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