Gifted with an innate sense of color and professionally trained during a decade spent working in the graphic and fashion design industries, the eternally curious and fearlessly experimental Los Angeles-based artist is applying her talents to textileS and evolving the tradition of marbling in the process.
Paige Cleveland
Marbling tools
Drips of paint on canvas
Marbled leather
Paige marbling
Paige & Tina
Paige & Tina marbling
Marbled bathroom
Green marbled
When Paige Cleveland attended a workshop in Los Angeles, to learn the ancient technique of marbling, she embraced the opportunity as an outlet for creative rejuicing at best and a meditative experience at least. After the first demonstration, however, the California-raised, Downtown L.A.-based designer knew she had initiated something much more profound: a complete personal and professional transformation.

Marbling’s allure spans centuries, from primitive cultures to the modern era. Though its official origins are disputed, the genesis of marbling and the techniques that inform Cleveland’s studio approach at Rule of Three can be traced back to the Ming Dynasty, around the 14th century. The process uses dyes, solutions of different permeability and solubility and traditional tools and hand movements to conjure intricate and organic patterns that are then applied to everything from paper, to textiles, to leather.

As evident in the wallcoverings and fabrics produced by Rule of Three, the art form’s appeal is both ageless and timeless. And the tradition continues to find fresh expression precisely because it is so deeply personal and satisfying. Or, as Paige explains, “Marbling mesmerizes because it taps into an enduring and universal instinct to tame the elements.” 
In Paige’s loft-style studio space, the artistry extends far beyond the marbling tank to every aspect of the production process.
Paint-splattered clogs that the team all wears, formerly white Danskos.
Operating from within a spacious, second-floor studio in the Arts District, Paige’s team of three (naturally)—comprised of Paige herself, plus Rule of Three’s longtime designers Emma Neill and Tina Cruz, who not only have mastered the technique but also run all of production in the studio—approach each new product launch, emerging collection or individual commission as a fresh chance to coax a wild swirl of colors and dyes into an indelible imprint that speaks to a larger vision. To capture, in other words, a moment of free-flowing artistry and then freeze it in time.
Given her background in graphic design, it seems natural that Paige would be drawn to marbling. Her uncanny eye for color and palette creation is fully realized as she takes inspiration from art history and the natural world, using traditional artistry to translate that into modern fabrics.
Tina mixing ink in the color lab.
Broom bristle paint brushes.
Clipboard-style fabric racks of their own invention.
She is also an aesthetic savant when it comes to engineering the materials and tools that facilitate and aid in production: shelves for cataloging the dyes she customizes, trough tables for swirling, ceiling suspension systems (complete with pulleys and rigs) for hanging and processing pieces post-marbling.
Lou Lou Wall sconce shades covered in Rule of Three's Stone Plume fabric in Starlight Night. Interiors by Chassity Evans. Photography by Marni Durlach.
Yet despite the specificity and precision with which Paige and her team approach their craft—and the volume of projects for clients both domestic and global—there is, at heart, one overarching and guiding principle: Bring nature—organic, human, or otherwise spontaneously derived—to vibrant, fluid and authentic life.  
Marble wallpaper adorns Paige’s dining room.

paige cleveland as told to the urban electric co.

Marbling was truly the last thing I’d planned on pursuing, but even from day one, when I had zero idea about how to actually launch a marbling studio, I knew I had found my calling. I made it official in 2013 and have been exploring and pushing the limits of this studio ever since.
The name Rule of Three comes from the idea of the marriage of color, pattern and ‘ground,’ or material, that gets marbled. I love descriptors. I love threes. I love the way the power of three gets highlighted and magnified in writing, in design, in photography. It’s a theme that feels very suited to the technique-driven nature of what we do and how each component blends together to express something bigger and different but still cohesive and intentional. At its core, marbling in general—and certainly the way we approach it—is all about storytelling.

We translate the beauty of nature and the sincerity of the human hand into exquisite objects and surfaces. It’s like science and magic mixed into one beautiful art form. And, really, is there anything better than that?
My team consists of two other people—Emma and Tina—and they both learned marbling from me. But even though they had no previous experience, they are both artists and creative powerhouses in their own right and brought their own instincts and vision and palettes and ideas to bear. Emma is a painter who also has an incredible engineering mind—she designed and built most of the racks and rigs we use to treat and dry and finish the pieces in our collection. Tina has a background in product design and is an amazing photographer, and her eye for color and mixing—the alchemy side of the process—is incredible. We literally produce every color and make every tool we use, plus all of the equipment we require, right here in the studio, with our own hands. Our space is part design studio, part chemistry lab, part hardware store and workshop. 
There is an element of excitement and pride in sharing with our clients and collaborators how intricate our process is and what goes into the collection we have created and whatever new pieces we add to the line. Marbling is transfixing and meditative and addictive, but it is also work and we take our process super seriously. 

It’s a technique that requires focus and hours and hours of training your muscles to do unnatural things naturally—and repetitively. So much of the magic lies in things you can’t see—the motion of the wrist; the willingness to step back and see the pattern emerging and then recognize what’s missing; the ability to then toss just the right amount of paint to land in just the right spot in order to take a design to the next level or finish it off. There’s real power in the subtleties of a craft like this.
And that’s why marbling can be deceptive, at least in terms of its expression as an art form. It can be easy to underestimate the complexities, which leads to a gap in recognition and respect that we hope to remedy as we take on and educate new clients and design partners. When people observe us working, they see a very fluid, very coordinated, almost dance-like, process, and it can appear “chill” or effortless to the observer. There is a lot to master, though, when it comes to the fundamentals; you have to first feel comfortable and confident in executing the actual technique of marbling and then master the skills and knowledge required to apply the color and patterns to varying materials—leather, paper, cloth. And even though we are always evolving and modernizing and playing with form and approach and experimenting, we still rely on a very precise set of principles to ground what we do. Experimentation can only happen with a foundation of experience.
Rule Of Three Studio
We take inspiration from nature, from shapes and curves, from a beautiful view, from emotions and memories, from colors I respond to in the moment or might have loved in childhood. There are obviously established patterns and styles, and we study those, but we also invent our own signatures just as often. Marbling is a perfect balance of the personal and subjective on the one hand and time-honored and established on the other. It’s an ancient craft, after all, and we are just part of a long line of practitioners carrying those traditions through history and filtering them through our individual points of view. Pretty amazing and humbling when you stop and think about it. 
What does the future look like for us? Exciting and wide open! I want to build on our momentum to continue to grow this business. I want to get a bigger studio, travel for inspiration and to expand my knowledge, bring in people to support Emma and Tina so that they can move up and continue to evolve professionally, too—I want it all! There are no limits to what we can do and how we can innovate. 

Whether we are launching our own line, hosting friends for a bit of experimentation on a Friday afternoon, developing the creative vision for a textile collection that will pay tribute to a flight of fancy or an overdue creative homage or what have you, we are always starting, always stopping, always creating and installing, and always imagining how to observe the Rule of Three when there are so many rules left to both break and establish today.
Paige Cleveland