‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to
be useful or believe to be beautiful.’
These are the famous words of William Morris (1834-1896), considered by many to be the greatest
designer and one of the outstanding figures of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
In 1861, with a group of friends, Morris started the decorating business Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. - Morris & Co. - which initially concentrated on stained glass and other ecclesiastical arts for church decoration, such as those depicted on our Christmas stamps. The firm began to appear at international exhibitions and receive awards, including for its stained glass and furniture at the 1862 International Exhibition. In 1867 Morris & Co, was asked to decorate the Green Dining Room at the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum), and the Tapestry Room and Armoury at St James' Palace - both notable commissions which secured the future of the business. Thanks to Morris' drive and enthusiasm, the company's output was significant.
Whilst being credited with
reviving many of the traditional arts which has disappeared with
industrialisation, Morris is probably best known for his wallpaper and fabric
designs. Regardless of what form his art
took he is known to have mastered each craft; painstakingly learning each stage
of the hand making process and understanding his materials so he could yield
the best results.
William Morris died on 3rd October 1896, aged 62. He is buried in the churchyard near his favourite home, Kelmscott Manor, in Gloucestershire.
Morris' legacy continues today with Morris & Co, producing authentic versions of his original designs alongside new interpretations translated into fabrics and wallpapers. In 2011, the firm celebrated its 150th anniversary with a new collection of archive based products including fabrics and surfac-printed wall papers, together with new designs inspired by the life and work of William Morris and his artistic circle.