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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Marbling master visits the U

By Andrew Cone

Artistic magician Galen Berry dropped by the U last week to show students and artists from all over Utah how to create intricate designs and patterns using an ancient technique called marbling.

The art of marbling involves the sprinkling of ink or paint onto a surface of water mixed with carrageenan, a gelatin-like substance usually used as a food additive, which is then stirred with different instruments to form patterns that look like stone and can later be transferred to cloth or paper.

Berry, known as one of the best marbling artists in the country, has been marbling for more than 30 years.

“I taught myself — I had to find all these old books from the 1800s, and I did it all on my own,” Berry said. “I never did have a master or a teacher or anything. I just had to figure it out.”

Although the designs are still used for books, they are more commonly seen today on ties, T-shirts and tissue boxes.

Students like Becky Thomas came to take part in Berry’s two day workshop held at the Book Arts Studio inside the Marriott Library. Thomas, a senior majoring in English, said she took a book binding class last year and came to the workshop to help round out her book production skills.

“I thought it would be interesting to learn how to print books and how to make them,” she said.

Thomas said she and the other students took home about 30 pieces of art each from the two day workshop.

The art of marbling has roots in Turkey and Persia and began nearly 1,000 years ago as a method to prevent erasing and forgery on official documents, according to Berry’s website, After that, it was taken to Europe by the crusaders and used as an essential part of bookbinding, providing patterns on the inside covers of many fine books.

The practice was a closely guarded secret conducted behind locked doors in hidden laboratories. Those who knew marbling protected the process so the bookbinders’ guilds would continue to pay premium prices for their papers.

In the early 19th century when books began to be mass-produced, the art of marbling was in danger of dying out. In response, a few medieval guilds decided to publish books on the subject. It was from these old books that Berry learned the ancient art form.

“Twenty years ago it had almost died out,” Berry said. “It was hard to find anything on it, even find the supplies.”

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