Week 19

Friday 22/04/2016

I now feel inspired to plan a visit to his  Red House to find out a bit more about Morris and his legacy.

Old tramway office building.

A day out is never complete without stopping to support the tea rooms...  

The gallery tearoom affords a wonderful and relaxing view of Lloyd Park, which is a delightful public area. It was a lovely warm day and there was a glorious display of spring flowers. We had a tasty lunch of locally sourced fresh ingredients. It was an ideal opportunity to exchange family news, offer mutual moral support as we both have children going through exam stress and generally overindulging on the freshly prepared delicacies. We also touched a little on the politics of the day 'To stay in or leave the EU'. I couldn't help thinking that it would have been great if William Morris was still around to join us for tea. I wonder what he would make of the current political debate. It seems he was a man of great energy and passion for his many crafts and also for his social campaigning and I think he would have been inspiring to meet.

Miniature Loom

William Morris's Fabric Designs

The Gallery houses a wonderful free exhibition crammed full of  information about Morris's personal and work life.

In just a short time I learnt that...William Morris was one of the most influential British designers of the Nineteenth Century and was a central figure to the Arts and Crafts Movement that flourished in Europe from the 1880's until the First World War. At the heart of the movement was the idea of returning to traditional craftsmanship using simple forms and medieval, romantic or folk styles of decoration. It was a protest against  the alarming social changes caused by mechanisation and industrialisation and a celebration of pre-industrial revolution life.

The William Morris Gallery

This week I thought I would have a jaunt out to Walthamstow to meet up with some  friends who live in Essex. We decided 'The William Morris Gallery' would be the ideal location to meet up, have a catch up and explore the fabric and furnishings of William Morris (1834-1896), the famous designer.  Fortunately, the gallery is housed in his lovingly restored childhood home, which is only a thirty minute train journey into the outskirts of London for me and not too far away from my friends.

Well, my travel plans were scuppered when I arrived at the station only to be told there were no trains running until later that day. Not to be defeated I sped walked home, jumped in my car and headed off down the M11. I somehow still arrived on time, after parking about 10 minutes walk away from the gallery and despite being unfamiliar with the location. The upside in the change to my travel plans was that I managed to walk past some interesting buildings that I would have otherwise missed, for example Walthamstow Town Hall, a small Hindu temple tucked down a side street and an old tramway office.

William Morris was best known for his fabric and wallpaper designs. He was hugely influenced by the natural world and his designs often depicted flowers, birds and other animals and were truly works of art. It is hard to pick a favourite as I too love designs inspired by nature, however my eyes were drawn to the strawberry design. 

Walthamstow Town hall

The Tea Rooms and views

William Morris was a socialist activist...

In the late 1800's, Morris led the Socialist League, which advocated for the rights of every individual, for the humane treatment of everyone, and the preservation of simpler social arrangements. I like the fact that although he came from a privileged background that he was a radical socialist and fought hard for social reform. 

During this time, he also produced many literary works including those for the socialist cause. He designed his own typeface and this led  him to setting up his own publishing company, Kelmscott Press in 1891. It only produced 52 books but they were each works of art. 

William Morris inspired flooring in the tea rooms

William Morris and Co Furnishings

'​Functional and Beautiful'

William Morris- The socialist Activist.

Roof of Walthamstow Hindu Temple

William Morris Quote:

It took me years to understand that words are often as important as experience, because words make experience last

In 1861, with a group of friends, he started a decorating business after they had all worked on his house in Kent called The Red House. That was the birth of  Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. which provided beautiful, hand-crafted home furnishings. They referred to themselves as "the Firm" and their ethos was to reinstate decoration as one of the fine arts. They wanted it to be  affordable and anti-elitist. Unfortunately and ironically, the cost of producing beautiful, quality handcrafted furniture meant that it was unaffordable to the masses.

It was heartwarming to discover that they employed boys from the Industrial Home for Destitute Boys in Euston as apprentices. There were encouraged to practice weaving on miniature looms, alongside making tea and keeping the materials tidy.