Centuries of Colorful Patterns: Ebru

An art form which emerged in Central Asia in the medieval age, the Turkish practice of Ebru (also known as “marbling”) is a fascinating design formed that features streaks and swirls made on paper. Here’s a look at some different approaches to producing Ebru, from the traditional to more updated forms.

The art of marbling, also known as Ebru, involved decorating various surfaces with colorful patterns. Although pieces of Ebru might seem like easy patterns by today’s standards, the technique dates back to the Middle Ages. The first forms of Ebru appeared first in Central Asia and then spread to Anatolia. During the Ottoman period, with Turkish calligraphers and artists creating new forms and perfecting techniques, Turkey remained the center of Ebru. This explains why Ebru is also called the “Turkish Art of Marbling”. It was registered with this phrase on Unesco’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2014. Traditionally, Ebru patterns are made by sprinkling and brushing color pigments onto a pan of oily water and then transferring the patterns to paper. Today, however, we see Ebru being used in various contexts such as on fabric or three-dimensional surfaces.


Knowledge about how to do Ebru is traditionally transmitted through practical training offered in the form of a master-apprentice relationship. The basic principle of the training process for Ebru is not only the training of the technique but also the introduction of the philosophy behind it. Ebru encourages dialogue and strengthens relations between individuals and communities. Traditional Ebru designs consist largely of flowers, foliage, ornamental shapes and patterns and the first quarter moon (narrow crescent).

Continued on Hijab In Style’s November 2018 issue…

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