MEET THE MAKER
Fascinated by the endpapers of antiquarian books, Jemma Lewis cra s unique marbled designs from her homely back-garden studio
Discover Jemma Lewis’s hypnotic hand-marbled papers, inspired by antiquarian books
glance inside Jemma Lewis’s workshop reveals a psychedelic tangle of colour and pa!ern. A "er discovering the art of marbling while working for an antiquarian bookbinders, Jemma set up a business cra "ing artisan papers from home. Now popular among big-name fashion brands and publishers, Jemma’s papers de"ly blend heritage methods with contemporary colourways.
What is your background?
I completed a degree in Textile Art and, when I moved back home to Wiltshire, I took a position with a bindery in Bath. While there, the company sent me to learn traditional paper marbling with a lady called Ann Muir.
When did you rst discover marbling?
At the bookbinders, it was my job to go through all of the antique books that came in and make a note of what repairs
were needed – and o!en they needed new marbled papers to match the originals. I was drawn to the colours and the diversity of the pa"erns that I found, but also by their link with history. I loved how some of the papers, tucked inside old bindings, seemed as fresh and vibrant as the day they were made.
What is your process?
To begin with, I # ll the marbling tray with water and Carrageen moss (an Irish seaweed that I buy as a powder). This makes a thick, gloopy substance, almost like wallpaper paste, that I can $oat the paints on. I then prepare the paper with alum – a chemical to ensure the paint can stick and won’t rinse o%. I dip a brush in watered- down gouache paint and $ ick the colours across the surface – the pa"ern can either be le! as spots, or swirled using a stylus to create a more intricate pa"ern. I then lay the alumed paper onto the surface to transfer the pa"ern.
What inspires you?
‘I like to try new colours and techniques. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to get but, for me, that’s all part of the fun.’
A lot of my designs are down to experimentation. When I have time in the workshop, I like to try new colours and techniques. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to get but, for me, that’s all part of the fun.
What is your workshop like?
It’s a log cabin at the bo"om of the garden, so I certainly enjoy the commute! It’s very much a working space and isn’t an immaculate studio. The walls are thick with 10 years’ worth of paint spla"ers and the shelves are full of gouache waiting to be used. The space is at its best in the summer when we can have the doors open and Milo the cat and Charlie the
dog can come and lounge in the garden nearby.
What has been the proudest moment of your career?
Earlier this year, I met HRH Prince Charles at the Romanian Cultural Institute in London. I created some custom hand-marbled papers for a special binding called the
published by Addison Publications Ltd. I also work regularly with The Folio Society to create marbled papers for its limited- edition books. And recently, I created designs for a book by Florence Welch [of band Florence and the Machine] and I have worked with Jo Malone to marble lids for its iconic perfume boxes.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m marbling 300 ultra-thick sheets for a client to use within their packaging. Every sheet is di !erent and I’m using several coloured base papers.
How do you display your papers at home?
I have lots of marbling at home because it’s so versatile. I have a favourite framed piece above my bed and a set of lined drawers, plus some marbled silk ribbon, which I used on my wedding shoes!
Any future plans?
To keep marbling and "lling those drying racks with colourful papers. I hope the future will bring more exciting collaborations and projects and, further down the line, I’d love to expand my studio and o!er marbling workshops to larger groups.
ABOVE ‘I’m constantly inspired by colour,’ explains Jemma. ‘I see tonal combinations everywhere – from nature to the shades used in vintage fabric and art.’ BELOWLEFT Origami stars made from Jemma’s marbled papers.
ABOVE ‘My workshop isn’t large, but it’s big enough to house everything that I need to marble,’ Jemma says. BELOW LEFT & RIGHT A marbled copy of The Duke’s Children, commissioned by The Folio Society. Plus, a marbled pen pot in Primitive Crackle (£10).