Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
Number 97
December 1994


Patty and Mimi Schleicher, Marbled Designs.
Lark Books, 50 College St., Asheville, NC 28801. 1993. 144pp with 145 color plates. ISBN 0-937274-69-0. $24.95.

Reviewed by Peter Verheyen, Cornell University

From the press release, "Marbled Designs is an impressive portfolio of swirling, colorful patterns that can be made on paper or fabric. With a history dating back to 10th Century Japan when the designs were on rice paper or silk, the technique of marbling can be used to design book endpapers, notepaper, wall hangings, clothing, wrapping paper, and one-of-a-kind artworks." Patty and Mimi Schleicher (mother and daughter) were also creative consultants for the how-to book, Marbling Paper and Fabric, (Sterling Publishing, 1991).

Marbled Designs begins with an introduction which goes very briefly into the history of marbling in Turkey, India, Japan, Italy, France, Holland and Germany. It also gives a brief history of marbling in books, and its use in combating forgery. Ben Franklin convinced Congress to marble paper money at one end, for example, and ledgers and account books were often edge-marbled to deter removing records: the loss of pages would be very noticeable along the marbled edges. There are also short paragraphs on marbling and religion and the universal nature of marbling. This is followed by a very brief introduction to the actual process of marbling. This book clearly assumes that one has prior marbling experience.

Many of the patterns in the book are hundreds of years old, and represent traditional work done in the countries mentioned above. These historic patterns could be used in conservation work. Other patterns were created by the authors specifically for Marbled Designs. All of the patterns are illustrated, and there are instructions for making each of them.

Following the designs found in nature, the patterns are lacy and intricate, like the veins of a leaf or the curve of a Cecil, or bold and undulating like the sweep of a wave. The gallery in the book's concluding chapter shows how marblers can improvise and produce their own patterns.

The main body of the book is filled with very lush reproductions of 55 marbled patterns and instructions for creating them. It is laid out with an 8" x 10" full page illustration on the left opening and, on the right, a smaller picture, a written description, and a diagram for creating the pattern. Having marbled in the traditional sense only once in my life, I've found myself wanting to try again.

In the last section called "Many Marblers' Marbling: Marbling as Fine Art," the authors show examples of some very fine "design" marbling by, among others, Christopher Weimann, Diane Maurer, Karli Frigge, and Iris Nevins, as well as the authors.

The book is not a manual on how to marble as it assumes that the reader knows how to prepare the colors and sizes, but it is well laid out, the illustrations are stunning, and the instructions are clear and concise. It would be a fine addition to any marbler's or marbling aficionado's reference library. The price is quite reasonable as well.

C.R. Ashbee: An English View of the Crafts-man Ideal.
An exhibition and conference at Craftsman Farms, Parsippany, NJ.

Reviewed by Phil Weimerskirch, Providence Public Library

About five years ago the town of Parsippany, New Jersey, purchased the property formerly owned by Gustav Stickley, the furniture designer, and is turning it into a center for the study of the Arts and Crafts Movement. One of the several buildings on the property, which is called Craftsman Farms, has been filled with Stickley furniture and with display cases for temporary exhibitions.

Craftsman Farms has several four to six-week exhibitions during the months of April through October, and they plan to have at least one exhibition a year on Arts and Crafts books and graphic design. The most recent exhibition, held this past October, was devoted to "C.R. Ashbee: An English View of the Crafts-man Ideal." Although there were several cases of Ashbee's jewelry and silver work, the main focus of the exhibition was on the books printed at his Essex House Press. In conjunction with the exhibition there was a conference at which the featured speakers were Ashbee's daughter, Felicity, and Alan Crawford, author of C.R. Ashbee: Architect, Designer and Romantic Socialist.

There were also three slide/lectures at a later date, one of which was on the "Essex House Press and The Book Beautiful in England and America, 1890-1920" by David W. Lowden, one of the organizers of and lenders to the exhibition. The slides were made from Mr. Lowden's own fine collection of turn-of-the-century private press books.

The exhibition drew primarily on the collection of Cameron O. Smith to include about half of the total output of the Essex House Press as well as some bindings and ephemera. There were also several panels with photographs and explanatory material. A catalog of the exhibition is available for $10.00 plus $1.00 shipping and handling from Craftsman Farms, 2352 Rte. 10-W, Box 5, Morris Plains, NJ 07950; (201) 540-1165. It is paperbound and was printed in an edition of 200 copies at a local "quick print" shop. The book has 75 pages and numerous illustrations, all in black and white. Most of the illustrations are of things other than books, and there are none at all of bindings. The illustrations that are taken from books are mainly decorated initial letters, press marks and tail pieces.

The first 46 pages of the catalog contain essays about Ashbee, a two-page bibliography, a statement about Craftsman Farms, and a two-page list of American museums and libraries containing Ashbee material. The rest of the catalog is a checklist of the exhibition. The essays include Essex House Press: The Idea of the Book Beautiful (pp. 32-39) and Essex House Bindery: Power of the Press (pp. 39-40). The section of the checklist devoted to "Fine Printing" occupies pp. 57-74 and describes 43 items. This is followed by a brief section on the "Essex House Bindery" (pp. 74-75) that describes five items, one of which is a "Prospectus for New Bindery." The annotations are critical, well-written and sometimes fairly lengthy.

This December 1-4 Craftsman Farms is organizing a tour of seven historic house museums in the area, and during this time they are also having an exhibition of Arts and Crafts books with a Christmas theme. In 1996 Craftsman Farms plans to have an exhibition on Will Bradley, who spent his last years in nearby Short Hills, New Jersey.