Black Country Voyages‘ narrowboat was moored beneath Brewmasters Bridge in Brindleyplace on the Saturday when I visited.
Aboard, I met the artist Jacques Nimki who had turned the boat into “The Black Apotheca” – decorating its walls and ceiling with cut-outs of weeds and wild flowers – e.g. knotgrass, dandelions, chamomile, nettles, yarrow, bind weed, etc.
Jacques explained that he had toured the black country’s canal network with BCV over the last year, collecting plants, making and showcasing herbal concoctions, objects and edibles and organizing arts and crafts workshops for young people that brought to their attention weeds they’d normally overlook.
Jacques was busy running a free drop-in drawing workshop with children that day and I watched as he asked a boy to describe and then draw the properties of his own imaginary plant (e.g. What shape are its leaves? What happens if you eat it? Does it have magical properties?). The boy traced and cut out a plant that had triangular leaves; was edible and had no magical properties and the process reminded me of play therapy or of mandala drawing used to help individuals explore and express about themselves.
I also met Claire. Claire works with Ikon Gallery and coordinates touring projects for Black Country Voyages. She explained that BCV tours the black country with a new artist every year.
I explained about what I was doing and Jacques gave the project a bar of chamomile-infused soap and Claire then sent me to see a gardener at Winterbourne House and Gardens. She told me that Winterbourne Gardens had worked with BCV to organise a summer-school that had taught participating students about plants, botanical drawing and printing and photographing.