Ann Muir was a skilled craftswoman whose marbled papers gained her an international reputation. Ann, who died last month, worked for many years from her studio at St Algar’s Yard, in Frome, Somerset.
Ann's skill in reproducing historical designs and patterns was remarkable. In cases of sympathetic repair work or rebinding, Ann was able to receive a scrap of old paper through the post and return it with two or more full sheets in the same style and colourways, often within a couple of weeks.
As Ann's reputation grew, opportunities for a more imaginative use of her talent flourished; she was increasingly commissioned by fine press printers to design paper for specific titles, each one reflecting a book's theme.
Graham Moss of Incline Press, who spoke about Ann’s work at her funeral at St Michael's, Mere, Wiltshire, on July 30th, described her papers as being ‘ebru by the sheet’ - illustrative, rather than purely decorative, material. 'Ebru is the epitome of marbling skill, pictures created on the surface of water with colours that you can't read until the image is transferred to paper, most usually of ornate and fantastical flowers. Ann expanded these ideas; flowers yes, along with ladybirds, snails and spiders with fantastic webs, even hedgehogs, trees, and amazing red and gold fish in underwater scenes. And as well as the expected size, she made miniature marvels of all these, drawn on the surface of water in an ice cube tray, on the table at home as fit for an evening's entertainment after a day at work.'
In Harvesting Colour: The Year in a Marbler’s Workshop, (Incline Press, 2000), Ann designed patterns to represent the months of the year. These were accompanied by her entertaining tales from St Algar’s Yard. Graham Moss recalled that Ann's 'mastery of tradition allowed her to go beyond the usual constraints, only possible because of her total control of that tradition.'
The bindings on many recent editions of fine press books will be a testament to Ann’s life and work. One satisfied customer, Edward Suzuki, wrote to Ann: "Are you a descendent of William Morris? You have the God's hands. Stunning design, fabulous colour, beautiful colour combination, eternal beauty, very sublime, beyond my poor English. Your joyous creation of beauty is forever."
An appreciation of Ann’s life and work by Barry McKay will appear in the next issue of Parenthesis, the Journal of the Fine Press Book Association
With many thanks to Graham Moss for allowing us to publish extracts from his eulogy, and to Book Patrol where this was originally posted.