Morta Knives | In the heart of Brière
Morta Knives | In the heart of Brière. On that day it was the programme Échappées Belles (a travelogue) airing on France 5 that took an interest in our favourite dawn activity. “An atypical activity that cultivates a little mystery”, announces the journalist from France Télévision. For us it’s recurrent work. While gold prospectors set off in search of their Holy Grail, we walk around Brière to unearth the local treasure, our raw material. While the programme is entitled “Weekend in Nantes”, Atelier JHP, for its part, is located amidst the marshes of Brière, in Saint-André-des-Eaux to be more precise. And this is no accident. Brière is precisely our nourishing earth, the mother country of our regional star, the Morta. Échappées Belles in Brière, follow the guide! !
The vehicle drives straight ahead, breaking through the cold air of daybreak, the dog accompanies us on his daily jogging (pawing?🙄🐶) and the sunrise leads the way. Vimala and I get out of the 4×4, arming ourselves with our respective probes to flush out, not the enemy, but the famous Morta trunks. Because yes indeed, Morta is what it’s about.
Échappées Belles in Brière | Looking for Morta
5,000 years of sleep
Brière was the site of an immense oak forest 5,000 years ago. Then these gigantic trees slowly sunk into the ground. The peat protected them and prevented them from rotting. I like to say the peat acted as a natural sarcophagus. So with strong arms we are searching for these woody biological mummies in today’s marsh. To not cite the journalist, we are resuscitating mineralized wood undergoing fossilization.
And suddenly, beep! A miracle, I sense an obstacle. “Is it good?” inquires Vimala. And yes, it’s good, a specimen is effectively there. But the work has only just started. But the work has only just started. First of all, digging. After long, heavy shovelfuls, the hole has sufficiently revealed the piece, now all that remains is to extract it.
Happiness begins when, lying face down on the trunk, I embrace it with my arms and my two index fingers touch. An unearthed trunk like this truly represents the completion of a hard job. For the trunk, it’s the magical moment where it sees the light again. We start to see more clearly too. Well, figuratively speaking, because Morta is a very dark brown, almost black. It needs good care. It’s not because it is multi-millennia old and noble that it is stronger or more resistant than another wood. On the other hand, having a Morta knife in your pocket gives a bit of immortality and Brière marsh.
I have my own technique to bring it back up to the surface. I surround it with straps. Then a gin, a hand winch suspended from birch trunks, helps us extricate it from its prison.
We make this wood into knife handles. The ancestral trees are suddenly reincarnated and find new life on your plates or in your pockets and kitchens. Moreover some famous tables use this wood, like Éric Guérinin his Michelin-starred restaurant “La Mare aux Oiseaux” in Saint-Joachim, also in Brière. But Morta Knives also love country trips for picnics with friends or lunch in the park.
Better still, come and see us. We adore welcoming visitors and sharing with them our passion for history and the local heritage. The conversation with Jean-Henri Pagnon and tour of the workshop are free and with a smile, if you please.
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