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  • Murrae Stephens

William Morris Exhibition

In October I visited Standen House in West Sussex which is part of the National Trust. A magnificent home and garden on a crisp Autumn day. Designed by Philip Webb who was a close friend of William Morris, the interiors became a Morris project. Morris lived from 1834 until 1896.

Morris was the founder of the Arts & Crafts Movement in Britain, an artist, writer, poet and textile designer. His company Morris & Co produced all manner of textiles, including hand knotted carpets and silk weaving. His designs became popular and are still being produced to this day, more than 120 years later.

He was widely published and wrote imaginative fantasy fictions, and even inspired JRR Tolkien.

But he is most famous for his over 600 designs of wall-paper, textiles and embroideries. He believed that design and production of an item should not be separated and where possible those creating items should be designer-craftsmen, being responsible for the creation and manufacture.

He always insisted on good quality raw materials, hand processing and used natural dyes, where possible. His fabrics were extremely fashionable among the upper and middle classes of Britain.

He taught himself embroidery and weaving and both became an important line of business in his company. He was one of the first designers associated with the Royal School of Art Needlework. His passion for producing woven and printed fabrics of the highest standards of excellence was clear. He produced complex patterns for woven textiles, some of which were made by commercial looms. They included double woven upholstery fabrics with gradations of colour and texture.

To see the fabric used as wallpaper, carpets, bed quilts, upholstery, curtaining all around one home, was a visual delight - it was thrilling to see so much beautiful fabric and pattern in one place, everywhere you looked, it was used - and had been used - some of it had been restored and replaced, but much of the original throws, carpets and wall paper were in perfect condition.

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." (William Morris)

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