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Blackthorn Tile

William Morris Co. Blackthorn

Beloved, gaze in thine own heart, the holy tree is blooming there ... - W. B. Yeats

In folklore, the Blackthorn tree is known as both the Mother of the Woods and the Dark Crone of the Woods, the dark face of the triple goddess of the moon. Blackthorn is used in spells of protection. The hedge that grew around Sleeping Beauty's castle, Blackthorn forms the thick, impenetrable bramble that hides the magic castle from the unworthy.

Although Blackthorn is a later pattern, Morris's hand is evidence. Thrushes, waxwings, and small birds caught his attention early on, as we met in Strawberry Thief. Morris would have enjoyed watching them feed on the sloe berries that Blackthorn produces as he fished in the ponds and rivers near Kelmscott Manor. Much of the Blackthorn shows the work of John Henry Dearle, but Morris's hand is clear -- his signature daisies, and the swirling leaves especially.

Blackthorn was first sold by Morris & Co. in 1892, four years before Morris's death. At that time, Morris's attention had shifted to Kelmscott Press, but he often spent full days overseeing activities at Merton.

Blackthorn Variations

Blackthorn, like William Morris's Lily and Pomegranate, is an excellent example of adapting a design for media. Lily and Pomegranate shows the Merton Abbey adaptation from the earthy forest underbrush in Morris's original design to "dotted snow" for the textile. Blackthorn, as a wallpaper design, has no tile boundaries to define the central focus of the pattern -- its boundaries are user and perspective defined. For the Blackthorn tile, I've made two offset variations:

  • The "face" of the Mother of the Woods in the wine red version gives life to the tree and forest -- sort of a Morris *green man", blending nicely with Blackthorn's muted background colors.

  • William Morris Co. Blackthorn wine red flowers with *face*

  • The "stars around daisies" shown in blue version, offset by half, with the white blackthorn flowers form a star around a patch of daisies. That's High Holy Morris. Daisies are the earliest and next to Acanthus, the most iconic of Morris's botanicals. (More about Morris and the importance of daisies)

  • William Morris Co. Blackthorn blue flowers with *stars*

Mother of the Woods Tile Border

This pattern is seamless on the horizontal, making it excellent as a border, as well as an accent tile.

William Morris Co. Blackthorn yellow flowers

Designer: William Morris, John Henry Dearle

Sizes: 4.25 inch 6, or 8 inch tiles

Colors: Black, red, or yellow primary flowers

Orientation: Mother of the Woods (face), or Blackthorn star


4.25 inch square tiles: $43

6 inch square tiles: $53

8 inch square tiles: $76

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