Stunning! Morris & Co.

Red House

Morris’ first home with wife Jane, Red House

William Morris began designing furniture when he and bff, Edward Burne-Jones, moved into their first flat together in London (1856). They disliked the furnishings that they found so they painted them, not a solid color but with scenes from their favorite medieval tales. When Morris and his bride Jane Burden (1859) moved into their new home, Red House, Morris was once again faced with finding suitable furnishings. He called on his friends and fellow pre-Raphaelites to help him design and decorate the home. This undertaking is considered the impetus for Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, & Co. (eventually Morris & Co.).

Edward Burne-Jones cartoon of Morris demonstrating weaving

Edward Burne-Jones cartoon of Morris demonstrating weaving

Morris & Co. produced stained glass windows, tiles, fabric, wallpapers, carpets, and embroidery among their many wares. Morris would teach himself as much as he could find about each of the goods created by Morris & Co. prior to beginning production of the item. In the case of embroidery, fabric dying, and carpet tying Morris even undertook several sample projects prior to teaching his staff the techniques necessary.

Morris & Co Embroidered Coverlet

Morris & Co Embroidered Coverlet

The act of creating an object was important to Morris and a significant principle of the Arts and Crafts movement. Yes a person should live surrounded by beautiful objects! But those objects should be of the highest affordable quality and created by a skilled worker rather than a factory drone. Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement did not mean to belittle the factory worker by their ideology but instead wanted to provide more meaningful labor for the majority of people living in industrialized society.

Learn more about Morris & Co. and the Arts and Crafts movement by checking out How We Might Live: The Vision of William Morris exhibit and William Morris Guide created by Special Collections Staff.

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