My first experience with Marble Matter was in summer 2018, at their “Plant Print” workshop at Plant KBH in Nørdhavn, Copenhagen. Design brand Normann Copenhagen had just held a large event, and they had a huge array of leftover flowers. “We asked if we could take the leftovers off their hands and use them, Julie Bak-Christensen explains, “they said yes! It made the disposal easy for them, and it meant we were reusing something that otherwise would have gone to waste.” The workshop was both fun and enlightening; a true blend of teaching and allowing the participants to express themselves creatively. I walked away exhilarated and impressed with the quality of the instruction (and with a new silk scarf dyed with flowers!).
Julie is one of the co-founders of Marble Matter, a design studio that runs workshops and events in both Copenhagen and Barcelona. Along with her childhood friend and co-founder Anne-Sophie Rosenvinge, Julie is determined to showcase paint marbling and plant dyes – craftsmanship that she feels have been “half forgotten;” at the very least, not celebrated as they should be in our society.
The two founders met during high school while both studying visual arts. Julie went on to study political science at Sheffield University in the UK, then sociology in the Netherlands, while Anne-Sophie studied graphic design in London. Julie moved to Barcelona with her partner upon graduating, then back to Copenhagen, where Anne-Sophie was working as a graphic designer and photographer. “We were both kind of floating, not sure what we were doing to do,” Anne-Sophie says.
On a trip to London in 2014, Julie found a paint marbling kit and tried it out. “I thought, wow, this is really cool. It wanted to learn more about it; not just the process, but the history and the context.” She spoke with Anne-Sophie about it, and they decided to run a few workshops. In 2015, they found an inexpensive studio space large enough to accommodate guests and held a series of paint marbling events. “We weren’t trying o build a brand or anything,” Julie says, “we just did what we wanted to do and went with it. For me, the workshop aspect was always going to part of anything I do because I am naturally a teacher. Anne-Sophie is so talented with creating visuals, from graphic design to photography, so we knew that would be part of it as well. It’s a really good combination.”
After the success of their first workshops, Marble Matter needed a more permanent place to hold events. “We were really lucky to find Fabrikken, a studio and event space on Amager. We still use that space; it’s been wonderful for us!” Julie says. The marbling workshops became a semi-regular fixture in both Copenhagen and Barcelona, where Julie still spends most of her time.
Paint Marbling is liquid surface design. Paint or ink is floated on a liquid surface and then paper or fabric is lowered onto the surface to bond with the design. It’s an ancient technique and there are two main traditions: Japanese (“monochrome and meditative,” Julie explains) and Turkish (“colorful, and the more typical style,” says Julie).
More recently, Marble Matter has begun to offer “plant print” workshops in which they teach people how to dye fabric with plants. “We saw a lot of similarities between marbling and plant dyes,” explains Anne-Sophie, “especially in the preparation of the materials. So it made it easy for us to bring the new workshops into the mix.”
Though Marble Matter has been successful in both Copenhagen and Barcelona – with the warmest reception being in Spain – both women still see it as a side project rather than a full time job. Julie still teaches and engages in a variety of art projects, while Anne-Sophie is a freelance photographer and graphic designer in Copenhagen.
They consider Marble Matter both a business and a personal project, and that’s what keeps them motivated. “We love brainstorming together,” Anne-Sofie says, “and figuring out what the next step will be. It’s low-pressure for us because it’s not our whole income, but we still want it to move forward.”
Marble Matter would like to host more advanced workshops in the future, as well as longer and more intensive events like retreats. “At the moment, we’re only teaching one level, and so people who have already taken the class a few times want something more in-depth. We’re excited to start doing that!” Julie says.
As for what advice they’d give people looking to start a create project but afraid to take the leap, Julie warns, “I would say don’t take out a loan. There’s no shame in doing work that’s not fun to earn your money, and then doing your creative work the side. When you don’t put pressure on your creativity, there’s a lot more room for growth.”
Anne-Sophie agrees, adding, “What do you have to lose?”
Having taken part in a plant print workshop myself, I can tell you what you’ll gain: the chance to get your hands dirty with something tactile and creative, the chance to learn about something you wouldn’t otherwise have access to, and the chance to create an item you’ll love for years to come.
“We want every workshop to feel special,” Julie says. “It should feel like something you can’t get anywhere else; like you’re learning a secret.” That’s exactly what they’ve created.
Upcoming Marble Matter Workshops in Copenhagen:
2300 København S
26th Jan 2019
2300 København S
26th Jan 2019
2300 København S
2nd Feb 2019