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The Magic of Ebru

I had been yearning to learn Ebru, the ancient art of marbling, for a long time. My introduction to it was in Istanbul about 6 years ago, where I attended several workshops at Caferaga Medresesi in the Sultanahmet district. Afterwards, with a help of my lovely Turkish friend Fatma, I bravely purchased the marbling medium, paints and trays big enough to make lampshades. Fatma kindly brought it all back from her holidays, for which I will be eternally grateful.

The word ‘Ebru’ comes from the Persian word ‘Ebr’, meaning ‘cloud’. Ebru is a traditional Turkish painting art, and can be defined as painting on water and transferring this painting onto paper. A gum called tragacanth is added to the water to yield a thickened liquid, and horse hair brushes are used to apply paints which are insoluble in water. The oldest samples of the Ebru works date back to 1539 at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.

In our studio, we all wanted to try the Ebru magic. Frustrated at times, we tried to work out why the paint was sinking, why the colour on paper was bolder than that on silk, what was the perfect ratio of medium powder and water, etc… all the while taking notes on our findings. We created a series of bespoke lampshades to test the colour and designs with diffused light, even obtaining a few bespoke commissions that have been very successful. However I have always felt that we needed more knowledge and more consistency with print quality- learning the art of Ebru from a real artisan was a natural next step.

My search led me to meeting with the artist Hayrettin Kozanoglu. Offering workshops and courses from the studio at the Turkish Education Group in London, Hayrettin is also involved in a variety of art projects around the UK. Although his works are mostly done on paper, he agreed to do a special silk printing workshop for me.

So, armed with enthusiasm and imagination, I entered the studio. The scene before me was a wonderful mixture of paints and horse hair brushes of various sizes, trays, combs, papers and works of art on the water surface and drying on the newspaper-covered tables. Inspirational Turkish music played in the background. Hayrettin’s warm welcome and the well organised, light and spacious studio made me feel comfortable and relaxed.

After receiving a brief history of Ebru and its many types, I watched Hayrettin while he worked and was very impressed with his broad knowledge of both traditional and contemporary Ebru techniques. We worked together for hours but indeed I felt almost in a meditative state, such was the calming power of creating patterns in the large trays.

I took away a few things form my time with Hayrettin- Ebru is like magic, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It has a perpetually changing harmony, and requires great dedication and patience. You can learn the art of Ebru in a single day, but the real Ebru masters spend lives practicing new patterns and perfecting their skills, making their work unparalleled!

For your own Ebru experience, please visit or contact Hayrettin by

e: or t: +44 (0) 7972460717

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