Florentine paper marbling with Natalia, Lisa and Sara at Alberto Cozzi

Alberto Cozzi is a Florentine paper and book-binding shop that has been a family run business on Via del Parione,  since 1902. The shop is still run by the same family who have another little shop on Via Agostino in the Oltrarno where they make more of their own paper and bind more books.

Beautiful paper shop

I have been visiting the shop and taking my friends to meet Riccardo Lucci in this shop since 2010.  One of my visitors was intrigued by the technique and asked if I could organise a ‘paper-marbling’ course for him – – I spoke to Riccardo and he said “Perche Non?” – so now we do them regularly!

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According to Riccardo although Florentine paper has a very distinctive style and reputation paper marbling as we do it here, was originally developed in Turkey.

The method of marbling we practice in Florence allows our selected colours to float on the surface of a viscous mucilage, which we would refer to as size  in English.  Known in Italy as the ‘ colla,’ the mixture that is used comes from a type of algae that is only found in the Black Sea.

After mixing the colla needs a full three days to settle into a sufficiently thick gluteus  mass in the tray that is able to suspend the paint on the top of the mixture and not allow it to sink and mix into the paste.

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For historic reasons this method is often referred to as “Turkish” marbling, although ethnic Turkic peoples were not the only practitioners of the art, as Persian Tajiks and people of Indian origin also made papers this way. There is evidence that  the first paper to be decorated in a similar way was made in China as long ago as the 10th Century.

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Every piece of paper that is made by this method is going to be totally unique because the colours spread in different ways according to the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere , as well as being affected by the colour mixture chosen by the individual who is designing the paper, and finally by the colour of the paper the paint is affixed to.

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The colour dropped onto the colla is  stirred up and down with the back of a paint brush to create an entirely different look –

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And then we make “arci” – little arches – with a handmade tool that probably hasn’t changed much in design over the past 500 years!

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The final twist comes with another antique tool, which we use to gyrate across the mixture to make the  pretty peacock tail design known as the Pavane.

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I still find it exciting to see how the results on paper differ from the image in the tray – and it is great to see someone’s face light up when they like what they have created.

I was so pleased when Sara commented on her paper – “Not bad for a first go?”      No! – Indeed not – everyone created an individual masterpiece!

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Getting the paper out of the tray is the final challenge  – the mixture is completely absorbed onto the paper, but it is all too easy to touch the sides and smudge it whilst wet – so we leave that part to the Maestro to make sure all our hard work isn’t lost in transit.

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Thanks to everyone for joining the class and I hope you all find something lovely to do with your special paper.

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