The decorative arts are known for making use of local products, understanding function, and developing aesthetics which beautify spaces. The most recognisable designs to come from the arts and crafts movement are those inspired by William Morris. Living in England, Morris organised local guilds of craftsmen and created studios and workspaces, where many of the important works of decorative arts were created, and sometimes, mass produced.
The Red House
When Morris created the Red House for himself and his daughters, he put his soon to be famous design into both the architecture and the interior design. The L-shaped home was inspired by Neo-Gothic architecture and took a year to construct. He got the help of friends to paint murals on the walls and furniture as if the embroidery had come alive and taken over the room. The furniture which he filled his home with became famous. He fashioned all of the pieces by hand from local wood and added rush seating. This type of chair became famously known as ‘The Sussex Chair’.
His most enduring works have been his textile creations. The large, green palm leaf design over an ivory background is a classic and popular William Morris design. If you’re looking to buy this design, it can be found on ikea couch covers or bedspreads, mass produced and made available for everyone to enjoy. Many department stores have used the design to create thousands of styles. This aligns with Morris’s desire to create multiples and have his works mass produced, as he developed the first workshop factory in the history of decorative arts in the late 19th century.
It was the summer of 1881 when Morris bought a large silk weaving factory and moved his workshops to the grand site. He employed around 100 craftsmen who were given the freedom to explore their own creativity. An opportunity to be creative within a crafts factory was hard to find and greatly appreciated by artists at the time. As an employer, he also committed to a profit-sharing system, where employees would reap the benefits of their hard work.
He was a selfless and creative man who ran his company on egalitarian ideals. The works were handmade from locally sourced goods. In his lifetime, he created several craft designs and multiple pieces of furniture. He developed nearly 600 designs for textiles and wallpapers, as well as hundreds of designs for stained glass windows. Morris & Co. apprenticed others and fulfilled Williams dream of sharing the knowledge which led him to love arts and crafts. He has been written about many times, his works have been critiqued over and over, and today, he stands as one of the most essential characters in the world of art history.