cotton, plain weave, block printed William Morris (1834-1896) image courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago
For Morris & Company, textiles, including embroidery, printed cotton, woven fabrics, tapestries, and carpets, were among the most profitable of the company’s merchandise. William Morris was a born pattern maker and looked to both nature and history as a model. Unlike German and Japanese textile designers, or his English competitors, he was inspired not by exotic greenhouse flowers but by the simple blooms of an English garden. The humble marigold, honeysuckle, tulip, and sunflower often joined tangled ivy or sprigs of willow in patterns of great clarity and charm.
During an age when rooms were stuffed with mass-produced objects and teeming with ornament, Morris challenged people to “have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Throughout his career, however, there was a tension between Morris’s desire to make high-quality goods widely available and the expense of producing handcrafted items from fine materials, which meant primarily the wealthy could afford them. One of his costly innovations was to return to the natural dyes that had been replaced during his lifetime by garish and fugitive chemical dyes. Evidence of the rich and subtle hues of natural dye is apparent in textiles such as Violet and Columbine, woven from wool and mohair.
As an interior designer, Morris focused on decorative arts. He designed wallpaper, textiles, furniture, interior architectural elements, and stained glass windows. To create these gorgeous patterns, Morris drew out a block design which would be repeated during production. Wood block printing was used for the wallpapers and for some textiles. Morris had to use modern, mechanized weaving for most of his fabrics but, true to his artisan philosophy, he only used natural dyes even though many synthetic colours were available in Victorian England. This organic colour scheme enhances the naturalism of Morris’ flowers, vines, and leaves. Ultimately, Morris & Co. created over 600 fabric and wallpaper designs which are still popular today for their utilitarianism, harmonious graphic design, and profound ascetic appeal.
the above text appears on the back of the card HC-902: card size 7" x 5" (178mm x 127mm)