blackthorn and blood

Blackthorn drawn by carys davies

Gunnersbury Triangle in the snow

Gunnersbury Triangle in the snow, C Netty Ribeaux

I’ve been hedgelaying on and off, at Gunnersbury Triangle, a little jewel of woodland between three tube lines in Chiswick. Even in the snow, the blackthorn had a few delicate flowers blooming, out before the leaves, the earliest flower in the Reserve. The snow made everything ‘chiaroscuro’, and monochrome, like the grey and white of the blackthorn itself.


Blackthorn
chinese blanc de chine libation cupIt struck me that it’s the nearest flower I know to the cherry-blossom, the prunus. It’s one of the classic decorations for libation and other cups in China and Japan from the earliest times. Maybe that’s what cherry flowers looked like before selective breeding?


Chiswick Auctions catalogue pageI managed to handle some more libation cups at Chiswick Auctions. It’s such a treat to pick up and feel pots – something you don’t get to do in museums. I was astonished that there were oval when seen from above – squashed, as it were. Something I can’t stop doing myself. The colour and feel were also different… Much more like ‘normal’ porcelain. I begin to think my idea of “blanc de chine” is based on a rather anomalous pot (one of those lost pots I didn’t buy).


Chiswick Auctions catalogue pageLibation cups can be very highly decorated – especially the wood and jade ones. I tend to the minimalist – using a bud of horse chestnut, as it’s one of the bigger ones. Or oak, which is tiny in comparison. Blackthorn flowers are too delicate to be made into a sprigged mould, unlike the vicious thorns. These, like the flowers, grow straight out of the stem, very distinctive. They are 8cm long, sharp, and have a way of burying themselves deep into your flesh. I cut one out of my knee last week – vigilance is key – see this BMJ article if you think I exaggerate…
Blackthorn drawn by carys davies
So a libation cup with blackthorn would have to be a goth affair, clearly the libation fluid: blood. Perhaps the cup could be pierced by a thorn too? Sleeping Beauty anyone?

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9 responses to “blackthorn and blood

  1. I love your evocative writing Carys, gore and all. The prick of delicate beauty in the greyness of the triangle caught in your (dried blood?) sketches, match by your probing words. More please

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    • Thanks Wendy! Lots of scratches from the blackthorn, but in a good cause.. I’ve been a bit short of inspiration at the workshop, not expecting it from nature, but as usual it delivers (duh!)

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  2. I was missing your posts, Carys! Did you draw that blackthorn top and bottom of the blog? It’s lovely. And I quite agree: it’s a wintry British monochrome answer to the (now I feel) rather too pink traditional Japanese Cherry….
    R xx

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    • Yes – I pinched a bit of blackthorn from the laid hedge and took it home to draw. The blossom doesn’t last long though, so I was glad I had photos. Like making pots though, I had to draw it 7 times in a row- then had to wait to turn the page in the sketchbook and lost the ‘hwyl’. Doh!

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  3. Love the links in thinking between nature and delicate china! Great distance between city environment and our plot but we are awaiting willow for planting along the western fenced boundary of a wild dell. Inspired by the uneven natural earth walkways and sense of enclosure. Similar sense of place our aim among mature trees.in previously wild spot littered with felled moss-covered tree trunks and winding route over and around boughs and branches stretching for the sun. Blackthorn and hawthorn cuttings just planted for spring blossom along a low stretch of school yard wall on the south of established sheltering evergreens on rising slopes to east and north.

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  4. Sounds wonderful! The felled wood is great for bugs too – this week at Gunnersbury triangle we were putting posts of felled birch and hawthorn upright by the path as a kind of informal fence, meant to be eaten and nested in by miner bees and others… Looked great too. Best wishes for you plot!

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  5. A lovely post! I hope your knee is recovering. An alternative libation would be Sloe gin … we have lots of blackthorn here in Somerset and I make some every year, I’ll be more careful of thorns in future!

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