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Turkish delights

Discover the art of ebru painting and have a go with your friends.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Tables
  • Something to protect surfaces (for example, newspaper or tablecloths)
  • Scissors
  • Cocktail sticks
  • Device with access to the internet
  • Printer
  • Used plastic tubs at least 20cm by 20cm
  • Slow-drying spray paint
  • Water transfer paper
  • PPE (including disposable gloves and facemasks)
  • Thermometers
  • Access to warm water
  • Clothes pegs
  • Washing line or string

What is ebru?

Ebru is the traditional art of paper marbling that originates from Turkey. The process involves sprinkling and brushing coloured pigments onto water and transferring it onto paper. Traditional designs include flowers, foliage, mosaics and moons; it was traditionally used for the art of bookbinding. 

Before you begin

  • Make sure that your risk assessment for this activity includes information on working with solvents and paints and using PPE (personal protective equipment).
  • Make sure you’ve also got a COVID-19 safe risk assessment that’s been agreed by your line manager. You can check out more detailed guidance here
  • Print off or find some examples of ebru painting and how to do it. The website ebru.shop is a good place to start.
  • Let everyone know that you’ll be doing some painting in the next session and ask them to wear clothes that they don’t mind getting some paint on.
  • Try to get as many colours of spray paint as you can so everyone can make their work unique. You could contact local hardware stores or suppliers to see if they have any spare or returned paint that you can buy at a discounted price.
  • Cut your sheets of water transfer paper in half so that they’re A5-sized. You’ll need enough for everyone in the group, and it’s a good idea to have some spare too. Wash out your tubs and check that a sheet of your A5 water transfer paper comfortably fits inside each one. You could layer the inside of your tubs with cling-film if you want to reuse them.
  • Set everything up outside on tables covered with old sheets of newspaper. Lay a groundsheet underneath the activity area. Put out the tubs, cocktail sticks, water transfer paper and PPE in spaces in advance.

Safety checklist

Use the Safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional coronavirus-related controls to think about may include: 

  • Set up a hand washing station that you can use throughout the session. Ask everyone to wash their hands before and after the craft.
  • Remind everyone to stay socially distanced during the activity.
  • Set up enough tables so that people can work a safe distance from each other.
  • Clean the equipment before and after you use it. Make sure you have enough that people don’t have to share.

The art of ebru

  1. The person leading the activity should introduce ebru painting, a traditional form of painting that originated in Turkey. They should show everyone some examples and everyone should talk about the colours and technique they use.
  1. The person leading the activity show everyone the area they’ve set up outside. Everyone should stay socially distanced as they go outside.
  2. Everyone should split into groups of no more than four people. Each group should choose three paint colours to use in their art.
  3. Each group should stand by a plastic tub, making sure they stay a safe distance apart from each other.
  4. Someone should fill each tub three quarters of the way up with warm water. The water should be between 20C and 30C.
  1. Everyone should put on gloves and masks and take it turns to shake their spray can and spray into the water. They should hold the can about 30cm from the surface of the water and they should only use one can at a time.
  2. Once their colours are in the water, everyone should use the cocktail stick to swill them around and paint their picture.
  3. When they’re happy with the pattern, everyone should drop the water transfer paper into the water and push it down slowly so that it’s submerged.
  4. Everyone should displace any paint that’s settled around the outside of the paper near the edges of the tub with the cocktail stick.
  5. Everyone should carefully remove the paper from the water and hang it up somewhere to dry.
  1. Someone should replace the water and wash out any leftover paint from the tub before the next person has a turn. 

Reflection

This activity gave everyone the chance to learn about a traditional art form from Turkey. Pictures like these often featured in storybooks, which were handmade and bound by some of the finest craftspeople in the world. What did everyone make by swirling their paint? Was it easier or harder than painting with a brush? Could anyone tell a story by making a series of ebru pictures? Groups could arrange their work to see if they can create a story from the four pictures.

Ebru-style painting in this way could be used to decorate items like vases and cups, as well as books. Did anyone try the extension in this activity and do this? How did it turn out? What will they do with their item? It could make a great gift, for example.

Safety

Spray canister products
Look at the advice on COSHH (control of substances hazardous to health) and check the manufacturer’s advice. You may need to include controls such as good ventilation, using a face mask and gloves, and being careful not to use it near ignition sources.
Glue and solvents

Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using glue and solvent products. Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Be aware of any medical conditions which could be affected by glue or solvent use and make adjustments as needed.

Chemicals

This task involves the use of potentially harmful fluids or chemicals. Make sure you follow all relevant safety guidance. Make sure you dispose of them appropriately too, in line with safety guidance.

All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.