Watching Florence Saumarez marble paper is mesmerising. With the rhythmic tapping and hypnotic gliding of her paintbrush she creates colourful and complex patterns of spellbinding beauty in a matter of moments. Seeing her at work in her Bath studio, surrounded by her designs, it’s clear that Florence has a natural affinity for the art form she first turned to just a few years ago.
“I love that I am producing a piece of paper which
Having spent most of her architecture degree making furniture rather than designing buildings, she pursued a career in the workshop as a prop and furniture designer. But when she grew tired of working with machinery (or more to the point – dust), she happened upon a ‘70s marbling video and was completely entranced.
She fell head over heels with the centuries-old craft and after plenty of training and practice, established Inq, her own paper marbling studio. It’s the process of making something delicate and individual by using a historical technique that fires Florence’s passion. “I love that I am producing a piece of paper which feels precious,” she says. “I like the fact that it has a resonance with history and yet it can also feel contemporary.”
“I also love the second stage of my business, which is the designing and making of products using the marbled paper. This allows me another opportunity to design so that I am not simply reproducing paper from the past, but curating a collection which reflects my brand and aesthetics.”
Florence in design store 8 Holland Street, Bath
Florence has turned her marbled paper into lampshades, framed prints, paperweights and now, with her debut Papier collection, stationery and wedding invitations. The ethereal beauty of the Inq designs are perfect for announcing commitments of love but equally wonderful for adding a lavish touch to your desk with a notebook, notecards or writing paper set.
“I like the fact that there is a little bit of mystery behind the art of marbling and this mystery allows people a subconscious connection to the grand opulence of Turkish and Italian history.” So if you want your colleagues to subliminally think of you as some sort of modern Venetian Doge of the workplace, then you know which stationery to shop. Though as Florence suggests, having nice, helpful things is also just plain nice. “Hopefully there is also a simple pleasure derived from an object which is beautiful and useful in its own right.”
The techniques Florence uses in her style of paper marbling are very traditional. Dropping diluted gouache paint onto a bath of carrageenan fluid (a thick liquid extracted from seaweed) makes the paint float and the colours stay distinct. So when Florence manipulates them with her brush or special marbling comb, the colours don’t blend together and she can create the striking patterns she does. Paper is then laid on the surface of the fluid and the paint immediately adheres to the paper, et voilà your marbled print – once it’s been hung and dried of course.
“Paper marbling gives you all the emotions!”
Designs start with the idea for a colour palette which evolves, sometimes very subtly, through further experimentation until Florence has found the perfect balance between the colours. Putting her finger on the origin of her inspiration is not so easy though. “Sometimes there is just something in the ether which we connect to and in my case there is a lot of serendipity and a very full recycling bin!”
Though it might take a few attempts to find a design that Florence is happy to show to the world, when she gets there, it’s most definitely worth it. “It is a lovely thing to make something which can have great complexity and delicacy but can be quite simple to produce, with each piece being totally unique,” she says. But just like all good love affairs, Florence’s relationship with her craft is a rollercoaster.
“Paper marbling gives you all the emotions! Initially it is completely delightful and therapeutic as the whole process feels quite magical. The challenges begin when you are trying to achieve a high level of consistency in a batch of papers or to repeat a previously made paper. The colours or patterns that you have perfected one day may look quite different another day as there are so many variables at play. It can be incredibly frustrating but the lows probably make the highs even sweeter!”
Fall in love with Florence's mesmerising marble Inq collection.