Everything You’re Never Going to Need to Know About Ebru

“Take notes, guys. I’m going to quiz you later,” Alican, our program director, instructed us as we stood around the studio table in Beyoglu. Then he upped the stakes: “Whomever gets the answers right can come back for another class.”

Ebru was awesome. Meditative, dynamic, instantly gratifying. So I studied.

Now I know a lot of things about the art of Ebru. PLUS Alican never told us that the quiz he sent out by email was time sensitive/on a first-come first-serve basis (not bitter or anything) so these facts floating around in my head are of as little use to me as they are about to be to you, dear reader. Nevertheless! Here’s what I know…

—   The water that you drip the paint on is called “size”

—   The water base you drip paint on is thickened using carrageenan, a carbohydrate extracted from seaweed

—   The bristles on the paint brush are made of horse hair

—   The main part of the brush is made of rose branch because it is flexible

—   Ox gallbladder is used to thicken the paints

—   The tulip is the most common flower motif

—   There are various styles/techniques of Ebru marbling, including “hatip” (floral designs)

—   As you continue to use the same “size,” the results supposedly get better and better

—   Hatip Mehmed Effendi, an early Turkish master who is accredited with having developed the floral motif/technique, died in a fire in 1773 while tying to (get this!) save his Ebru artworks from his burning house (And that’s what you call ironic)

And finally…

—   Turkish Airlines has a whole webpage devoted to facts about the art of Ebru— Another reason why Turkish Airlines is the best thing ever


And that’s Ebru!


Well, I’ll give you a little more information about it.


Ebru works are created by dripping paint on top of a viscous water base. The paint floats on top of the dense base, so you can use needle-like/comb-like tools to manipulate it on the surface of the water. This is how you create the swirled, marbled appearance. Once you’ve completed the design on the water, you place a sheet of paper on top of it, and LIKE MAGIC all of the floating paint instantly adheres to the paper and slides right off the surface of the “size.” The “size” can then be reused, and the piece hung to dry.

The studio in Beyoglu is charming. Clean, homey, a good “size” (GET IT!?). The women who work there are sweet and helpful… and patient. We all drank tea and coffee in the small dining area of the studio while we waited for our turns at the Ebru stations. It was so great to get to do something creative and learn about an authentic Turkish art. All in all, a wonderful evening.


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