For my diploma project at the American Academy of Bookbinding, I chose to interview bookbinders, marblers and book sellers. This blog is a collection of some of those interviews.
It was a delight to have the opportunity to learn more about Jemma.
How were you introduced to marbling?
I worked at a bookbinder’s called Chivers-Period and first became aware of marbling gracing the insides of the antique books that came to us to be restored. The papers were most frequently used as 'endpapers'
Where did you train or are you self-taught?
I trained at a studio in Frome called Ann Muir marbling and was taught by both Ann and her assistant Julie over several months. I learned the basics here but have continued to develop, learn and experiment over the last 10 years!
Is your background in art? Were you into art as a kid?
I have a background in Textile Design and have always loved art, design and crafting so being a marbler seems a very natural career for me. As a very young child I remember making 'hand-bags' from pieces of paper with a stapler and lots of colored pencils to decorate them!
What do you most enjoy about what you do?
I love the magic of it, you add some paints to a 'size', lay your paper down and then you have a piece of decorated paper within a matter of minutes.
Could you see yourself doing anything else? Is there another craft (or career) you think you would enjoy as much?
I think I’d like to have a little shop selling all kinds of papers and pens!
I'm also keen to take up calligraphy and I think that could sit very well aside the marbling.
What most interests you in terms of techniques?
That there are so many different techniques available that can all be utilized together to make some really interesting and unusual papers.
Are there skills do you still want to develop?
We always have new ideas and skills we wish to develop. I'd love to perfect the 'Tigers Eye'.
Do you work alone, or do you have help in your studio?
I'm very lucky that I get to work with my husband, and we work in a little log cabin studio at the bottom of the garden.
Do you have a mentor or someone that you model your career path after?
Not really in marbling specifically but I love to think that I am part of a larger community of creative women who are able to make a living doing what they love.
How long did it take for you to establish your business, to get to the point where you knew you could make a career out of it?
I had the fortune of being able to marble for 7 months before committing to setting up Jemma Lewis Marbling & Design at home. We have always had a regular and loyal customer base and pretty much straight away I was full-time marbling at home.
You sell on a variety of platforms (website, wholesale, commissions, licensing) is there any one area that makes up the majority of your work?
Most of our work comes to us via email and telephone enquiries where people are looking for something specific. Producing papers for bookbinders and retail outlets is probably the majority of our work.
How do you drive traffic to your website?
We don't really, people seem to find us well through internet searches and we boost this by being proactive on social media.
I'm so impressed with the projects I've seen where clients have licensed your patterns and used them on their own products. Can you tell me a little bit about how those processes have worked (do you actively pursue that type of work, did the client find you, do you enjoy doing that type of work)?
For this, clients always find us when they are looking for a marbled design to use as part of their product. This is mostly custom work where we work to their brief. I really enjoy working to a brief and coming up with several different design options for this. Should one of the designs be what they are looking for they would pay us a license figure to reproduce it.
What aspects of running your business do you find the most challenging? Why?
Meeting peoples deadlines can be challenging, especially when we are very busy. There are also times when we have a set aside a day to work on a specific order and for one reason or another it’s just not going to plan! Marbling often works on its terms!
How much time do you spend running the business vs. marbling?
It’s about half and half.
You have a great following on social media. Do you enjoy reaching out to people in this way and do you see that these efforts lead to sales?
Working from home social media is great for us to feel like we are part of a wider community, chatting to people, showing what we do, introducing new work and more often also adding to sales.
Thank you for reading!