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William MorrisWilliam Morris photo

illiam Morris has become a part of our lives.
We decorate our rooms with his wallpapers and fabrics and we have grown to agree with his political views on the equality of women, the preservation of our national heritage and, very specially, the guarding of our open spaces. He truly was a "green" man, way ahead of his time.

Morris felt as deeply about the quality of design as he did about the quality of life and believed that the two were intrinsically entwined. In all of his work he constantly strove to use natural materials and to encourage people to make things for themselves; as an ardent socialist he wanted workers to experience a joy in labour and preached for free education and an eight hour day. He was horrified by the dehumanising industrialisation sweeping across the world.

Strawberry ThiefIn 1861, with a group of talented friends (amongst them Edward Burne-Jones, Philip Webb and Dante Gabriel Rossetti) William Morris started a company dedicated to producing beautiful hand crafted furnishings and furniture. His first wallpapers date from this time, including Trellis and Fruit. He proceeded to acquire an amazing list of skills. His fabric printing required him to learn the art of carving for the wooden blocks, as well as natural dyeing, a technique which had disappeared and took him many years to rediscover and to perfect; Strawberry Thief is an excellent example of his achievement. We can see his exquisite drawing and water colour skills in the design for African Marigold, now at the William Morris Gallery.

William Morris weavingHe learned to embroider by unpicking antique pieces to learn the stitches; he learned weaving from an old French book and set up a loom in his bedroom at Kelmscott House, rising very early each morning to practice. In just three months - 518 hours - he had completed his first tapestry design. Woodpecker and The Forest were both designed by him and woven at his works at Merton Abbey.

William Morris asleepMorris continued to write all his life: poetry, socialist doctrines and enchanting fairy stories, which are believed to have influenced Tolkien.