Blackthorn in Blossom

Blackthorn ink drawing

Bedraggled Blackthorn. Pen and ink sketch. Fiona Gall 2024

A few weeks ago, it quite literally popped out of the hedgerow on my afternoon walk by the workshop. 
First, I thought it was Hawthorn but I have now discovered that that comes out a little later. Blackthorn is the FIRST wild tree in the UK to blossom, signalling the coming of spring. You know, the weird in-between time. The signs are there, you wish it was but it is still disappointingly way too cold.
Blackthorn is a surprisingly interesting tree. 
Did you know?
  • The blackthorn tree is wild and native to the UK
  • It is the first tree to blossom, before there is even a hint of spring
  • It flowers before its leaves appear
  • It often flowers when we get spells of wintry, cold weather and has given rise to the phrase ‘Blackthorn winter’
  • It is the tree of the infamous sloe berries. (remember where you spot them because in autumn after the first frost you can return and pick them)
  • Blackthorn is associated with witchcraft and it is said that witches’ wands and staffs were made using blackthorn wood.
photograph of blackthorn blossom

Photo of Blackthorn blossom.

In matter of fact and practical terms:
Blackthorn is a member of the Rose family: Rosaceae and its berries are an ancestor of our cultivated plums. Its early flowering provides a valuable source of nectar and pollen for bees in spring and many birds will nest in its dense protective thorny thickets and feast on the sloes in autumn.
It is thickly invested with strong thorns, which are long sharp spines. These form in place of twigs and can give painful stabs and scratches which usually turn septic. Because of this It was used by farmers to make a thick hedge that held in the cattle, the original barbed wire if you will,  hence why you see so much of it growing in the countryside.
The dark branches provide a stark contrast to its bright white star like unruly blossom, that burst open in early spring before its leaves unfurl. Blackthorn is linked to both healing and death. Parts of the tree were used to make a healing tea to treat fevers and flavour gin. Its thorns were used to make weapons such as the Irish shillelagh; cudgel/ walking stick and ‘pins of slumber’ were thorns coated in poison. Interestingly it is a hermaphrodite, meaning both male and female reproductive parts are found in one flower which only adds to its dualistic nature.

blackthorn botantical illustrationSloe or blackthorn (Prunus spinosa L.): flowering stem with separate fruit and segments of flower and fruit, also a description of the plant and its uses. Coloured line engraving by C.H.Hemerich, c.1759, after T.Sheldrake. Wellcome Collection.


Folklore, Mythology and symbolism


It has long been associated with Faeries, Witches and Magic. Often considered a darker, more sinister tree than its sister the Hawthorn, it rules over the darker winter months for this is when it is in its element.
When you consider all the facts, it comes as no surprise that folklore and myths of a darker nature are associated with the Blackthorn.
The Blackthorn is linked to dark magic and witches who, it was said, would use the branches for staffs, twigs for wands and thorns as stabbing needles in dummies to cause harm to their victims. But I have also read that you can perform a similar ritual of pinning dummies for protection against negativity. I believe where you place your intention is what really matters. In addition, there are stories of witches being burnt on Pires of Blackthorn.
A curious side note: The Lady Usher opens parliament holding a black rod made of blackthorn. You can see an example of a witch’s black rod made of blackthorn in the museum of witch craft in Cornwall.                                                                                                                                                       
In Celtic lore it is a sacred tree to the crone aspect of the triple goddess and is known in different guises as Morrigan or Cailleach or Beira, ‘Goddess of Winter’—all associations with the waning of life, the waning year, and the waning moon. She is depicted at times carrying a staff of blackthorn wood and often accompanied by her pathfinder crow or raven. The fairy who guards the blackthorn is known as the Lunantisidhe or Lunantishee—the moon fairy.                                            
The triple goddess represents the Maiden, the mother and the crone, each of which symbolizes both a separate stage in the female life cycle and a phase of the moon. As blackthorn is active during the darker part of the year it is no wonder that it represents the shadowy older crone aspect.
In the Irish tradition the blackthorn is actually codified into the in the early medieval alphabet Ogham, which was used to write the early Irish language. ‘Straif’ is the 14th letter of the Ogham alphabet, it means ‘blackthorn’. This ancient alphabet is rather more complicated than straight translation, but essentially ᚎ = straif = blackthorn. It is designated one of the Eight Chieftain Trees on the Ogham Tract and is said to be the ‘Increaser of Secrets’. ‘Straif’ is thought to be the origin of the word ‘strife’. 
Straif means ‘sulphur’, a substance with a long history of associations with the underworld, including the Christian hell. It is also highly important in the study of alchemy. As an ogham, straif the blackthorn reminds us that magic is the nature of the universe and that wonders are the normal reality of the world.
To this day, the ominous qualities of the blackthorn are maintained through the classic fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, as it is through a thick hedge of blackthorn that the prince must battle to save his slumbering princess. It was also a ‘pin of slumber’ that sleeping beauty pricked her finger with promptly falling asleep for a hundred years. Interestingly the average lifespan of a blackthorn is also said to be around a hundred years.
Prunus spinosa is a fascinating tree with a rich history of folklore and mythology in the British Isles and the Isle of Ireland. It is a reminder of the deep connection between humans and the natural world.

Designers & Makers Market at the Turner Contemporary, Margate

Designer & Makers Market at the Turner Contemporary


Saturday 2nd December 10-5pm                                                                                                                        Sunday 3rd December 10-4pm
The Designers & Makers Market at the Turner Contemporary is now in its 6th year.


For this table top market I will be selling smaller gift sized pieces from my collections. Jewellery, candle holders, key rings and decorations.

Step into a world of creativity and craftsmanship at the Designers and Makers Market, where the finest talents from Kent showcase their original works. Held at the prestigious Turner Contemporary in Margate, this curated event invites you to experience handmade artistry.

On the 2nd and 3rd of December 2023, immerse yourself in an engaging shopping experience, as you explore a diverse range of local creations. From intricately crafted jewellery to captivating ceramics, stylish hats to beautiful woodwork, the market offers an abundance of unique treasures directly from the skilled hands of the makers themselves.

This is also your opportunity to support local talent, connect with the artists behind the works, and take home truly meaningful pieces that tell stories.

Join us at Turner Contemporary, renowned as one of Kent’s premier arts venues, and discover one-of-a-kind pieces that reflect the essence of Kent’s thriving creative scene. You will be inspired and delighted by the talent of exhibiting makers and designers:




Pop up shop in the heart of Folkestone’s creative quarter

Pop up shop folkestone creative quarter Eight squared gallery in Folkestone’s Creative Quarter beautifully Illustration by Ben Baudry.

Objects of Desire


Pop up shop details:

27- 29 October & 3-5 November 2023 Fri-Sun 10-5pm
Eight Squared Gallery 64 Old High Street Folkestone Kent CT20 1RN
My opening drinks HAPPILY coincides with @lastfridaysfolk so there will be lots going on across the creative quarter, performances, exhibitions & music.  

About the pop up shop in the heart of Folkestone’s Creative Quarter.

Looking forward to holding my first pop up in Folkestone’s Creative Quarter. I have heard so many good things about the Old High Street with its colourful buildings and cobbled street that I knew I had to be a part of it!

I am setting up my ‘Objects of Desire’ at the bijou Eight squared gallery with its fantastic floor to ceiling window looking out to the street. To make the most of it we have created a structure to fit so that I can hang all my beautiful chandeliers and lights in the windows to create a magical window display. I will be selling jewellery and lighting from all my collections with a brand new batch of Ambrosia jewellery. A small sample of which is pictured below.

pop up shop in folkestone's creative quarter

Things to do and see in Folkestone.

I visited Folkestone yesterday while the sun was shinning between the down pours to do some flyering in and around the Quarter. I was on a slight voyage of discovery having only been to Folkestone twice before and what a treat it was to meet so many warm and genuine independent businesses.

Here are a few of my favourites that I think you may also like to visit: Starting back to front, as that’s how I like to do things.

THE POTTING SHED: round the corner at the very top of the old high street. It has a great mix of curated vintage pieces along with a secret cocktail bar out the back through…. Yes, you’ve guessed it, a bookcase. I do LOVE an interior with a quirk.

THE BEER SHOP: next door. Beer (obviously) all from independent and Kentish suppliers.

STEEP STREET: Tea & cake (or coffee) halfway down the old high street.

EMERALD FAERIE: I am near the bottom of the hill, there is also an art gallery opposite and a Banksy!

ANTIK: will be my pop up neighbour, (also popping up for 2 weeks) selling vintage homewares, furniture etc

Then of course there is the Harbour arm market with loads of small independent creatives, coffee shops & bars. Plus, the old train station & track you can walk along. You can do a great walk and promenade to the lower leas costal park and could even keep on walking along the seafront (or drive) which leads me to Sandgate….

The potting shed folkestone antique shop and bar The potting shed folkestone antique shop and bar

Things to do and see in Sandgate.

I have just discovered SANDGATE and I am totally smitten with the place. It is just a small high street, but full of interesting architectural buildings each one with its own character, set against the wide-open expanse of the sea and sky. With a growing community of independent businesses- you can see a theme running here. There are a handful of old school junk/antique shops with beautiful frontages, you know the ones with everything piled high you wonder how anyone could ever get in the shop, let a lone look around it?! I am like a moth to a flame! There is even a cockatoo in the window, which I think if I was to start collecting, I might never stop. I would have to create a dedicated ‘bird room’ in the house. But I’m not sure how that would go down….

Sandgate-junkshop-piled-high Sandgate junk shop piled high

Moving on… here are a couple of my favourites:

JOHN DORY: A fantastic wine shop & small plates which is well worth the walk or drive.

WORKSHOP NUMBER 29: A fab architectural salvage shop with beautiful things who have made a point of stocking and selling the work of local-ish (Kent based) makers. Who knows maybe they might stock some of my wirework lampshades. They don’t exist but I can see them in my mind.

East Kent Artists’ Open House at Radford House.

East Kent Artists' open house 2023

A landmark building, Radford House, Ramsgate’s old fire station as it is today.   Image from RadfordHouseRTC FB page.

East Kent Artists’ Open Houses 2023


14 & 15 October 2023
Radford House
18-20 Effingham Road
Ramsgate Kent
CT11 9AT

East Kent Artists’ open houses 2023 or EKOH for short, is now in its 23rd year.

With over 250 artists spread over 80 houses and studios. The artists’ trail gives the public a personal insight into how an artist works within their specialist field. 

As part of EKOH Emerald Faerie has been invited to showcase her work at Radford House in Ramsgate, alongside three other local artists for the first weekend 14 & 15th of October.

What will I be doing?

I am super excited to set up studio at Radford House, a building full of history and character. Our current studio workshop is out of town and hard to get to without a means of transportation. It is my first ‘open studio’ event since moving to Ramsgate nearly 5 years ago.

East Kent Artists' open house 2023

Emerald Faerie studio @ Cordy house, London, 2008.    Photographer:  Giles Angel.

For this years East Kent artists’ open house I am recreating a small corner of my workshop, with selected pieces from my jewellery and lighting collections, where you can find me creating wire and glass flowers from my Flora & Fauna lighting collection. Ever wondered how I make them? now you can find out!

Atmospheric lighting, East Kent Artists' open house 2023 Atmospheric detail from the FLORA & FAUNA lighting collection

This is a unique opportunity to see behind the scenes of local artists’ studios discover how they create AND have a nose around Radford house as it is now known before renovations are due to commence early next year.
Did you know….

The Effingham Street property was originally a private house belonging to Rear Admiral William Fox. In 1905 Ramsgate Corporation bought the property and converted it into a fire station and the town library and Clarendon House girl’s school were built in the grounds. The station was opened in October 1905 by the Mayor. The Effingham Street station was designed for horse-drawn fire engines, and as firefighting and kit developed, a new space was needed.

Old photograph of Ramsgate's fire station 1905. East Kent Artists' open house 2023 Old photograph of Ramsgate’s fire station on Effingham Road when it first opened in 1905.

Ramsgate Town Council bought the property in 2019 following a bequeathed estate from resident Mr Radford. The building was renamed Radford House and is now set to be a building for the use of the community and EKOH is just one of the many interesting events that are taking place here.

It is Grade II listed, due to it representing a well-preserved fire station of 1905, retaining a range of distinct features from the early 18th and 20th Centuries.

It’s amazing to think it was once a residential dwelling, you can still see glimpses of the old house, some of the plaster has also come away from the wall to reveal where one of 4 fireplaces used to be and it has a small yet elegant staircase at the back of the main room on the ground floor. I think that is what drew me in. I don’t know about you but I love old buildings especially when you see the layers of history revealing themselves.

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Emerald Faerie

Fiona Gall, is a designer-maker who creates under the name of Emerald Faerie. Opulent & decorative lighting and jewellery made from metal, glass and repurposed antique finds. Creating one-off sculptural art lighting pieces and chandeliers. She creates custom designs for private, retail and hospitality clients in the UK & USA. Each piece is handmade to order in her studio in Kent.

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