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Blackthorn Tile

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

William Morris Co. Blackthorn yellow flowers

Blackthorn tile, yellow variation

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. Blackthorn is hedge that grows around Sleeping Beauty's castle, forming 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.

Traditional 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*

  • Sometimes children are afraid of the Mother of the Woods, as kindly as she is, so it's possible to have the daisies central to the tile. The crone is still visible but not the first focus. The "stars around daisies" shown in blue version is offset by half, with the white blackthorn flowers form a star around a patch of daisies. That's actually 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

The Mother of the Woods is an excellent tile border.

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

William Morris Blackthorn, blue on cream background William Morris Blackthorn tiles, blue on cream background

Blackthorn, Blue on Cream

Designer: William Morris, John Henry Dearle

Sizes: 6 or 8 inch tiles

Although available in 4.25 inch tiles, traditional Blackthorn may be too dense a pattern for the background to adequately contrast with the design. Not really a problem for the blue and white/cream variation.

Traditional Blackthorn: As shown with red, blue or yellow flowers

Background Colors for Traditional Blackthorn: black, forest green, indigo

Two-Colors Colors: Blue on cream or white background

Orientation: Mother of the Woods (face), or Blackthorn Star (daisy middle)


6 inch square tiles: $63

8 inch square tiles: $81

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