April. For many months the city has been swathed in layers upon layers of clouds. Muted tones of grey and silver; the pitter-patter of the rain. Now, under the bright new sun, the clouds have dissipated. Birdsong. And street after street, the city is blushing – so many shades of pink, from champagne to shocking, but mostly cherry blossom. These are our Sakura days. We celebrate the cherry blossoms and the arrival of Spring with picnics under the cherry trees, concerts, blossom paintings, and haiku competitions. I took in some of these events two weeks ago:
What I enjoy the most is to walk around neighbourhoods, to track the blooms as they progress through the city, to revisit favourite spots or discover new ones.
There are over a thousand varieties of cherry cultivars here in Vancouver, with names like Kanzan, Ukon, Asagi, Kiku-shidare-zakura ou Atsumori. Look at the English translation of some of these names:
Shogetsu Moonlight on pine trees
Mikuruma-Gaeshi The royal carriage returns
Ama-no-gawa Heaven’s river
Sounds a bit like a haiku, doesn’t it?
As Spring brings in more blossoms, streets turn pink and white, taking on a new identity. For a while, Graveley Street becomes “Akebono Street”:
Some streets are lined with cherry trees so large they arch across and meet. With the sweet scent of blooms in the air and the warm late-afternoon light filtering through the canopy, it feels like walking through a cloud cathedral.
There is so much to experience: colours, striking compositions or patterns of petals on the grass – a rich source of inspiration that can be challenging to capture with a camera or a pen so I can revisit it later in the studio.
But then sometimes, Mother Nature does the designing for us. Fossil coral is a striking stone that, for me, encapsulates perfectly the beauty and the delicacy of cherry blossoms. I bought one a few years ago, a rectangular cabochon in subtle shades of pink, with a detailed flower pattern – a serendipitous find since I was at the time in the throes of one of my sakura walks. Here is a necklace I made with it :
Fossilized or agatized fossil coral is formed from ancient corals which, over time, were replaced with agate; the cross sections of the coral branches form the flower pattern. It is actually a stone (agate), no longer a piece of endangered coral reef. It is found in various parts of the world and the oldest ones can be as old as 450 million years. This particular one, from Indonesia, is about 20 million years old. They range in colour from tan, to yellow, to pink, to black. With a hardness of about 7 on the Moh’s scale, it is not delicate, and is quite suitable for jewellery making.
With the fossil coral as a centrepiece, I wanted to make a necklace that would be as light and ethereal as possible – like blossoms landing softly on your shoulders as your walk under a cherry tree. The setting had to be minimal, discreet, so as not to distract from the intricate flower motif on the fossil coral. I chose a prong setting, which uses a minimum amount of metal to hold the stone in place: a narrow seat at the back and thin prongs on the front, to expose as much of the stone as possible.
The leaf motif is repeated throughout and provides a visual connection between the pendant and the strand of pink freshwater pearls that holds it. On the setting, a small silver branch acts as a claw to clamp the stone. The clasp is a small hook hidden under another branch, and there is a single leaf at the end of the chain on the opposite side that serves as a weight to make the clasp more secure.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just heard that Kiku-shidare-zakura is in bloom a few blocks away, a not-to-be-missed cherry tree with spectacular chrysanthemum-like flowers. I am tickled pink just thinking about it.