Susan Schneider is the owner of Shandell’s, a marbling studio in Ashley Falls, MA. Inside Susan’s beautiful old farmhouse, we speak about her path from antiques and fabric dealer to lampshade maker and marbling paper.
Join us in our conversation...
Martha: Given your background, how did you find your way into hand marbling paper?
Susan: I started making lampshades with marbled paper from antique books, but the small pieces (4" x 6" and 8" x 10") were really limiting. So, I started buying marbled paper from other people around the world. That’s how I became completely fascinated by the process…
Martha: Once you began marbling paper, how long did it take you to feel like you were really good at it?
Susan: I’ve only been marbling for 5 or 6 years, but I took to it like water. I went very deep into the learning process, working with mentors and teachers, spending thousands of hours practicing with patterns and colors.
Martha: One of the things that I respond to so much is your sense of color.
Susan: I love color, LOVE color. I love to live with color, and love to work with color.
Martha: What does your process look like? Do you set aside a particular day to marble?
Susan: I set aside days, because it’s a multi-layered process of preparation. First, it’s making carrageenan, which is the bath you drop your paints on, and that needs to be done a day ahead. Then I prep all the materials and paints. It’s a lengthy process, but once you get through the prep, you just marble and marble and marble.
Martha: What guides your process? Is it color or color combinations or pattern?
Susan: It depends on what I’m doing… if it’s a specific order or pattern that guides me or I just follow my mood. If I need to spend a day on patterns, which I love, then my combs come out. The combs create the patterns and there are over 300 patterns out there.
Martha: You have a couple predominant patterns within marbling that I see the most in your work: traditional, zigzag, speckly…
Susan: During thousands of hours of marbling, and thousands of sheets of paper, you find what patterns you like best, you discover what works best for you.
Martha: I found you through a friend of mine who asked if I had heard of you and your marbling classes. I then found you on Instagram and was blown away by your work but also loved that you are teaching the process.
Susan: I love teaching, I absolutely love teaching. It’s tremendous fun to see people explore themselves with color and find their way to “artistic” even if they think they are not. Everyone has that in them. I love the evolution of watching a person start in the morning with so much trepidation in dropping paint and then by the end of the day they have a stack of marbled papers to bring home. Unfortunately, that’s all on hold.
Martha: Is there a favorite product or part of the process that you love the most?
Susan: I’ve fallen in love marbling on leather. The ease of it. The colors change, soaked up by the medium. Leather is unique. It’s a very comfortable medium.
Martha: Because you love working with leather, do you think “hmmm… what else can I do on leather?”
Susan: Yes, of course! That’s the dangerous thing! I work with an incredible quality domestic and local manufacturer. And I use American Steers for leather. I really try to use all American products.
Martha: You have a really beautiful, successful business, you have incredible product in beautiful stores, your work receives lots of attention. What is your endgame?
Susan: This year is a huge transition year. I’m getting settled in a new space, and want to focus on doing my work, making beautiful things and connecting with stores and customers. I just like to make pretty things — building my garden, working on my house, building out my barn and studio — and want to keep living my happy life.
You can find Susan on Instagram @shandells and online shandells.com