Chaos. Chemistry. Magic.


Today I’m learning the art of paper marbling. It’s something I’ve wanted to learn for a while, and so I finally gave up on waiting for the “right time” when there was a workshop that fit into my schedule. I got a kit, watched a few videos online, read a book, and converted my roughly twelve square-foot kitchen into a paper-making studio.

These are the days I miss the garage I used to have--that hallowed ground where I was at last free to be as messy as I wanted, without fear of spilling paint or tracking dirt in, or doing damage that would cost me my security deposit. I think there are two kinds of artists in the world: those who create only when they have achieved the proper studio feng-shui, where everything is neatly in its place, and those born of clutter and chaos, where materials collide like atoms and Big Bang style magic happens. I’m this second kind, of course. I have the paint splatters to prove it.


It was easier than I thought to rig up this marbling station. I felt a little like a mad scientist, mixing these bizarre chemicals that thickened water and allowed pigment to float. (How did they think of this back in the fifteenth century? Talk about Big Bang genius.) There was a little engineering involved in stringing this cat’s cradle of clothesline just right to avoid drips, and a little magical chemistry that happened when the floating pigment clung to the paper to make these pages that look good enough to lick.


My tiny kitchen may be cluttered again, but it’s strung from corner to corner with little victory flags. It feels good to learn a new skill, to finally do that thing I’ve been wanting to learn to do, and to make my apartment look like the place where an artist lives. There’s something comforting about having little pieces of works-in-progress hanging around. It reminds me that my life is a work-in-progress, too. It may be cluttered, and a little chaotic, but I like to think that means that magic can happen at any moment. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.