where it is today?

 

I don’t think I could tell you exactly what my style is, nor could I say exactly what would distinguish my work. I do know what you mean though about being able to tell who has marbled something - I feel like marbling is a bit like handwriting. We could all write the same words, but they would look different. We have an inherent way of moving and creating that seeps into whatever we do instinctively whether we like it or not.


The fact that I choose to make some of my own paints probably sets some of my work apart. I also pay really close attention to colour. Balance really matters to me, so there needs to be some sort of interactivity between the colours that goes beyond just the fact they are different hues. There needs to be the right balance in saturation, or vibrancy for example. There has to be the balance of temperature - cool or warm. Size, shape and placement of colours can be important. There has to be a sense of coherence across the sheet if it is a consistent pattern, or a reason for inconsistency if it is more abstract. Does that make any sense at all?

 

I think I have developed my style by just refusing to settle. I have to be trying something new, or playing with a new colourway or additive or paint recipe. I like to experiment. I have so many more ideas than I can physically do. And that’s before you add in any other art form I turn my hand to.

 

Let me try and sum up… I think my style is a paradox of meticulous colour choice/testing/practising, and some sort of je ne sais quoi, a kind of flair that has taken up residence in my body that I couldn't control if I tried. 

 

Q: Well, whatever it is, I can say that we are a big fans of it! Do you go to particular sources to search for inspiration for different patterns and color schemes or do you allow those to confront you in everyday life? When you find something that does inspire you, how do you translate it from the source to recreating it on the page?

 

I think this goes back to something I said before about art being a way of life, and I say that in a non-sappy, non-Instagram-philosophy sort of way. I think if you are naturally creative, you can’t help but let everyday life inform the choices you make in your art, and the more you do that, the less you realise you are. And conversely, the more you consciously do it too. Let me explain - I might deliberately go hunting for colourways when I am out walking around town or art galleries or wherever, but I’ll also find that if I am working on a particular scheme in a project or I’m having a brief love affair with a certain colour, I’ll find myself accidentally gravitating towards those colours elsewhere too. I’ll pick up something with those colours on the label at the supermarket, or I’ll buy a few new bits of stationery/clothes/homewares and suddenly realise I have become one-tone minded.


Confession time - I used to really hate the colour orange. And the colour brown. I’d avoid them wherever I could until I realised that so much in life is about acclimatisation. It’s like taste buds. When you’re a kid, coffee tastes like poison. Fast forward twenty years and not only do you now enjoy (/need?) coffee, but somehow you’ve developed the ability to appreciate the subtle differences in roasts. Perhaps you’ve also developed a preference for, I don’t know, Costa over Starbucks*. But before all this, you had to try a lot of coffee, and probably drink some grot you didn’t really like. I realised I ought to do the same with colour. I was literally cutting off whole sections of the spectrum, and therefore countless new colourways that I could be enjoying. So, I went on a mission to acclimatise myself to (and even fall in love with) orange and brown. 

 

Translating colour inspiration onto the page happens in several ways. Often, I’ll take pictures or collect material samples, and mix colours from them to build a colour palette. Doing this rarely results in excellent palettes straight off - you can mix the colours exactly as you see them, and for some reason they just don’t sit right together once they’ve been made into a marbled sheet. They need adjusting, made lighter or darker, or changing in hue. Other times I’ll just start mixing a colour I have in mind, and then once I’ve got that right, I’ll use it as a base to make a few other tints or shades. Sometimes I’ll even mix it with its complement to make brown, or with black and white to make a shade of grey, so even those colours have a relationship to the rest of the palette. It is often experimental - I’ll take a few colours I’ve been playing with already and paint some swatches (sometimes on paper, often on my hand), and then just grab a random jar of paint and see how that colour fits, if at all, with the swatches, and then adjusting it until it does somehow. I’ll often do lots of little tests of smaller marbled sheets before committing to larger ones. It’s best to let the paint dry on the test sheets first too, as colour can look very different from pot, to tray, to wet sheet, to finished dry sheet. 


In terms of patterns, again inspiration comes from everywhere, but I love looking at other marblers’ work, in books, on the internet. It’s great to look at how others have taken some of the standardised patterns and made them look different somehow. Sometimes you see an entirely “new” combed pattern and there’s fun in trying to work out how it was done, how the comb was reinvented to make a particular effect. Otherwise, I think my favourite thing to do is to just look at stuff - nature, other art, different materials - and think how I would try and do that in marbling, or at least get the feel of it into a marbled pattern.

 

And also, let's face it - some of the best inspiration comes from the doing. The unconscious things you do or choose when at play in your art. The questions you allow yourself to act on - I wonder what would happen if I did this or added that? I really like what happened there when I accidentally dropped my brush like that, how can I recreate that effect on purpose?  

 

*Not an endorsement. I drink my coffee wherever I can find it and allow myself to be pleasantly surprised if it tastes any good.

 

Q: It seems you are working with almost every fine press out there in some capacity and many of these we have interviewed in the past including, Lyra’s Books, Arete Editions, Amaranthine Books, Curious King, Conversation Tree Press and others. Do you find that working with different presses and their owners differ significantly or is your approach as a marbler consistent regardless of the project? What is unique about working within the small/fine press world of publishing and how does it differ from larger-scale commercial projects?

 

Small press publishers are a category all of their own (in the best possible way)! I absolutely love working with small presses. It really is different to larger-scale commercial projects because it has so much more… heart. It’s so fulfilling to be involved in something that is so detailed and high quality, where thought has been put into every single part of it. As such I do the same. I love to get a feel of the project, what the designer is trying to convey with the book. I think the only consistency in my approach is the way I will say “Yep, I’ll have a go!” to whatever madcap/brilliant (the line is so thin, isn’t it?) idea someone throws at me.


Marbled Leather on Monster Edition of Frankenstein by Amaranthine Books

Every press owner/designer is different, so my approach will be different too. Some really have a vision for how they want the whole thing to look, and so my job there is to facilitate that vision. Others have a vaguer concept but want to give me a bit more freedom to really come up with something of my own. It also depends what stage the project is at when I am approached to work on it. Sometimes the artwork has been done so it is a case of complementing illustrations, other times I am the first port of call. The flexibility and fluidity of it all really suits the way I work. 

 

Small presses tend to care more about quality materials, so I love being sent samples. I love when people want to try something a bit different - leather marbling, different paper bases, fabric. It’s as much about the feel as the look!  

 

Q: One of the reasons we love small/fine press publications is this exact reason, a high level of intentionality in every aspect of the production! When you decide to accept a particular commission for a small/fine press project, what are your first steps as you try to wrap your head around a piece of work and capture it? Do you try and isolate yourself with the written work or is it a more collaborative project with other individuals involved in the project and accomplishing a combined vision?

 

Each project is so different really. My first steps tend to differ depending on who I am working with, whether I have read the book or not (sometimes time does not allow!). Some people come with a ready idea, others maybe with a colour palette, so my starting point there is fairly clear. My absolute favourite commissions are where I’m sent a passage from the book. I am synesthetic, so reading words can bring to mind very distinct colour palettes, sometimes shapes as well. An illustration or artwork from the book helps me to make sure the whole thing will end up looking cohesive.

 

I’ll start by “collecting” some colours. I have a whole range of different methods for collecting colour - sketchbooks, files, boxes of stuff, digital catalogues - so very often I will sift through those with colours in mind to see what else jumps out. Anyone who has visited my studio has also seen the frankly enormous hard copy collection of marbled patterns I have. I think I have an offcut or sample of every single marbled paper I’ve ever made. And even if I’m exaggerating, it's not by much! It’s become an amazing resource for me, and for customers who manage to visit as well.


Marbled Journal

Oftentimes it is a collaborative approach, but luckily most small press owners are also artists/designers in their own right, so they have a real appreciation for the work of other artists like me. This is one reason it’s so much easier to work with small presses - there is a sort of mutual appreciation for the effort and skills of both parties. It’s also easier to discuss things like colour in more (nerdy?) detail, and often it turns into a way of bouncing ideas off each other. I like being that fresh pair of eyes who can (hopefully) add something new or helpful into the equation.

 

Really, I just love the open-ended creativity of it all. I am genuinely happiest and most productive just being let off leash. Just give me a direction, and I’ll run with it… then charge off on as many tangents as I’m allowed.

 

Q: You recently took on a few projects that introduced a process I was not familiar with until I heard about you doing it for two specific books. These were the Coraline Lettered Edition with Lyra’s Books and the Frankenstein Monster Edition with Amaranthine. In both of these productions you marbled leather for the covering of the bindings and I am particularly fond of what you did with the whimsical, yet ominous design on Coraline. How does marbling leather differ from paper and what challenges did you need to overcome as you approached these particular projects?

 

I am so indecently proud of these two projects. Leather is such a beautiful material, but it is especially unforgiving when being marbled and then used for books. Most of the time leather used for books is split (or thinned) at specific points to allow for turn-ins, corners, hinges, headcaps, etc. This is usually done very shortly before being used on the book. When applying the leather to the book, some methods require the leather to be moistened and slightly stretched. Both of these things are especially hard to do with marbled leather, as it can stretch the inks too and cause lightening of the pattern, distortion, or even breaks in the inks. As such the leather needs to be pre-split and handled very carefully once marbled.


In terms of the marbling itself, the process is not too dissimilar from paper, but the leather has to be of a particular type and quality to allow for the best marbling. Veg tanned leather is what I have found to be the best for marbling. I also find unpolished can give a better result than polished. More care has to be taken in the coating of the leather in the first stages with the mordant. It can be incredibly absorbent, so ensuring an even coating without soaking the leather and causing discolouration is tricky. 

 

Marbled Leather on Coraline Lettered from Lyra's Books

The other thing I have had to develop is the way I make up my paints. I’ve found certain additives to the binder help the paints maintain their colour and adhesion to the leather. I’ve also worked through countless coatings that can be added afterwards for different finishes.

 

Honestly, the most challenging thing is laying the leather once the pattern is made on the bath. The larger the piece, the more difficult it is to lay. Less flexible than both fabric and paper, laying it down without capturing an air bubble or distorting the pattern is a real skill!

 

Coraline especially was a really beautiful thing to work on. Because it was an abstract pattern, this sort of ethereal mist, every single one was different. It was like making separate artworks, and much more like painting. I loved drawing the paint into tendrils, encouraging wisps into one direction, then another, with a few whorls here and there, and then choosing to let the paint fade in places or gather more brightly in others…truly one of my favourite projects to date!

 

Q: Most people who have engaged in the buying and appreciation of fine press books know the beauty of a hand-marbled paper, but few of us know the specifics of what goes into the process. Our readers are very interested in the details about the books they love, so don’t hesitate to nerd out a little bit on this. What goes into the preparation of the base mixture, how do you determine the right mix of different types of paints (watercolors, acrylics, gouache, etc.) and what is involved with the transfer and process of getting the paper ready to be used within the books?

 

Well, I feel the need to go full science lesson with this one, but I’ll keep it as clear as possible! The marbling process is a balancing act, where materials must be adjusted in relation to environmental factors to achieve the “sweet spot” of paint control and pattern consistency across numerous sheets.


I just want to add a caveat here - the sort of marbling I am talking about is the kind where the aim is to produce something that began as an idea, where there is a direction and a design in mind before beginning. I am also referring to the kind of marbling where the skill is not just in design, but in repetition across large numbers of sheets. All this as opposed to the kind of marbling (which also has its place) where it is more experimental and organic and requires little skill in paint control or pattern repetition.


 

It sounds simple enough, but marbling is one of those processes that is actually tricky to get right. It starts with the base mixture - you can use a few different types but they all essentially act in the same way. This is by creating a substance (or ‘size’) that is a hydrocolloid (‘gum’), which allows heavier mixtures of paint to float on the surface (with the addition of a hydrophobic additive to break the surface tension of the size).

 

I use a few different hydrocolloid mixtures, but primarily I use carrageenan mixed with water. Carrageenan is an extract from a red seaweed whose common name is Irish moss, also known as ‘carragheen’ which is Irish for “rock moss”.  Carragheen’s scientific name is chrondus crispus (someone must use this as a character name in a fantasy novel at some point, right?), and comes in powder form. It is a hydrophilic (water-loving) polysaccharide, and it produces a sort of smooth, gelatinous goo when mixed properly. It’s made a day in advance because it needs a proper mixing with a drill and cement mixer attachment - this makes a lot of bubbles that need to disperse over time! The mixing also encourages the hydration of the particles so the molecules that make up the polysaccharide can create hydrogen bonds with the water molecules. The bonds are what create the gooey consistency that is needed for marbling.


The size has to be the right consistency, temperature and pH if the marbling is to go smoothly. If the size is wrong, nothing else will follow. Once you are convinced it is correct, it’s all about the mixing of the paint! Generally speaking, what you are trying to achieve are paints that float and don’t sink, are concentrated enough to impart saturated colour, and that behave “well” or correctly with the other colours for the pattern you have in mind. The elements that control how a paint behaves/looks are the pigment, binder, thinner and dispersant. Understand these and how they work, and you can control your paints using recipes that adjust these elements.


Of course, all paint types mix differently and behave differently. Within water-based paints, acrylics need different recipes to watercolour or gouache. Within one paint type, eg. gouache, different colours need a different recipe; for example, greens will need more dispersant than reds. And yet, two greens from different gouache producers will also behave entirely differently. Then when you throw the colours on top of one another, they can behave quite differently again with each other. It’s quite maddening. In the end it is all about balance, and knowing how you want the paints to behave, and how to make them do it. There is a lot of tweaking and testing involved.

 

It can be very helpful to know what a paint is made of before beginning. Acrylics for example have their own built-in dispersant, or “wetting agent” that allows them to flow and be smooth at any consistency once mixed with water. This means that they are already likely to break the surface tension of the size without you having to add any extra dispersant. The amount in the binder of each colour, however, is likely to vary.

 

Then there are the paint producers who can also out of nowhere adjust their paint recipes, so every now and then a recipe you used for years becomes useless. That’s why I like to make a lot of my own paints and my own binders so I know exactly what is in them. It is a time-consuming process of trial and error again, to make sure that there is enough binder to ensure adhesion to the paper, but not so much that the paint becomes too heavy. Heavy paint requires a lot of dispersant, and the thinner the paint, often the paler the outcome.

 

Over time, you get a feel for particular types of paint, and particular brands, and what colours within those brands work best for your purposes. I have gotten to a point where I can mix most things to a rough base recipe, and then test them on the size both individually and with the other colours I’m using, tweaking various elements as needed to achieve the effects I want. The order in which you throw the paints of course has an effect on how they behave on the size. Often the last colour thrown needs more dispersant than the first, and vice versa.

 

Another caveat - none of the above are absolute rules. For no reason at all that I can fathom, on any given day, the weather/ temperature/stage of organic entropy/who is in public office/your chosen mode of transport/how many tea breaks you’ve taken/whether you believe in the moon landing, will render all of the above information and any tried-and-tested methods totally useless. On these days it’s best to down tools and do something else.  

 

Q: I love that philosophy, I think it applies to so many different disciplines, there are some days where you just can't find a flow and you just need to take a break. I have observed quite a few different marblers and to my non-trained eye it seems like one of the most obvious differences between an amateur marbler and one that has mastered their craft is in the crispness of the design and the ability to create tight patterns without the colours and design elements bleeding together and becoming muddled, especially when doing something like a gelgit or nonpareil pattern. Tools, technique, materials and many other aspects affect the end result, but what do you think are some of the most important things that elevate a piece?

 

The Blade Itself Lettered Edition from Curious King

These are such great questions - this one really made me think. Of course, everything art related is subjective, and one person may like a particular marble over another for entirely personal reasons. However, I am aware that I can get quite frustrated when someone shows me a piece of marbling that they find “delightful”, that I look at and can see that it's just not “up there” with the best examples of the craft.


As works of design, I’d say that marbling is the same as anything else in that a masterful piece displays evidence of good colour choice, coherent design, and suitability in its application. In marbling terms, I'd say the things that elevate a piece are evidence of paint control and a real understanding of colour.


Paint control is shown not only in the ‘crispness’ you describe but also in the way that it appears the same across the design. It’s hard to explain… it has to look as though it hasn’t just happened by accident. Whether it is a complex design or an abstract one, there has to be a sort of confidence that comes through; it has to look as though it were meant to look that way. Even if it is organic and formless. And of course, as you mention, a light touch is required to ensure that the piece doesn’t become muddy. I’ve found that my new students are always so keen to just keep swirling, or to add just one more colour to an already overloaded palette.

 

I also think people equate complexity in marbling with success and skill. Don’t get me wrong, being able to produce very fine and technically skilled patterns is a sign of mastery, but I feel as though the simplest marbled patterns will really reveal someone’s skill. There are fewer places to hide; you aren’t just stunning people with intricacy. Personally, I think someone creating fine patterns is a skilled marbler, but someone who can also stop you in your tracks with simplicity is a master. (I’m looking at you, Tirza Garwood). 

 

Q: You came out with a beautiful book called Marbling: Practical Modern Techniques in 2020 that briefly goes into your personal story, a general history of marbling and then a variety of techniques and lessons on the art of your craft. Was this initially your idea to create this resource or were there other sources that pushed you along toward this project? Did the final product meet the vision you had initially pictured?


 I was actually asked if I would write this book by the publisher. I’d been teaching for many years at that point and so had a good deal of written instruction already, and I think they saw that marbling was having a bit of a revival. I was asked to write it just before COVID hit, and so I spent those first few bizarre months of the UK lockdown writing it from my garden.


It was such a beautiful year weather-wise; I have such lovely memories of sitting on a blanket with my housemate and my dog in the sun, writing away and wondering when I’d actually be allowed to get back to my studio! All the images were taken much later by me and a photographer friend, in a peculiar socially-distanced photo shoot. I was really pleased with how it came out. I think the layout designer did a good job, and I had some fabulous editors who were super in understanding that I wanted to write more conversationally than instructionally. As a project, it was hard work but very rewarding. I knew that at some point I wouldn’t teach as much anymore, so more than anything it felt like a great way to put my classes into a written form and make the lessons accessible still.

 

It really never occurred to me to write a book, so I didn’t have much of an idea of what it would look like. I’d definitely do it again. Next time I’ll print and bind and publish it myself! 

 

Q: What are some of your past projects that you are most proud of and why do they stand out to you as you reflect on all you have done?


I have loved so many projects, but the work I did for Stardust (Lyra’s Books) will always have a special place in my heart. I am so grateful that Rich trusted me with that.


I often like the papers and patterns I make, but I think that was the first time I really fell in love with something I’d designed. If that sounds a little big-headed, I’m afraid I don’t care. I remember sheets and sheets of the Stardust pattern hanging in my London studio, and just wanting to eat them all.


There are a couple of things I’ve worked on that I am immensely proud of, but I’m not allowed to talk about them. How annoying is that? When I reflect on everything though, the thing I am most proud of is just the fact that so many presses, binders, designers and artists have trusted me to be part of their projects.

 

Q: What would be the most important pieces of advice you would give someone who is interested in marbling either at an amateur or master level and what do you wish you had known before starting this whole journey?

 

I wish I’d known how addictive it is! And how long it takes to really get to grips with all the different variables.

 

The best advice I can give to someone starting out is to get to a class, get a kit, or get a really good book (or three!), and take your time!


Be patient. Make a mess. Make mistakes. Start simple and nail the basics. Stick to one type of paint, and maybe a limited number of colours to start with. Really get to know what you are working with. Start with a small tray and work up. Practice trying to repeat a pattern you’ve made already. Be delighted at everything. Enjoy the process.


 To someone already marbling at a high level, my best advice is to experiment! Develop new styles and patterns. The traditional stuff is beautiful and amazing and there will always be a place for it - but let’s make some modern masterpieces too.

 

Q: We know you are working on a few projects for some of our favorite presses currently, but is there anything else you can tell us about that is on the horizon? Are there any personal or commissioned projects you can talk about in their earlier stages or new ventures for you in the near future? 

 

I now have two apprentices, so expect some gear shifting in the next year!

 

There are some great projects on the horizon. I’m especially looking forward to Hyperion from Curious King (marbled leather onlays, they are so beautiful!), and keep your eyes peeled for Flowers for Algernon from Conversation Tree Press - the marble for that is a new favourite of mine! There’s a beautiful new edition of Erin Morgenstern’s Starless Sea coming out as well through Books Illustrated - I’ve just finished the marbling prototypes for these and they are going to be gorgeous. I’m also working on a version of tree calf marbling for Corvedale Press, which puts a spin on the original process that required the boards be rolled and then sprinkled with an acid solution. I’m recreating the process but without the acid! It should allow for more consistency across the pattern. There are a few other projects that haven’t been launched yet that I can’t talk about, but one of them is going to be pretty epic in size!


Marbled Papers on Lettered Edition of Flowers for Algernon from Conversation Tree Press

In terms of personal work, we are launching a catalogue of marbled papers in the new year, as well as an entirely new catalogue of paste papers, which we have been working on for the last year. It will be a small selection at first but we have some gorgeous patterns still in the prototype stages that we will add as well. We’re hoping to launch our own small range of bound books in the near future too. Not sure what that will look like yet, but I am so excited to start. Half the joy is in the process, and I plan to make the most of it.


Check out this video of Freya marbling for The Blade Itself from Curious King - Here


This interview was done in a series of communications back and forth and we want to thank Freya for her time and being a part of this series and her thoughtful answers. If you want to keep up with the latest from Freya and Paperwilds then you can check them out at https://www.paperwilds.co.uk/. You can also follow her on Facebook or Instagram to stay up with all of her incredible work.


Interview by: Zach Harney a cofounder of the Collectible Book Vault


*Since there are often different spellings in American English and British English of the same words, we have chosen to adhere to the spelling of the person who is speaking rather than conform to one convention for the whole interview.

 

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Zach Harney
Zach Harney
01. 12. 2023

Thanks everyone for participating! Our winners are:


Lo_runn - Marbled Journal

Jessica Bushore - Marbling by Freya Scott

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Awesome!! I’m so excited (:

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Love the interview! Freya’s work inspired me to try marbling for myself and it’s very addictive!

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Loved this interview.

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Great interview as always! Freya's work is so inspiring!

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AHHH I've been anticipating this interview for awhile. So fun! Absolutely love your marbling work. You are such a master of your craft, you make absolute magnificent patterns and make it look so elegant and effortless that it inspires others to want to take up marbling too. I would love to be a fly on the wall and see all the amazing work you make. Few years ago I didn't know hand marbling paper existed and now I want to try it so bad. Been keeping my eyes open for classes near me. No luck yet, may have to travel some to find one but It's going to happen. Thanks for sharing your talents and light Freya!

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